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On November 18, 2020, Moody's Investors Service downgraded its corporate family rating on Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. to B2 from B1, its probability of default rating to B2-PD from B1-PD, its Gtd. Senior Secured Regular Bond/Debenture to B2 from Ba3, its Gtd. Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture to B3 from B2 and its Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture to Caa1 from B3. "The downgrade of the CFR to B2 incorporates the weaker than expected debt protection metrics in 2021 and only slow improvement in 2022 as a result not only of increased debt levels from the acquisition of AK Steel but also the pending acquisition of ArcelorMittal USA LLC (ArcelorMittal US), the continued uncertainty of sustainability of improving conditions in the US steel industry and the fragile nature of the economic recovery conditions." says Carol Cowan, Moody's Senior Vice President and lead analyst for Cliffs.
As anticipated, Cliffs will evidence very weak performance in 2020 given the normal seasonal impact on its iron ore sales and earnings in the first quarter and the impact of the automotive production shutdown from approximately mid-March through mid-May on the acquired AK Steel business (acquisition closed March 13, 2020), given the contracted sales position of AK Steel to the automotive industry (approximately 73% of revenue in the third quarter of 2020), according to the ratings agency.
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