Moody's Investors Service on Thursday affirmed its ratings on Coca-Cola Co., and placed certain ratings for bottler Coca-Cola Enterprise Inc. on review for possible upgrade after the soft-drink maker said it was buying the bottler's North American operations.
Moody's affirmed the Aa3 long-term and Prime-1 short-term ratings on Coca-Cola, which said Thursday it would buy the North American operations of Coca-Cola Enterprises so it can be quicker to market with new products and cut costs.
The ratings firm placed the ratings for Coca-Cola Enterprises short- and long-term debt under review for possible upgrade.
The deal does not materially change the financials of the system, said Linda Montag, senior vice president at Moody's.
Coca-Cola will give up its 34 percent stake in Coca-Cola Enterprises, worth $3.4 billion, and assume $8.88 billion in debt.
In a separate deal, Coca-Cola will sell its Norwegian and Swedish bottling operations to Coca-Cola Enterprises for $822 million. Coca-Cola Enterprises also gets an option to buy Coca-Cola's 83 percent stake in its German bottling operations.
Coca-Cola Enterprises shareholders will get one share of a new Coca-Cola Enterprises company focused only on European bottling and a one-time $10-per-share payment. The company plans to issue debt to finance that payment and the European acquisition.
Moody's said the deal generates debt of $3.4 billion to pay Coca-Cola Enterprises' shareholders, but "the additional debt follows a year in which the system as a whole had strong cash flow performance and de-levered, such that there is sufficient cushion to absorb the additional debt at the current rating levels."
Moody's said the review of Coca-Cola Enterprise's A3 debt ratings will look at the assumption of the debt by Coca-Cola and the support it will most likely provide for the debt.
The agency said Coca-Cola Enterprises' debt would have to be legally assumed by Coca-Cola or guaranteed, to get the same rating as Coca-Cola.
Moody's expects Coca-Cola to pay its newly acquired debt over time, so its ratings do not change.
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