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From Staff Reports
And then there were three.
It sounds like the title for an Agatha Christie novel, but it’s actually a commentary on the change in the top-tier of the global corporate credit market.
European food giant Nestlé SA (OTC: NSRGY), the last European firm with the triple-A trifecta – Triple-A grades from Moody's Investors Service, Standard & Poor's Inc. and Fitch Ratings – had its rating cut by one level to AA+, the consequence of announcing its biggest-ever share buyback. S&P is expected to follow suit and downgrade Nestlé’s credit rating.
"It's the end of an era," Rob Orman, a credit analyst at Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC, told Bloomberg News.
Nestle saw its biggest share-price jump in more than five years, thanks to the $21 billion over three years buyback plan – and a first-half profit of $4.08 billion that blew past analyst estimates, Business Week magazine reported. But the buyback boosted the Vevey, Switzerland-based company's credit risk is the highest in more than a year, according to credit-default swaps.
In an e-mailed note to journalists, Chief Financial Paul Polman responded to Nestlé’s downgrade by Fitch by saying his company remains "the Gold Standard in its industry."