TEXT-S&P: Rockwell Automation ratings unchanged by buyback plan
June 8 - Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said today that its ratings and outlook on Rockwell Automation Inc. (A/Stable/A-1) are not affected by the company's announcement that its board of directors has authorized a $1 billion share repurchase program. The authorization supplements the $1 billion program from 2007, of which approximately $51 million remained outstanding as of June 7, 2012. The company also increased its dividend by 11%. The buyback authorization is open-ended; we expect that Rockwell will align spending with cash flow generation and other uses such as acquisitions and pension contributions. Rockwell generated more than $500 million of free cash flow (FOCF) last year, and we expect FOCF to exceed $450 million this year, even after a $300 million pension contribution. The company also continues to hold significant excess cash, with cash and short-term investments totaling about $1.1 billion as of March 31, 2012, compared with funded debt of about $1.2 billion. We believe that the company's exposure to cyclical end-markets and its still significant pension obligations will cause credit measures to fluctuate over the business cycle, but we'd expect these to remain generally consistent with our expectations for the rating, including FFO to total debt of 45%-50%.
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