S&P Cuts Qwest Rating to Junk Status

The ratings agency expects continued economic weakness -- and competitive threats -- to pressure the telecom's performance

On May 22, Standard & Poor's cut its credit rating for Qwest Communications International one notch to BB+, its highest junk grade, from BBB-. S&P also reduced its short-term rating to B from A-3, and said it may cut all of the ratings again.

Qwest had $26.5 billion of debt as of March 31, according to S&P.

"Continued weakness in the overall economy and ongoing competitive threats are expected to pressure both the near-term and longer-term financial and operating performance of Qwest," says S&P analyst Catherine Cosentino in a statement. "Certain key external factors could constrain the company's ability to restore investor confidence and reestablish management credibility, including a series of pending shareholder lawsuits and an (Securities and Exchange Commission) investigation of several accounting practices."

Qwest is trying to sell its QwestDex Yellow Pages business. S&P said the new rating assumes Qwest can raise $8 billion in gross proceeds from a sale.

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