DBRS Ratings Explained

Below is a reference page on how to use DBRS ratings.

The DBRS® long-term debt rating scale is meant to give an indication of the risk that a borrower will not fulfill its full obligations in a timely manner, with respect to both interest and principal commitments. Every DBRS rating is based on quantitative and qualitative considerations relevant to the borrowing entity. Each rating category is denoted by the subcategories “high” and “low”. The absence of either a “high” or “low” designation indicates the rating is in the “middle” of the category. The AAA and D categories do not utilize “high”, “middle”, and “low” as differential grades.

AAA
Long-term debt rated AAA is of the highest credit quality, with exceptionally strong protection for the timely repayment of principal and interest. Earnings are considered stable, the structure of the industry in which the entity operates is strong, and the outlook for future profitability is favourable. There are few qualifying factors present that would detract from the performance of the entity. The strength of liquidity and coverage ratios is unquestioned and the entity has established a credible track record of superior performance. Given the extremely high standard that DBRS has set for this category, few entities are able to achieve a AAA rating.

AA
Long-term debt rated AA is of superior credit quality, and protection of interest and principal is considered high. In many cases they differ from long-term debt rated AAA only to a small degree. Given the extremely restrictive definition DBRS has for the AAA category, entities rated AA are also considered to be strong credits, typically exemplifying above-average strength in key areas of consideration and unlikely to be significantly affected by reasonably foreseeable events.

A
Long-term debt rated “A” is of satisfactory credit quality. Protection of interest and principal is still substantial, but the degree of strength is less than that of AA rated entities. While “A” is a respectable rating, entities in this category are considered to be more susceptible to adverse economic conditions and have greater cyclical tendencies than higher-rated securities.

BBB
Long-term debt rated BBB is of adequate credit quality. Protection of interest and principal is considered acceptable, but the entity is fairly susceptible to adverse changes in financial and economic conditions, or there may be other adverse conditions present which reduce the strength of the entity and its rated securities.

BB
Long-term debt rated BB is defined to be speculative and non-investment grade, where the degree of protection afforded interest and principal is uncertain, particularly during periods of economic recession. Entities in the BB range typically have limited access to capital markets and additional liquidity support. In many cases, deficiencies in critical mass, diversification, and competitive strength are additional negative considerations.

B
Long-term debt rated B is considered highly speculative and there is a reasonably high level of uncertainty as to the ability of the entity to pay interest and principal on a continuing basis in the future, especially in periods of economic recession or industry adversity.

CCC CC C
Long-term debt rated in any of these categories is very highly speculative and is in danger of default of interest and principal. The degree of adverse elements present is more severe than long-term debt rated B. Long-term debt rated below B often have features which, if not remedied, may lead to default. In practice, there is little difference between these three categories, with CC and C normally used for lower ranking debt of companies for which the senior debt is rated in the CCC to B range.

D
A security rated D implies the issuer has either not met a scheduled payment of interest or principal or that the issuer has made it clear that it will miss such a payment in the near future. In some cases, DBRS may not assign a D rating under a bankruptcy announcement scenario, as allowances for grace periods may exist in the underlying legal documentation. Once assigned, the D rating will continue as long as the missed payment continues to be in arrears, and until such time as the rating is suspended, discontinued, or reinstated by DBRS.

Rating Scale: Commercial Paper and Short-Term Debt

The DBRS® short-term debt rating scale is meant to give an indication of the risk that a borrower will not fulfill its near-term debt obligations in a timely manner. Every DBRS rating is based on quantitative and qualitative considerations relevant to the borrowing entity.

R-1 (high)
Short-term debt rated R-1 (high) is of the highest credit quality, and indicates an entity possessing unquestioned ability to repay current liabilities as they fall due. Entities rated in this category normally maintain strong liquidity positions, conservative debt levels, and profitability that is both stable and above average. Companies achieving an R-1 (high) rating are normally leaders in structurally sound industry segments with proven track records, sustainable positive future results, and no substantial qualifying negative factors. Given the extremely tough definition DBRS has established for an R-1 (high), few entities are strong enough to achieve this rating.

R-1 (middle)
Short-term debt rated R-1 (middle) is of superior credit quality and, in most cases, ratings in this category differ from R-1 (high) credits by only a small degree. Given the extremely tough definition DBRS has established for the R-1 (high) category, entities rated R-1 (middle) are also considered strong credits, and typically exemplify above average strength in key areas of consideration for the timely repayment of short-term liabilities.

R-1 (low)
Short-term debt rated R-1 (low) is of satisfactory credit quality. The overall strength and outlook for key liquidity, debt, and profitability ratios is not normally as favourable as with higher rating categories, but these considerations are still respectable. Any qualifying negative factors that exist are considered manageable, and the entity is normally of sufficient size to have some influence in its industry.

R-2 (high)
Short-term debt rated R-2 (high) is considered to be at the upper end of adequate credit quality. The ability to repay obligations as they mature remains acceptable, although the overall strength and outlook for key liquidity, debt and profitability ratios is not as strong as credits rated in the R-1 (low) category. Relative to the latter category, other shortcomings often include areas such as stability, financial flexibility, and the relative size and market position of the entity within its industry.

R-2 (middle)
Short-term debt rated R-2 (middle) is considered to be of adequate credit quality. Relative to the R-2 (high) category, entities rated R-2 (middle) typically have some combination of higher volatility, weaker debt or liquidity positions, lower future cash flow capabilities, or are negatively impacted by a weaker industry. Ratings in this category would be more vulnerable to adverse changes in financial and economic conditions.

R-2 (low)
Short-term debt rated R-2 (low) is considered to be at the lower end of adequate credit quality, typically having some combination of challenges that are not acceptable for an R-2 (middle) credit. However, R-2 (low) ratings still display a level of credit strength that allows for a higher rating than the R-3 category, with this distinction often reflecting the issuer’s liquidity profile.

R-3
Short-term debt rated R-3 is considered to be at the lowest end of adequate credit quality, one step up from being speculative. While not yet defined as speculative, the R-3 category signifies that although repayment is still expected, the certainty of repayment could be impacted by a variety of possible adverse developments, many of which would be outside of the issuer’s control. Entities in this area often have limited access to capital markets and may also have limitations in securing alternative sources of liquidity, particularly during periods of weak economic conditions.

R-4
Short-term debt rated R-4 is speculative. R-4 credits tend to have weak liquidity and debt ratios, and the future trend of these ratios is also unclear. Due to its speculative nature, companies with R-4 ratings would normally have very limited access to alternative sources of liquidity. Earnings and cash flow would typically be very unstable, and the level of overall profitability of the entity is also likely to be low. The industry environment may be weak, and strong negative qualifying factors are also likely to be present.

R-5
Short-term debt rated R-5 is highly speculative. There is a reasonably high level of uncertainty as to the ability of the entity to repay the obligations on a continuing basis in the future, especially in periods of economic recession or industry adversity. In some cases, short-term debt rated R-5 may have challenges that if not corrected, could lead to default.

D
A security rated D implies the issuer has either not met a scheduled payment or the issuer has made it clear that it will be missing such a payment in the near future. In some cases, DBRS may not assign a D rating under a bankruptcy announcement scenario, as allowances for grace periods may exist in the underlying legal documentation. Once assigned, the D rating will continue as long as the missed payment continues to be in arrears, and until such time as the rating is suspended, discontinued, or reinstated by DBRS.

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