Fitch lowers Sunoco rating

AP News
Posted: Dec 09, 2009 5:29 PM

Fitch Ratings Inc. said Wednesday that it has downgraded petroleum refiner Sunoco Inc.'s rating outlook from "Stable" to "Negative."

Fitch said the downgrade comes on Sunoco's weak profit margins, volumes and refinery utilization heading into next year. The agency also noted that the country's 10 percent unemployment rate could harm the company as it is "a key variable driving North American gasoline demand."

In response to the economic downturn and a plunge in American driving, Sunoco sold one of its refineries in Tulsa, Okla., and announced plans to idle another one in Eagle Point, N.J. It also cut its dividend payout in half and froze pension benefits.

After such aggressive moves, Fitch said that other "liquidity raising moves" are limited.

Sunoco stock dropped 19 cents, or less than 1 percent, to $25.72 in Wednesday trading.