Disney Debt Rating Cut at S&P as Virus Keeps Parks Grounded

Disney debt was downgraded at S&P as the credit-rating company says the theme parks' capacity use won't rebound at the same rate as the overall economy.
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Walt Disney's  (DIS) - Get Report debt rating was cut to A-minus from A at S&P Global due to the coronavirus impact on its operations. 

"Most importantly, [Disney's] theme parks and film and TV studios remain closed by government-mandated social distancing orders and it's unclear when they will be allowed to reopen," S&P said in an April 23 report.

The Burbank, Calif., entertainment company earlier this month said it was furloughing 43,000 Disney World employees as the theme park has been shuttered since mid-March due to concern about the spread of coronavirus. 

"Disney's theme parks won't likely return to normal capacity utilization at the same rate as the overall economy even after stay-at-home restrictions are eased and the theme parks are allowed to reopen," S&P said in a statement. 

Last week, Disney said it had secured a new credit agreement with Citigroup for as much as $5 billion to help it survive the pandemic, which has shut most of its business. 

S&P expects that the company's adjusted leverage (debt-to-equity multiple) will climb well above 3 times for the next two years and decline below that in 2022. 

S&P is keeping Disney's rating on CreditWatch negative, meaning the firm could revisit the situation and downgrade the company again in the near term.

Beyond the scuttling of Disney travel experiences, movie-theater closures have cut ticket sales, while the suspension of almost all major league sports has cut into its ESPN programming. 

Disney Chairman Bob Iger stepped down as CEO earlier this year.

A silver lining has been Disney+, which continues to exceed expectations as millions of consumers, who are confined to their homes, sign up for the streaming service.

Disney recently said it appeared on track to meet its longer-term subscriber target of between 60 million and 90 million paid Disney+ subscribers by 2024.

At last check Disney shares eased 0.8% to $100.15.