Tuesday, March 10, 2009

8 restaurant cos. put on Moody's 'death watch'

Eight restaurant companies, including the parents of Outback Steakhouse and Arby’s, have been included on a list of companies rated by Moody's as the most likely to default on their debts.

In addition to OSI Restaurant Partners and Arby’s Restaurant Group, presumably a predecessor of what’s now Wendy’s/Arby’s Restaurant Group, the 283-company list includes El Pollo Loco Inc.; Perkins & Marie Callender’s Inc.; Chevys and El Torito parent Real Mex Restaurants; and Sagittarius Retaurants Inc., apparently an affiliate of Del Taco and Captain D’s parent Sagittarius Brands.

The roster also lists a company called Rare Restaurant Group LLC, identified as being in the fast-food business, which suggests it is not connected with Rare Hospitality, the steakhouse operator that’s now part of Darden Restaurants.

The list has been posted in its entirety by the financial website SeekingAlpha.com.

Moody’s calls the list The Bottom Rung, but media reports have opted for more colorful slugs, including "company dead pool"; "dead companies walking"; and "the death watch."

Most also note the credibility of Moody’s Investors Service has been called into question by its failure to anticipate the meltdown in mortgage-backed investments. The catastrophic collapse was not foreshadowed by the risk ratings of Moody’s or the two other major financial rating services.

Moody’s is quoted as saying about 45% of the Bottom Rung concerns will default on their debts during the next year. One list-ee, Eastman Kodak, has already blasted the report as “irresponsible” and inaccurate.

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