Valeant’s debt problems are getting bigger.
On Friday, Moody’s lowered its rating on $32 billion worth of Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX) debt, outlining in a report the grim challenges facing the troubled drugmaker, signaling the chance that company will go bankrupt is on the rise.
Moody’s downgraded most of the company’s debt from B1 to B2, which is five notches below investment grade and an even lower junk rating than it cut them to two weeks ago, when Valeant said it might default because it missed creditors’ deadlines for filing its financial reports. Valeant’s shares dropped more than 50% following the shocking disclosure, announced during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call.
While none of Valeant’s bondholders have given it official notice of default yet—and Valeant earlier this week asked its creditors for an extension to avoid that scenario—Moody’s also downgraded Valeant’s default risk rating to Caa1-PD, citing “the heightened probability of default.”
(For more read: The Really Big Problem With Valeant’s Debt)
Valeant’s rating remains under review by Moody’s, which said it could downgrade it further if “we believe the probability of defaulting is rising.” After Valeant’s disastrous earnings call, Standard & Poor’s also said it was watching the company’s debt and might downgrade it, but so far it has held its rating steady at B+, the equivalent of Moody’s former B1 rating, according to Bloomberg.
Explaining its downgrade decision, Moody’s also rattled off a series of other red flags at the company. Valeant’s recent announcement that it will replace its CEO Michael Pearson, “discord amongst senior management,” “continued scrutiny on drug pricing” from regulators, and changes to the company’s board—including the addition of activist investor Bill Ackman—all pose risks, Moody’s senior vice president Michael Levesque wrote in the report. Valeant’s “weakened reputation and management credibility” could also make it more difficult for the company to grow revenue and deliver on its promise to pay down debt.
Levesque noted that Valeant’s junk rating was unusually low for companies of its “scale and diversity.” But most of those companies “also are not facing the same degree of operating challenges as Valeant,” he wrote.
Still, Moody’s doesn’t foresee cutting Valeant’s rating again “absent any major new setbacks or significant new issues,” according to the report. Valeant stock rose nearly 11% on Friday afternoon.