Moody's lowers ratings outlook on Supervalu

AP News
Posted: Dec 17, 2009 8:05 PM

Moody's Investors Service said Thursday it lowered its outlook on the debt ratings of grocer Supervalu Inc. and its subsidiaries to negative from stable.

It affirmed Supervalu's junk-grade "Ba3" corporate family rating and the "Ba3" ratings of the senior unsecured debt of the company and its subsidiaries. But Moody's changed its outlook to reflect possible disruptions to operations over the short term as the company carries out its strategic initiatives during a very challenging operating environment.

"These disruptions could lead further margin compression or disruptions to top line that could negatively impact debt coverage metrics and prospects for further debt reduction," Moody's said.

In October, Supervalu said it planned to double the number of Save A Lot discount stores it operates and trim prices in all its stores. Weak consumer spending and deep discounts also pushed its fiscal second-quarter profit down 42 percent, Supervalu said at the time.

Analysts have noted that 23 percent of Supervalu's store overlap with a Wal-Mart within three miles, which has put pressure on the supermarket operator's traffic and pricing.

Supervalu shares closed Thursday down 26 cents, or 2 percent, at $12.57.