Fitch Ratings has downgraded the long and short-term issuer default ratings of Starbucks Corporation to 'A-/F2' from 'A/F1', and assigned an 'A-' rating to the company's new $1bn 364-day and $2bn five-year bank revolving credit facilities.
The rating outlook is stable.
Fitch said the downgrade reflected Starbucks' change in financial policy and commitment to returning $15bn of cash to shareholders via dividends and share repurchases over the three year period ending fiscal 2020 (September), up from $9bn returned during the previous three years.
Fitch anticipates total debt could increase by $5bn-$6bn to help finance Starbucks' cash return goal given Fitch's projection of free cash flow (FCF) before dividends of $9bn or more over that period.
Fitch said that at fiscal year-end 2017 (ended 1 Oct 2017), Starbucks had $3.9bn of total debt.
It said total adjusted debt/EBITDAR was 2.1x but was projected to increase to the mid-2.0x range due to the change in financial strategy.