Default Risk Increases for European Junk Borrowers, Moody's Says

The portion of European high-yield borrowers at risk of default is growing, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

The number of companies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa that were rated at least seven levels below investment grade at the end of March increased to 47 from 33 a year earlier, according to a Moody’s report. The 42 percent increase in the lowest-rated issuers outpaced 5 percent growth in the total number of rated companies, wrote William Coley, senior vice president at the firm.

“We are not seeing a wholesale downward migration in credit quality,” Coley wrote in the report. “Rather greater differentiation between likely defaulters and non-defaulters.”

Many of the lowest-rated businesses are related to commodities, reflecting lower prices. Other companies are finding it harder to get funding as investors become more picky after years of record borrowing.

Greek refrigeration company Frigoglass SAIC was among borrowers cut to Caa or lower in the first quarter after it canceled an asset sale, along with ship operator Navios Maritime Holdings Inc. Italian disposal and recycling company Waste Italia SpA was cut in February to Caa3, nine levels below investment grade.

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