Fitch downgrades Shell's credit rating amid debt concerns

1st April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Ratings agency Fitch on Friday downgraded Royal Dutch Shell's long-term credit-worthiness to AA from AA+ due to concerns over the Anglo-Dutch energy giant's rising debt levels.

"The downgrade reflects the fact that management fundamentally departed from its conservative financial profile with the increase in net debt of around $17 billion in 2009 and $5.6 billion in 2010," Jeffrey Woodruff, senior director in Fitch's Energy team, said in a statement.

Downgrades by credit ratings agencies can make it harder for companies to secure competitive rates of interest on their borrowing requirements.

Shell's share price was flat at 2,264 pence in afternoon trade on London's FTSE 100 index, which showed a gain of nearly one percent to 5,964.22 points.

Fitch added that its downgrade comes as Shell faces key issues, including its ability to increase oil production and fund its North American energy strategy.

It also occurs as Shell on Friday announced the sale of its refining and distribution activities in Chile to local oil company Quinenco for $614 million (433 million euros).

The move was part of its strategy to consolidate downstream operations into fewer and larger markets. Earlier this week, Shell agreed to sell Britain's second biggest oil refinery to Indian group Essar for $1.3 billion.

Despite concerns over Shell's high debt levels, the group managed to double its net profit in 2010, easily outperforming crisis-hit rival BP thanks to cost-cutting, higher oil prices and rising output.

Net profits, adjusted for the value of inventories of oil and gas, rocketed 90 percent to $18.6 billion last year.

© 2011 AFP

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