Moody's Identifies Firms at Risk of Default - TheStreet

Moody's Investment Services, in a bid to jump ahead of the curve on corporate bankruptcies, has published a list of speculative-grade companies with the greatest risk of defaulting.

The Bottom Rung

is Moody's answer to those that have criticized the ratings agencies for being too slow in missing the credit problems that have plagued U.S. companies and have been responsible for the global economic downturn. The list provides ample evidence of a severe default cycle with 283 speculative-grade issuers included, compared with 157 a year ago.

Of the 283 companies listed, nearly half belong to the media, automotive, retail, manufacturing and gaming industries. Moody's said that more than 23% of all U.S. speculative-grade companies are on

the Bottom Rung

list, compared with 9% two years ago.

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Among the media companies listed as probable defaults are

Sirius XM

(SIRI) - Get Report

,

Charter Communications

(CHTR) - Get Report

,

Spanish Broadcasting System

(SBSA)

,

Radio One

(ROIA)

and

Univision

.

It comes as no surprise that

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

,

Ford

(F) - Get Report

and

Chrysler

are featured on the list as well, in addition to several other auto-related companies including

American Axle & Manufacturing

(AXL) - Get Report

,

Cooper Tire & Rubber

(CTB) - Get Report

,

Lear

(LEA) - Get Report

and

Visteon

(VC) - Get Report

.

Retailers have been especially hit hard with the drop in consumer spending, with several names already closing shops amid bankruptcy, including

Circuit City

,

Mervyn's

and

KB Toys

. Moody's cites

Bon-Ton Stores

(BONT)

,

Blockbuster

(BBI) - Get Report

,

Rite Aid

(RAD) - Get Report

,

Michael's Stores

,

Duane Reade

and

Harry & David

, among others, as those with a speculative grade rating in danger of defaulting.

Champion Enterprises

(CHB)

was among those manufacturing stocks on Moody's

the Bottom Rung

, while

MGM Mirage

(MGM) - Get Report

and

Harrah's Entertainment

were among the gaming industry companies on the list.

Several other well-recognized names were included on Moody's list, including

Palm

(PALM)

,

Eastman Kodak

(EK)

,

Advanced Micro Devices

(AMD) - Get Report

,

Hovnanian

(HOV) - Get Report

and

Six Flags

(SIX) - Get Report

.

Also included are airliners

AMR Corp.

(AMR)

,

UAL Corp.

(UAUA)

and

JetBlue Airways

(JBLU) - Get Report

.

Some of the inclusions on Moody's list have done their best to argue that bankruptcy is not a looming possibility. After completing a $530 million loan infusion from

Liberty Media

on Friday,

Sirius XM CEO Mel Karmazin

said that the transactions "resolve all of the uncertainty surrounding the company's and its subsidiaries' debt maturing in 2009."

Blockbuster spokeswoman Karen Raskopf told

TheStreet.com

last week that the world's largest movie-rental chain does "not intend to

file for bankruptcy

."

Additionally, Eastman Kodak told

the Wall Street Journal

that any speculation about whether the company is less than financially sound is "irresponsible. Kodak is financially solid, and we are taking the right actions to ensure that we remain a strong and enduring competitor," spokesman David Lanzillo said to

the Journal

.