$1 billion in General Mills bonds debt Baa1

by Josh Sosland
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NEW YORK — Moody’s Investors Service on Jan. 28 assigned Baa1 ratings to $1 billion of senior unsecured dates that were offered on that date. The offering included $250 million of 3-year fixed rate notes, $250 million of $3-year floating-rate notes and $500 million of 30-year fixed rate bonds.

Moody’s said General Mills’ rating outlook remains positive. The company will use proceeds from the offering to pay down much of its $1.9 billion in outstanding commercial paper, Moody’s said.

Yield on the three-year fixed notes is 0.875%, on the 30-year bonds it is 4.15%.

The Baa1 rating is Moody’s top rating beneath its “A” ratings and is defined as reflecting “moderate credit risk.”

Positives cited by Moody’s include the strength and diversity of the General Mills portfolio of brands, including Big G cereals, Pillsbury, Nature Valley, Progresso and Yoplait.

“The rating also reflects the company's leading market positions in nearly all of its key retail categories and solid operating margins in the mid-teens,” Moody’s said.

Expectations that General Mills will continue to generate stable operating flows are central to the positive ratings outlook, the agency said. The company’s credit metrics are at the high end of those for a food company with a Baa1 rating, and an upgrade is possible if General Mills maintains a “moderate financial policy,” Moody’s said.

“Quantitatively, retained cash flow/net debt would need to recover and be sustained above 18% to warrant an upgrade,” the agency said. “Ratings could be downgraded if operating performance deteriorates materially in one of General Mills' core categories, or financial policy becomes more aggressive in terms of share repurchases or acquisitions such that retained cash flow/net debt falls below 13%.” 

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