13 Nov 2013

S&P keeps NZ Post at negative

8:06 am on 13 November 2013

Standard & Poor's (S&P) has held New Zealand Post Group's outlook at negative despite the organisation's restructure which aims to take a lot of cost out of the core postal business.

The credit rating agency said maintaining the status quo reflected the rising economic risks in New Zealand, by which it meant the housing market, which it said could affect the credit standing of subsidiary Kiwibank.

S&P said it also reflected the weak profitability of the postal operations.

The ratings agency acknowledges that the recent update to the postal operator's Deed of Understanding has given it new flexibility on delivery days and outlets.

But it said there were risks associated with the restructure, and that the full benefit was not expected until at least the 2016 financial year.

New Zealand Post Group chief financial officer Mark Yeoman said while he was not happy to be on a negative outlook, it was better than a downgrade.

"We take a bit of confidence from S&P saying 'look, what we've done last year, repaying debt, getting the deed of understanding changes through, has contributed to reaffirming the rating at A+' but they still have some concerns about some of the economic outlook around the housing market for Kiwibank, which is one of the drivers that's on negative outlook," Mr Yeoman said.

"So I guess until that changes, we're likely to remain on negative outlook."

S&P had said in its ratings advice it would need to evidence of NZ Post executing its cost-management plan to go back to stable, he said. As well, it needed a change in economic outlook conditions around the housing market for the bank, and for ratios to be maintained.

"So those are the things that need to happen for them to put us back to stable," Mr Yeoman said.