Shares of Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX) are enjoying a modest gain today after Moody’s Investors Service (NYSE:MCO) upgraded its debt rating.
The ratings agency said it believes BSX stock is less risky now that the Natick, Mass.-based medical device giant has reduced its debt load and introduced new products into its pipeline, according to Moody’s analyst Diana Lee.
Moody’s upgraded BSX’s senior unsecured debt rating to "Baa3" from "Ba1," setting a "stable" outlook and removing its corporate family, probability of default and speculative-grade liquidity ratings.
"The stable outlook reflects Moody’s expectation that newly introduced [drug-eluting stent] and [cardiac rhythm management] products will help reverse recent market share losses and that, even as a new CEO transitions later this year, the company will not engage in large debt financed acquisitions or buyback initiatives. The outlook also reflects Moody’s belief that free cash flow to debt will be sustained around 20% and debt/EBITDA will be sustained at levels well below 3.0 times," according to a press release. "If Boston Scientific can improve market share in existing mature businesses while becoming competitive in newer technologies and continue to internally fund acquisitions and buybacks, the ratings could be upgraded."
"Boston Scientific’s commitment to lower leverage and cost-cutting initiatives should provide it with sufficient cushion to withstand ongoing pressures in its core markets," Lee added in prepared remarks. "Furthermore, patent litigation risk continues to wind down, as recent developments appear to weigh in Boston Scientific’s favor."
"We are pleased to achieve an investment-grade rating from all 3 major credit rating agencies, recognizing the strength of our balance sheet, strong cash flow, recent drug-eluting stent and cardiac rhythm management product launches, as well as other tangible signs of the progress we are making," BSX CFO Jeff Capello said in prepared remarks. "We remain committed to a strong capital structure and improved profitability, while retaining the capacity to fund investments in our Priority Growth Initiatives and other programs to increase shareholder value.
Moody’s lifted BSX out of junk bond status in March 2009 and raised its outlook from stable to positive last June.
BSX shares ticked up 0.3% to $5.95 today as of about 1:24, after briefly topping the $6-per-share mark this morning.
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