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Fitch affirms Tyson Foods with stable outlook

Fitch Ratings on Oct. 11 affirmed Tyson Foods Inc.'s long-term issuer default rating at BBB and its short-term ratings at F2 with a stable outlook.

The rating agency said the U.S. meat processor's ratings balance its significant scale and product diversification against its exposure to the low-margin volatile commodity protein business.

It expects Tyson's sales to reach $43 billion in sales and about $4.2 billion in operating EBITDA in fiscal 2019 $4.2 billion.

Fitch said Tyson's leverage is elevated following the completion of its $2.3 billion purchase of Keystone Foods LLC and its $341 million acquisition of BRF SA's Thai and European poultry operations. The agency expects leverage to be about 2.9x for fiscal 2019 and and fall to the mid 2x range in fiscal 2020 and the lower 2x range in fiscal 2021.

Meanwhile, the agency said a material shift in global protein trade flows due to the disruption caused by the African swine fever outbreak in some Asian countries including China is expected to see positive industry tailwinds.

Fitch said it could upgrade Tyson's ratings if the company continues to witness strong operating performance backed by consolidated sales and operating income growth or market share gains.

A downgrade is also likely if Tyson sees sluggish sales and operating earnings growth or a change in financial policy, Fitch said.