Standard & Poor's, New York, expects to issue more downgrades than upgrades this year to investor-owned healthcare companies, broadly defined to include providers, suppliers and other related industries. That would mark the second year in a row that downgrades exceeded upgrades in the broad for-profit healthcare market. The debt ratings agency said more companies have negative outlooks than positive, although downgrades and upgrades are nearly equal for the year so far. Third-party payer fees, normally a major factor in decisions on debt ratings and issuer outlooks, have not been a big issue this year, so most of the ratings actions have been on company-specific factors, the agency said. S&P also noted that even low-speculative-grade credits have been able to issue debt at attractive rates. Many of the issues have negative outlooks or downgrades because they have increased their debt to go after consolidation opportunities or stock repurchases, the agency said. Among 13 operators of acute-care or specialty hospitals rated by S&P, two have positive outlooks, seven have negative outlooks and four have stable outlooks. -- by Vince Galloro
S&P expects more downgrades than upgrades for second year
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