Exxon, the world’s largest publicly-traded energy group, has lost its top rating due to the problems caused by the collapse of the oil price.
Exxon's rating has been reduced to “AA+” from “AAA” due to “low commodity prices, high reinvestment requirements, and large dividend payments”.
Earlier today BP posted profits fell by 79 per cent in the first quarter of the year, as the oil major's cost-cutting drive helped it beat analysts' expectations and maintain its dividend payout.
Exxon Mobil and rival Chevron will report on Friday. They're due to be followed by Shell on 4 May. All of the big oil majors are expected to have performed badly over the first three months of the year.
Exxon saw its earnings drop by half in 2015 to $16.2bn (£11.1bn)as the oil price remained 60 per cent under its mid-2014 high.
The oil price is current trading at just under $45 per barrel, up over 50 per cent from its January low of $27. The latest rally was sparked by a potential deal between Russia and Opec to freeze oil production at January levels, though a recent meeting broke up with out agreement.
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According to Standard & Poor’s, Exxon’s debt level has “more than doubled in recent years, reflecting high capital spending on major projects in a high commodity price environment and dividends and share repurchases that substantially exceeded internally generated cash flow”.
The only US companies that are rating as triple A by Standard & Poor's now are software giant Microsoft and healthcare company Johnson & Johnson.