Time’s Running Out for World’s Most Indebted Oil Company

US rating agencies pressure Pemex and the new Mexican government. But Pemex is too big to fail.

The financial pains and strains continue to grow for the world’s most indebted oil company, Petroleos de Mexico (Pemex). Standard & Poor’s became the latest in a succession of rating agencies to downgrade the company. Pemex is state-owned. So S&P has two credit ratings for the company: One, as if it were a stand-alone company; and one for the company as part of the Mexican state.

S&P slashed its stand-alone rating of Pemex three notches to ‘B-‘ from ‘BB-‘ on growing worries that financial support pledged by the government might not be enough to prop up the company and might not be enough revive declining production. Anything below ‘BBB-‘ is non-investment grade, or “junk.” ‘B-‘ is six notches into junk (see our corporate credit rating scales by Moody’s, S&P, and Fitch).

S&P left unchanged its rating of Pemex-as-part-of-the-Mexican-state, at ‘BBB+’, the same as its rating of Mexican government debt, but lowered its outlook for both to negative from stable, and warned that Mexico faces a one-in-three chance of being downgraded in the coming year. This, in turn, triggered a cascade of outlook downgrades for many of Mexico’s biggest corporations and 72 financial institutions, including the country’s biggest banks and insurance companies

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