The Baa3 issuer rating of Japan’s shipping major Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK) has been placed on review for downgrade, according to Moody’s rating agency.

“We expect NYK’s leverage will likely stay at its high level of above 7.0x for the next several years and surpass our downgrade trigger of 6.5x,” Motoki Yanase, a Vice President and Senior Credit Officer, said.

Moody’s explained this debt/EBITDA leverage metric does not appear likely to improve materially without substantial efforts to reduce debt. Without debt reduction, the ratings agency forecasts NYK’s retained cash flow/net debt will stay around 10% compared to 11.9% during fiscal 2017 ended on March 31, 2018.

Additionally, the merger of the containership businesses of NYK, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, which started operation in April 2018, is expected to realize some cost savings and margin improvements for the new entity, Ocean Network Express (ONE).

“With the inception of ONE, NYK has deconsolidated its containership business. The deconsolidation of this long unprofitable business will temper NYK’s earnings volatility, though it will take time to bear out its effect on its credit metrics.”

Moody’s expects that NYK, as the largest 38% shareholder of ONE, will remain exposed to the credit risks originating from the containership business. NYK expects that its revenue for the fiscal 2018, after the deconsolidation of the business, will decline by approximately 20%.

The rating agency said that the review will focus on NYK’s plan to manage future debt, including how this could be managed with asset sales and vessel turnover in the next several years; the progress of the integration of the containership business under the new company and associated cost savings; and how the company’s other businesses – such as air cargo and bulk shipping, including energy and car carriers – will trend and help support NYK’s future profits.

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