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S&P issues gloomy outlook rating

PARIS, Sept 7 – Shipping giant CMA CGM, the third-biggest container mover in the world, is at risk of breaching conditions on its debt and must take preventive action, ratings agency Standard & Poor’s said on Wednesday,

The agency revised its outlook for the French group to negative on Wednesday, citing poor cash flow in a weak operating environment.

S&P affirmed CGA CGM’s B+ long-term loan credit rating, a grade which signals some difficulty for the company in meeting its financial commitments.

The agency also said it estimated a less than 10 percent recovery rate by creditors if CGA CGM were to default on two unsecured short-term loans totalling about $930 million due in 2017 and 2019.

The outlook revision reflects “CMA CGM’s weak operating environment in the first six months of the year, and our view that its cash flow protection measures may now fall short of the levels we consider commensurate with the current rating,” Standard & Poor credit analyst Izabela Listowska said.

The agency also said it expected CMA CGM would have to take “preventative action” to avoid breaching its financial objectives agreed with creditors.

CMA CGM’s first-half net profit this year dropped by 72 percent to $321 million (227 million euros) due in part to high oil prices caused by unrest in the Arab world.

At the end of June, the company held $1.7 billion in cash, but debt reached $5.3 billion.

Listowska said S&P expected CMA CGM’s operating margins could remain depressed and “that the group might not be able to achieve credit measures we view as commensurate with the current rating over a prolonged period”.

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