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Moody's lowers Centrica outlook to negative

Moody's on July 31 lowered its outlook on Centrica PLC to negative from stable after the company announced interim financial results for the first half of 2019.

The rating agency also affirmed Centrica's Baa1 issuer and senior unsecured ratings, the Baa3 junior subordinated debt ratings and the Prime-2 short-term commercial paper rating.

Centrica on July 30 reported adjusted net earnings of £134 million for the first half of 2019, compared with £358 million for the same period in 2018. The company also announced plans to divest its oil and gas production business, its U.K. nuclear plants and that its CEO would step down.

Moody's said its outlook change reflects cash flow deterioration due to regulatory and competitive pressures in the U.K. retail market, losses in the North American segment, and weaker results at the exploration and production division.

"It further reflects that the improvement in the company's financial risk profile following the planned divestments may not be enough to offset the increased business risk," Moody's added. "The sale proceeds, efficiency measures and rebased dividend will support de-gearing but, at the same time, the group will become less diversified with potentially reduced flexibility to meet further operational challenges in a persistently tough environment."