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Rating Action:

MOODY'S CONFIRMS AT A3 L.T. ISSUER RATING OF AVENTIS; RATING OUTLOOK IS POSITIVE

05 Sep 2000
MOODY'S CONFIRMS AT A3 L.T. ISSUER RATING OF AVENTIS; RATING OUTLOOK IS POSITIVE

Approximately $3.8 Billion of Debt Securities Affected.

Frankfurt, September 05, 2000 -- Moody's Investors Service confirmed the A3 issuer rating for Aventis S.A., which resulted from a merger of Hoechst AG (previously rated A2 for senior debt) and Rhone-Poulenc S.A. (previously rated Baa3). After the combination of the two operations, Moody's considers the new Aventis group a strong global enterprise with a sales and product base ranking it among the world's largest companies in both pharmaceuticals and agricultural products. Aventis has started with a considerable debt burden, but the rating agency expects management to apply proceeds from designated divestitures to debt reduction and thus allow for a steady improvement in debt-protection measurements. The outlook for the long term ratings is positive, reflecting the potential for this improvement. The rating of Aventis for short term debt (formerly issued by Rhone Poulenc) was upgraded to Prime-2 from Prime-3.

Ratings confirmed:

Aventis S.A. - A3 issuer rating

Ratings up-graded:

Aventis S.A. (formerly Rhone Poulenc) - Prime-2 (from Prime-3) for short-term debt

Rhone-Poulenc S.A. - A3 (from Baa3) for outstanding Eurobonds assumed by Aventis S.A.

Rhone-Poulenc Rorer, Inc - A3 (from Baa3) for Pass-thru certificates

Rhone-Poulenc Rorer, Inc - "baa2" (from "ba2") for Preference stock

Rhone-Poulenc Commercial Finance B.V. - A3 (from Baa3) for Eurobonds guaranteed by Aventis S.A.

Rhone-Poulenc Overseas Ltd. - "baa1" (from "ba2") for Preference stock guaranteed on a subordinated basis by Aventis S.A.

Ratings downgraded:

Hoechst Marion Roussel, Inc - A3 (from A2) for Eurobonds guaranteed by Hoechst AG

HMR ASOP Trust - A3 (from A2) for notes guaranteed by Aventis S.A.

Aventis was formed in December of 1999 from the merger of Hoechst AG and Rhone-Poulenc S.A.. Via an exchange of equity, Rhone-Poulenc had acquired 96.7% of Hoechst AG's shares. The name of the legal entity, Rhone-Poulenc, was subsequently changed to Aventis S.A. ("Aventis"). Seven months after Aventis' creation, Moody's considers the group still considerably geared, but planned divestitures of non-life sciences businesses should allow a rapid reduction in net debt. Aventis will initially retain small stakes in the Rhodia and Clariant specialty chemical operations, which are non-core to the group. Conversion of a EUR 800 million Hoechst guaranteed bond, convertible into Clariant shares, may further reduce interests in these companies and help alleviate Aventis' debt burden. According to Moody's, the reported debt leverage for Aventis, in spite of planned reductions in net debt, will be relatively high compared to other major pharmaceutical/agricultural companies during the intermediate term. Consequently, debt-protection measurements, including cash flow relative to debt, are narrow for the A3 rating category but should become more ample over time as cash flow expands and additional asset sales speed debt reduction.

The rating agency considers Aventis to have the scale to compete effectively with the global leaders in pharmaceuticals and agricultural products. The new entity's credit profile also benefits from a well-diversified product portfolio in these two businesses. Sales prospects should brighten in view of an adequate pipeline of new products and stepped up marketing efforts in the United States where significant potential exists for Aventis to deepen its penetration. Aventis clearly faces the challenge of executing the integration of its diverse business units. If successful, however, a rapid implementation will accrue significant opportunities for merger synergies. Moody's rating and positive outlook incorporates the expectation of significant operating margin improvement in the years ahead.

The A3 rating for the pass-thru certificates issued by Rhone-Poulenc Rorer, Inc. (RPR) reflect i) the strategic relevance of this pharmaceutical company for the Aventis group, ii) the financial support promised by Aventis S.A., and iii) Moody's understanding of Aventis' group policy with regard to managing and supporting its subsidiaries.

Aventis S.A., headquartered in Strasbourg, France, is a world leader in pharmaceutical and agricultural products. The group employs some 95,000 people in 120 countries and recorded pro-forma sales of EUR 20.5 billion (US$ 21.1 billion) in 1999.

Frankfurt
Juergen Berblinger
Managing Director
European Corporates
Moody's Deutschland GmbH
(69) 2 42 84-0

Frankfurt
Heiko Neumann
Vice President - Senior Analyst
Eruopean Corporates
Moody's Deutschland GmbH
(69) 2 42 84-0

No Related Data.
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