Annual Sales Down, Kraft Heinz Bonds Sink to Junk Status

Feb. 17, 2020
Ratings downgrade follow drops in Q4 and full-year 2019 sales.

Two bond rating services downgraded Kraft Heinz bonds to junk status after the company's fourth-quarter and full-year financials showed a continuing decline in sales. As a result, the value of the company's long-term bonds sunk.

On Feb. 14, the day after the company reported fourth-quarter and full-year financials, Fitch Ratings cut the company's credit rating to BB+ from BBB- with a stable outlook. S&P Global Ratings did likewise. Moody’s Investors Service changed the outlook on its Kraft Heinz rating—currently at the lowest rung of investment grade—to “negative” from “stable” on Friday but didn’t cut the rating.

Some insurers, pension funds and other mutual funds with strict restrictions against owning junk bonds may now be forced to sell the debt, spurring additional losses from the bonds, explained MSN Money.

The downgrade followed the company's earnings report, in which Kraft Heinz reported a drop in fourth-quarter sales but a rebound in profit. For the fourth quarter, company sales were $6.536 billion, down from $6.891 billion in 4Q2019. But net income was $594 million, up from a loss of $14 billion, which included special charges and write-downs.

It was last February that KH wrote down the value of some of its best-known brands by $15.4 billion, cut the dividend and generally acknowledged that management's past success at simultaneously cutting costs and raising value was not working.

For full-year 2019, sales were $24.977 billion, down from $26.268 billion. Income was $1.933 billion, up from a $10 billion loss in the previous year.

Kraft Heinz said it would release a more detailed turnaround plan around the time of its next earnings report in early May, though many investors and analysts had been looking for it sooner. The company just named a U.S. zone president Feb. 3 and a new CEO has only been on the job since last July.

Another criticism of the financial report was that the company refused to cut its dividend, which remains at 40 cents a share. The ratings services Fitch said the company may need to divest a sizable portion of its business in order to reduce its debt.

Kraft’s bond due 2046 fell to about 90 cents on the dollar Friday from 96 cents Thursday and 101 cents before the earnings disclosure, reported MSN Money. The company has about $23 billion face amount of bonds outstanding, according to data from Bank of America Corp.

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