TEXT-S&P cuts Becton Dickinson rating to 'A' on industry pressure

Thu Nov 29, 2012 1:53pm EST

Overview
     -- U.S. medical products manufacturer Becton Dickinson & Co. has not met 
our 2012 expectations and we now believe that the company's business risk 
profile, while still strong, has lost some luster.
     -- As a result, we are expecting only limited improvement in operating 
trends and credit measures that remain elevated from last year's leveraged 
share repurchase program. 
     -- We are lowering our long-term corporate credit and issue-level ratings 
on the company to 'A' from 'A+', and lowering the commercial paper rating to 
'A-1' from 'A-1+, in conjunction with our criteria linking our long- and 
short-term ratings.
     -- Our stable rating outlook on the company reflects expectations that 
the company will maintain a strong business risk profile and will sustain 
current margins over the next few years.
 
Rating Action
On Nov. 29, 2012, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services lowered its long-term 
corporate credit rating and issue-level ratings on Franklin Lakes, N.J.-based 
Becton Dickinson & Co. (BD) to 'A' from 'A+', and short-term debt rating
to 'A-1' from 'A-1+'. The outlook is stable.

The preliminary rating on the shelf debt is lowered to 'A' from 'A+', and 
preferred stock to 'BBB+' from 'A-'.

Rationale
The ratings on Becton Dickinson & Co. reflect the multinational, medical 
product manufacturer's still-strong business risk profile, characterized by 
its diversity and large scale. These factors position BD to contend with 
competitive pressures in medical technology that are testing its business 
strength. We still consider BD's financial risk as "modest" (according to our 
criteria), though we now expect more limited improvement in credit measures, 
following a performance that was weaker than we expected in fiscal 2012.

Notwithstanding its business strengths, we believe that operating pressures 
will continue to weigh on the company's prospects. Following fiscal 2012 
margin compression in excess of 200 basis points, we do not expect a 
meaningful improvement in adjusted EBITDA margins above 29% in the year ahead. 
We expect BD's fiscal 2013 adjusted EBITDA to be burdened by about $100 
million in costs related to an upgrade of the enterprise resource planning 
(ERP) system and the imposition of the medical device tax in 2013. Along with 
the absence of EBITDA from the discontinued Labware business, our base case 
now assumes adjusted fiscal 2013 EBITDA will be more than 10% below the level 
we had anticipated last year.

Still, BD's diversity remains a key aspect of its "strong" business risk 
profile, and contributes to our expectation that it will post a low- to 
mid-single-digit constant-currency revenue increase in fiscal 2013. We expect 
the growth of its Medical and Diagnostics segments will keep pace with the 
gain, and outshine very limited organic expansion in the relatively small 
Biosciences segment. Our base case incorporates low-single-digit growth in 
U.S. health spending, and flat expenditures for research, because of academic 
and government budgetary pressures. We expect international revenues (57% of 
the company's total) to benefit from increasing participation in emerging 
markets. This provides an offset to the dampening effect posed by economic 
travails in some European countries, and underscores the benefit of BD's broad 
geographic footprint. We expect near-mid-single-digit growth in the medical 
business (about one-half of corporate revenues) to about evenly reflect modest 
price and volume increases. Amid global economic crosscurrents, demand from 
BD's customers is bolstered by the largely essential services they provide. 
The client list is broad, including hospitals, pharmacies, and public health 
agencies that purchase needles, syringes, intravenous catheters, and other 
medical staples. We expect growth to be aided by newer devices, such as those 
in the areas of pre-fillable drug delivery systems for pharmaceutical 
companies, and pen needles for self-injecting insulin. We expect revenues in 
the diagnostics segment (more than one-quarter of the corporate total) to grow 
at a rate similar to that for medical products.

Our base-case scenario assumes relatively steady demand by hospitals, 
laboratories, blood banks, and physician offices for equipment and supplies 
for blood collection and culturing. This should be supplemented by tuck-in 
acquisitions and new products for the detection of infectious diseases and 
cancer. We also believe international diagnostic growth prospects are aided by 
the demand for safety products. This could allow the diagnostics segment's 
overseas revenues to soon approach the size of those in the U.S. Through 
fiscal 2013, we expect the biosciences segment (less than one-fifth of 
revenues) to post only slight revenue improvement. Expansion of this segment's 
international operations is offsetting declines in the U.S., and we do not 
foresee a change in this trend, because of ongoing government budgetary 
pressures. Muted U.S. research demand is promoting intensified price 
competition for generally high-margined life science reagents. We expect the 
sale of much of BD's lab ware business will reduce the importance of the 
bioscience segment, paring its activities to cell analysis alone. While the 
effect of the disposition on BD's overall revenues and business risk is minor, 
its loss contributes to our reduced EBITDA expectations for fiscal 2013. High 
barriers to entry tied to BD's large scale remain key to our assessment of its 
business risk profile as strong, though margin pressures diminish our 
perception of its competitive advantages. Its well-established positions in 
global markets provide advantages in R&D, manufacturing, and distribution. R&D 
spending (6% of revenues) supports a broad patent portfolio, and helps BD 
address technology developments. Immediate effects from competitive 
technologies are mitigated by largely recurring revenue streams from 
high-volume, consumable products. The throughput helps drive down per-unit 
production costs, aiding manufacturing efficiency. BD's global distribution 
capability levers its research and production, demonstrated by the 
double-digit growth of its safety-engineered products. BD's scale advantages 
contribute to EBITDA margins that are about in line with the profitability of 
Baxter International, another large, global medical products company with a 
strong business risk profile.

We assume discretionary cash flow should exceed $800 million in the year 
ahead, but we do not believe that it will be used to meaningfully reduce debt. 
Instead, those funds we believe will be used for tuck-in acquisitions, 
dividends and share repurchases, rather than for debt reduction, limiting 
prospects for a decline in leverage. Accordingly, in the wake of a weaker 
fiscal 2012 performance than we anticipated, we do not expect an early return 
of FFO/debt above 45%, and debt leverage to below 2x, although the company 
performs fairly near these levels. Still, we do expect that a sizable cash 
hoard will bolster a financial risk profile that we consider "modest."

Liquidity
Our short-term rating on BD is revised to 'A-1' from 'A-1+', in conjunction 
with the downgrade, based on our criteria. Our view that BD's liquidity 
profile remains exceptional incorporates the following:
     -- We expect liquidity sources (primarily cash and discretionary cash 
flow) to exceed uses by at least 2x over the next two to three years. This 
includes dividends, but excludes acquisitions and share repurchases, which we 
view as more discretionary.
     -- We expect liquidity sources to continue exceeding uses, even if EBITDA 
declines by 50%.
     -- We believe EBITDA in fiscal 2013 will approximate $2.3 billion, and 
that discretionary cash flow will exceed $800 million, after annual capital 
expenditures (approximately $525 million) and dividends (exceeding $380 
million).
     -- As of Sept. 30, 2012, BD had $2.1 billion of cash and short-term 
investments; we tax-effect international holdings for liquidity purposes.
     -- We assume BD will repay rather than refinance $206 million of notes 
due in April 2013.
     -- BD has a $1 billion syndicated credit facility that expires in May 
2017. It supports a commercial paper program under which $200 million was 
outstanding on Sept. 30, 2012.
     -- We believe BD can absorb a high-impact, low-probability event.
     -- We believe it has well-established bank relationships and solid access 
to capital markets.
 
Outlook
Our stable rating outlook on Becton Dickinson reflects expectations that the 
company will maintain a strong business risk profile, evidenced by low- to 
mid-single-digit revenue growth and will sustain current margins over the next 
few years, driven by new product introductions, stable pricing, cost-saving 
programs, tuck-in acquisitions, and geographic expansion. While we believe 
BD's credits measures will remain rather stretched relative to its modest 
financial risk profile, its substantial cash flow we assume will fund 
modest-sized acquisitions and measured share repurchase activity.

An unexpected rise in debt would suggest a downgrade if leverage rises toward 
2.5x. A ratings downgrade also could occur if there is an unexpected decline 
in revenues and margins that reflect even more unfavorably on the company's 
business risk.

On the other hand, a rating upgrade most likely would accompany currently 
unforeseen prospects for an early, sustained improvement in EBITDA margins of 
200 basis points, modest revenue growth, and a focus on reduced borrowing to 
sustain leverage below 2x.

Related Criteria And Research
     -- Business Risk/Financial Risk Matrix Expanded, Sept. 18, 2012
     -- Methodology: Short-Term/Long-Term Ratings Linkage Criteria For 
Corporate And Sovereign Issuers, May 15, 2012
     -- Liquidity Descriptors For Global Corporate Issuers, Sept. 28, 2011
     -- 2008 Corporate Criteria: Analytical Methodology, April 15, 2008
     -- 2008 Corporate Criteria: Rating Each Issue, April 15, 2008
     -- 2008 Corporate Criteria: Ratios And Adjustments, April 15, 2008
 
Ratings List

Downgraded
                                        To                 From
Becton Dickinson & Co.
 Corporate Credit Rating                A/Stable/A-1       A+/Stable/A-1+
 Senior Unsecured                       A                  A+
 Commercial Paper                       A-1                A-1+


Complete ratings information is available to subscribers of RatingsDirect on 
the Global Credit Portal at www.globalcreditportal.com. All ratings affected 
by this rating action can be found on Standard & Poor's public Web site at 
www.standardandpoors.com. Use the Ratings search box located in the left 
column.
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.