Fitch has assigned an ‘A-` debt rating to the 400 million Euro of 6.375 percent notes due 2005 issued today by The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company (NYSE:GT ).
The Rating Outlook is Stable.
The rating reflects confidence that operating performance, particularly in North American Tire operations, will continue to improve moderately in subsequent quarters upon the sharp recovery seen in the first quarter of 2000. Foremost, Goodyear has completed actions to correct the production capacity constraints and logistics problems that led to its poor 1999 performance in the North American replacement tire market.
The rating also reflects management’s plans during 2000 and 2001 to reduce financial leverage back to levels that are more appropriate for this rating, as free operating cash flow will likely be supplemented with divestiture proceeds of non-core operations to pay down debt.
The proceeds from the issue of the notes will be used primarily to repay bank borrowings, commercial paper (rated `F2′ by Fitch) or other short-term debt, as previously anticipated by the ratings. This Euro Note issue, along with the $600 million total of notes issued in March 2000, effectively terms-out the debt added in Sept. 1999 to complete the transactions for Goodyear’s alliance with Sumitomo Rubber Industries and reduces short-term debt as a percentage of total debt to approximately 50 percent.