NEW YORK — S&P Global Ratings has affirmed the credit ratings of Kraft Heinz Co. but revised the credit outlook to negative from stable. The ratings agency said it could downgrade Kraft Heinz to speculative grade within two years “if we come to believe the upcoming strategic plan will not stabilize EBITDA and deleverage the balance sheet.”
S&P Global cited “continued performance erosion and lack of clarity on the company’s outlook” as reasons for the shift to negative. Adjusted leverage should fall beneath four times EBITDA if a downgrade is to be avoided, S&P said.
First-quarter EBITDA fell short of S&P’s expectations because of higher promotional activity and reduced retail inventories, the agency said.
“We could lower the rating if we anticipate the company will sustain adjusted leverage above 4x,” S&P said. “This could result from continued profit weakness — potentially due to an inability to pass along inflation or loss of shelf space if consumers continue to move to private label or away from certain of the company’s categories — or a failure to take sufficient creditor-friendly financial policy actions, including reducing or eliminating the dividend or conducting meaningful deleveraging asset sales.”