Standard & Poor’s warns of possible News Corp. downgrade

The Los Angeles Times reports:

With fallout from the News of the World phone hacking scandal far from contained, corporate ratings firm Standard & Poor’s on Monday said that it was putting Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. on its “CreditWatch” list, which could result in a possible credit downgrade.

The move would be costly for a company that has already seen $8 billion in market value evaporate during the two weeks since the scandal first blew up.

News Corp. shares tumbled further Monday, closing at $14.97 a share. That is a 17% decline since July 5 when the scandal began to mushroom.

Losing its BBB+ credit rating would result in higher borrowing costs for News Corp.

Standard & Poor’s attributed its action Monday to “the increased business and reputation risks associated with broadening legal inquiries” and investigations, including one by the FBI, into possible criminal behavior by News Corp. journalists and executives.

“In our opinion this and other recent developments materially increase the reputational, management, litigation, and other risks currently faced by News Corp. and its subsidiaries,” Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Michael Altberg said in his company’s release.

The ratings firm also pointed to a “weakening of the company’s executive bench strength.”

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