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Nissan's credit rating takes further hit with S&P's negative outlook revision

Tokyo

NISSAN Motor Co's credit standing took another hit, as S&P Global Ratings placed the carmaker's rating on negative watch after it issued a weaker profit outlook last week.

There is a more than one-in-three chance of a further delay in Nissan's profit recovery, said the rating agency, which in February lowered the company's long-term issuer credit rating for the first time in a decade to A- from A.

Nissan reduced its full-year earnings forecast after third-quarter profit missed analysts' estimates, adding to the headwinds for a carmaker struggling with the fallout from the arrest of former chairman Carlos Ghosn. Sales in the US plunged 19 per cent in January amid an industry-wide slump, intensifying the pressure on chief executive officer Hiroto Saikawa as he tries to ease tensions with partner and shareholder Renault SA.

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"The outlook revision is based on our view that the company's profitability is likely to decline over the next two years to a greater degree than we previously assumed," S&P said in its statement on Monday.

"Amid a difficult business environment, the company's weak product competitiveness is likely to lead to stronger earnings pressure in North America and Europe than those of its peers."

Hurt by slumping US sales, ageing vehicle models and an out-of-sync product cycle, the Japanese carmaker issued an outlook for profit of 230 billion yen (S$2.9 billion) for the fiscal year ending March 2020, roughly half of the average projection for 453 billion yen. Nissan also reported its lowest annual profit in a decade at 318 billion yen.

S&P, which cited weaker profits as the reason for its negative outlook, affirmed Nissan's long-term A- and short-term A-2 ratings based on the view "that the company's solid global business franchise and sound financial position with sizable net cash will likely continue".

A representative for Nissan declined to comment. BLOOMBERG