January 16, 2015 / 4:58 PM / in 4 years

Bombardier debt ratings pressured after it cuts forecasts

TORONTO, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Bombardier Inc’s debt ratings have taken a hit after the planemaker suspended development of its newest Learjet and warned 2014 results would be weaker than forecast, with Standard & Poor’s downgrading its rating and Fitch changing its outlook to negative from stable.

Shares in Bombardier, which is pushing to bring its new CSeries jet into service in the second half of this year, fell 9.1 percent to C$2.79 in early trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday after dropping nearly 20 percent on Thursday.

S&P cut Bombardier’s long-term corporate credit rating to B+ from BB- late on Thursday, and said its outlook was negative, in part because of the Canadian company’s reduced profitability and pricing pressure on new aircraft. It said a tough market and big capital expenditures could weigh on performance again in 2015.

“Furthermore, the outlook incorporates our opinion that, given Bombardier’s current leverage and debt-to-cash flow metrics, there remains very limited room for delays on project execution or margin deterioration,” the agency said in its report.

Fitch said Bombardier’s new forecasts and the $1.4 billion charge associated with the Learjet suspension had heightened concerns about the company’s cash flow and liquidity.

Bombardier declined to comment on the reports.

Macquarie Securities analyst Konark Gupta cut his rating on the stock to “neutral” from “outperform”, writing in a note to clients that while liquidity is not currently an problem, it could get worse.

Bombardier is aiming to deliver its first CSeries jet in the second half of 2015, after years of delays and rising costs. Its long-term debt stood at $7.6 billion as of Sept. 30, 2014, and it had cash and equivalents worth $1.94 billion.

On a Thursday conference call, Bombardier said it had $3.8 billion in liquidity, enough to fund its development programs.

CIBC World Markets analyst Kevin Chiang noted those comments, but wrote in a note to clients that the company’s deteriorating liquidity had narrowed its margin of error. He downgraded the stock to “sector performer” from “sector outperformer”, citing the disappointing forecasts.

“This is another hit to Bombardier’s credibility,” he wrote.

Editing by Peter Galloway

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