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  HOME | Oil, Mining & Energy (Click here for more)

ConocoPhillips Outlook Cut to Negative by Moody's
Moody's changes ConocoPhillips' rating outlook to negative

NEW YORK -- Moody's Investors Service changed ConocoPhillips' (COP) rating outlook to negative from stable. At the same time, Moody's affirmed COP's senior unsecured and other long-term debt ratings at A1, and affirmed the Prime-1 short-term commercial paper ratings of ConocoPhillips and ConocoPhillips Qatar Funding Ltd.

Ratings affirmed include the long-term debt ratings of ConocoPhillips, ConocoPhillips Company, ConocoPhillips Canada Resources Limited, ConocoPhillips Canada Funding Company I and II, Tosco Corporation, Burlington Resources, and Louisiana Land and Exploration.

"The negative rating outlook reflects the expectation that COP's debt balances will rise over the next two years, leading to leverage in excess of targets for its A1 rating," commented Gretchen French, Moody's Vice President. "There is uncertainty to the amount and durability of increased debt, which will primarily be a function of realized oil and natural gas prices and COP's capital discipline and ability to achieve its production growth targets."

COP's A1 rating reflects the company's considerable scale and global geographic diversification of reserves and production, and a large cash flow profile generated from a wide base of mature producing assets. Its liquids production and oil-linked LNG projects support relatively stronger revenue realizations and cash margins compared to a number of its peers. At the same time, these remain subject to volatility and cyclicality, and COP has a degree of production concentration in North American natural gas, estimated by Moody's at about a quarter of its total production in 2015, which will continue to be hurt by weak prices. COP's F&D unit costs are increasing, but we believe its strategy to restructure and re-focus its operations will enable it to replace reserves and grow production at competitive full cycle once oil prices recover from the severe price weakness of 2015.

We view COP's A1 rating as weakly positioned based on the company's elevated financial leverage relative to its independent exploration and production (E&P) peers, despite the benefit of larger and more diversified reserves and production. Moody's expects COP's leverage metrics to deteriorate further in 2015 relative to its E&P peers as it continues to maintain a high dividend payout through the downturn and a still heavy (albeit reduced) capital spending program in excess of internal cash flows. Based on Moody's price assumptions, we expect COP to generate roughly $7 billion of negative free cash flow in 2015 after capital spending and dividends, which the company indicates will be financed with debt and cash on the balance sheet. Absent a significant price recovery, we also expect negative free cash flow again in 2016, with cash flow neutrality achieved by 2017, at the earliest.

Including Moody's debt adjustments, we estimate that COP's cash flow based leverage metrics will deteriorate materially in 2015, with retained cash flow to debt declining to 14% in 2015 from 51% for the period ending September 30, 2014. COP's cash flow based leverage metrics look set to improve in 2016 based on both higher assumed commodity prices and continued production growth, but the degree of improvement may not be sufficient to support an A1 rating given the expectation of continued negative free cash flow generation in 2016. Under this scenario, COP's leverage metrics may not show material improvement in financial leverage until 2017.

The affirmation of COP's short term Prime-1 ratings reflects the company's strong liquidity position. COP has a $7.0 billion multi-year committed bank credit facility maturing in June 2019 that is available to back-stop commercial paper, with $6.1 billion of availability as of September 30, 2014, after accounting for CP outstanding (there were no letters of credit). COP had $5.8 billion of cash as of September 30, 2014.

COP's A1 unsecured ratings could be downgraded if retained cash flow to debt is sustained below 25%. The rating could also be pressured by failure to deliver on production growth targets or by low reserve replacement and poor reinvestment economics.

We do not expect a near-term ratings upgrade given COP's positioning as an independent E&P and its high capital spending needs and negative cash flow. However, the rating could improve in the future based upon a stronger financial performance and maintenance of competitive reinvestment metrics, as well as its ability to lower its financial leverage while growing reserves and production.

ConocoPhillips is headquartered in Houston, Texas.
Affirmations:

..Issuer: Brazos Harbor TX, Industrial Development Corp

....Senior Unsecured Revenue Bonds (Local Currency), Affirmed A1

....Senior Unsecured Revenue Bonds (Local Currency), Affirmed P-1

..Issuer: Burlington Resources Finance Company

....Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture (Foreign Currency), Affirmed A1

..Issuer: Burlington Resources, Inc.

....Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture (Local Currency), Affirmed A1

..Issuer: Conoco Funding Company

....Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture (Local Currency), Affirmed A1

..Issuer: ConocoPhillips

.... Issuer Rating, Affirmed A1

....Multiple Seniority Shelf (Local Currency), Affirmed (P)A1

....Multiple Seniority Shelf (Local Currency), Affirmed (P)A2

....Multiple Seniority Shelf (Local Currency), Affirmed (P)A3

....Senior Unsecured Commercial Paper (Local Currency), Affirmed P-1

....Senior Unsecured Commercial Paper (Foreign Currency), Affirmed P-1

....Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture (Local Currency), Affirmed A1

..Issuer: ConocoPhillips Canada Funding Company I

....Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture (Foreign Currency), Affirmed A1

..Issuer: ConocoPhillips Canada Funding Company II

....Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture (Foreign Currency), Affirmed A1

..Issuer: ConocoPhillips Canada Resources Limited

....Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture (Foreign Currency), Affirmed A1

..Issuer: ConocoPhillips Company

.... Issuer Rating, Affirmed A1

....Senior Secured Equipment Trust (Local Currency), Affirmed Aa3

....Senior Secured Pass-Through (Local Currency), Affirmed Aa3

....Senior Secured Regular Bond/Debenture (Local Currency), Affirmed A1

....Senior Secured Shelf (Local Currency), Affirmed (P)Aa3

....Senior Unsecured Medium-Term Note Program (Local Currency), Affirmed (P)A1

....Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture (Local Currency), Affirmed A1

....Senior Unsecured Shelf (Local Currency), Affirmed (P)A1

..Issuer: ConocoPhillips Holding Company

....Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture (Local Currency), Affirmed A1

..Issuer: ConocoPhillips Qatar Funding Ltd.

....Senior Unsecured Commercial Paper (Foreign Currency), Affirmed P-1

..Issuer: ConocoPhillips Trust I

....Pref. Stock Shelf (Local Currency), Affirmed (P)A3

..Issuer: ConocoPhillips Trust II

....Pref. Stock Shelf (Local Currency), Affirmed (P)A3

..Issuer: Louisiana Land & Exploration Company

....Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture (Local Currency), Affirmed A1

..Issuer: Polar Tankers, Inc.

....Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture (Local Currency), Affirmed A1

..Issuer: Tosco Corporation

....Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture (Local Currency), Affirmed A1

..Issuer: Valdez (City of) AK

....Senior Unsecured Revenue Bonds (Local Currency), Affirmed A1

....Senior Unsecured Revenue Bonds (Local Currency), Affirmed VMIG 1

Outlook Actions:

..Issuer: Burlington Resources Finance Company

....Outlook, Changed To Negative From Stable

..Issuer: Burlington Resources, Inc.

....Outlook, Changed To Negative From Stable

..Issuer: Conoco Funding Company

....Outlook, Changed To Negative From Stable

..Issuer: ConocoPhillips

....Outlook, Changed To Negative From Stable

..Issuer: ConocoPhillips Canada Funding Company I

....Outlook, Changed To Negative From Stable

..Issuer: ConocoPhillips Canada Funding Company II

....Outlook, Changed To Negative From Stable

..Issuer: ConocoPhillips Canada Resources Limited

....Outlook, Changed To Negative From Stable

..Issuer: ConocoPhillips Company

....Outlook, Changed To Negative From Stable

..Issuer: ConocoPhillips Qatar Funding Ltd.

....Outlook, Changed To Negative From Stable

..Issuer: ConocoPhillips Trust I

....Outlook, Changed To Negative From Stable

..Issuer: ConocoPhillips Trust II

....Outlook, Changed To Negative From Stable

..Issuer: Louisiana Land & Exploration Company

....Outlook, Changed To Negative From Stable

..Issuer: Polar Tankers, Inc.

....Outlook, Changed To Negative From Stable


 

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