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Rating Action:

MOODY'S CHANGES THE OUTLOOK OF RANK GROUP PLC TO NEGATIVE FROM STABLE

13 Sep 2000
MOODY'S CHANGES THE OUTLOOK OF RANK GROUP PLC TO NEGATIVE FROM STABLE London, September 13, 2000 -- Moody's Investors Service today changed the rating outlook of Rank Group Plc and its guaranteed subsidiaries to negative from stable. The issuer rating of Rank Group Plc at present remains Baa2, the preferred stock rating remains "baa3" and the senior debt ratings of its guaranteed subsidiaries remain Baa2. The change in rating outlook to negative reflects the limited growth prospects of Rank's underlying operations, the lack of cohesion between these businesses, the fact that Rank remains vulnerable to a degree of take-over related event risk and the continued focus of the group on improving shareholder value. However, the current ratings also recognise the improved underlying operating performance of the group's continuing businesses, Moody's expectation that future divestments will be successfully concluded and that these will lead to a considerable reduction in debt levels and a strengthening of the financial profile, which is currently considered to be weak for the rating category.

Moody's acknowledges that Rank's management has sharply curtailed capital expenditure, successfully exited a number of businesses and has reduced debt levels, with further reductions expected should the UK Holiday business be successfully disposed of. Assuming this latter divestment is concluded, even allowing for limited potential buy-backs (Rank has shareholder approval to repurchase up to 15% of outstanding shares) the group's debt protection measures are expected to improve over the coming year. However, uncertainty over Rank's future strategy remains and the company will face considerable challenges in expanding the remaining businesses, which all operate in increasingly competitive and low growth environments. Although Rank remains on target to achieve its stated intention to generate free cash flow in 2000 (before acquisitions and disposals) the company's bottom line profitability continues to be hampered by restructuring charges and exceptional items.

Moody's will continue to monitor the progress of Rank and to assess its ability to sustain its position within the current rating category. Moody's will take into consideration the ability of Rank to successfully conclude the potential divestment of its UK Holiday business; the application of any sale proceeds, the majority of which we would expect to be applied to debt reduction while recognising that a portion may be returned to shareholders; the ability of management to continue to improve underlying operating performance and also to grow the remaining businesses; clarification as to the strategic direction of the company and the degree to which Rank remains vulnerable to take-over related event risk.

The Rank Group Plc, is a leisure and entertainment company based in London, England.
No Related Data.
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