One sell-side analyst sees an expected upgrade for Waste Management (Ba2/BBB) as a catalyst to drive spreads tighter on the name. Another analyst is slightly less bullish.
Moody's Investors Service recently put Waste Management on review for a possible upgrade. If the ratings agency raises the company a notch, it will likely drive spreads tighter, as it will give the credit an investment-grade rating from both major agencies and open it up to a new group of investors, says Bill Reed, analyst at Deutsche Bank. Reed sees the Waste Management 7.65% notes of '11, which were bid at 160 over Treasuries last Thursday, closing the gap with a similarly-rated credit, the International Paper (Baa2/BBB) 6.75% notes of '11. Those were bid at 115 over the curve last Thursday. "In light of the potential for a weaker economic outlook globally, the fact that Waste Management doesn't have huge global exposure is a positive," Reed says.
Another sell-side analyst says Waste Management makes the most sense as a defensive play. Even if the economy continues to be weak, a significant part of Waste Management's business comes from residential waste disposal, which is less sensitive to cyclical trends than some other industries, he says. Nonetheless, he is not won over by the International Paper comparison. "Everyone likes to quote the paper names to argue that something's cheap, because those trade very tight," he says. He argues that because the company has a history of fraud and nearly went bankrupt, it deserves to trade at a bit of a discount, despite the fact that new management has since come in and turned the company around.