U.S.: Moody's upgrades Dole rating - FreshFruitPortal.com

U.S.: Moody's upgrades Dole rating

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U.S.: Moody's upgrades Dole rating

Operational efficiencies and new investments have put Dole Food Company in a more favorable light for ratings agency Moody's, upgrading the company's Corporate Family Rating (CFR) from B3 to B2. Dole logo

In a release, Moody's said the change said the decision also had to do with its own changes to approaching the capitalization of operating leases, which led to a reduction in adjusted debt.

"Higher operating efficiencies are the result of earnings improvement driven by reduced headcount and reinvestment in the business," Moody's said.

"The company intends to continue upgrading farm equipment and farming practices over time at the farms it purchased in 2014 and 2015. These upgrades will increase operating efficiency at these farms and improve their earnings.

"In addition, Dole has three new ships on order with delivery scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2015, the first quarter of 2016 and the second quarter of 2016. These new ships are larger and more efficient than the existing West Coast ships."

The agency highlighted Dole's debt to EBITDA ratio was also down significantly to 4.5 times at March 28 this year, compared to 7.4 times at December 28. The group said this was "primarily due to Moody's changed approach for capitalizing operating leases and earnings improvement and Moody's expects further leverage improvement as operating efficiencies are realized over the next 12 to 18 months".

Moody's said the B2 CFR reflected moderately high financial leverage, low margins, earnings and cash flow volatility inherent in the Dole's commodity oriented business, and adequate liquidity.

"These factors are partially offset by the company's sophisticated production and logistics infrastructure that provides it a competitive advantage, its good market position as one of a few large fresh fruit and fresh vegetable producers in the U.S. and Europe, and its decent scale and operational diversity.

"The stable outlook reflects our expectation that liquidity will remain adequate and leverage will decline through improved earnings from increased vertical integration and farm upgrade initiatives."


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