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Ratings Firms Downgrade Jones Debt Package

Sycamore cuts back on equity contribution for $1.2 billion deal, prompting debt revisions.

Sycamore Partners’ $1.2 billion deal to buy The Jones Group Inc. will carve out Stuart Weitzman, Kurt Geiger and Jones apparel as independent businesses and leave the rest of the company — which will be renamed Nine West Holdings Inc. — with a heavy debt load going forward.

Debt watchdog Moody’s Investors Service downgraded its prospective corporate family credit rating on Nine West to “B3” from the “B2” assigned last month. The financing package was recently tweaked, cutting Sycamore’s equity input by $250 million and adding a commensurate amount of bonds.

Once the deal is closed, the company will have a debt to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization ratio of more than seven, Moody’s said.

Scott Tuhy, a debt analyst at the rating agency, said the financing includes a $470 million term loan and $250 million in newly added bonds.

“This is an aggressive financing structure,” Tuhy said of the overall package.

Even so, he noted that, “We still expect them to generate positive cash flow even with the higher debt burden.”

Standard & Poor’s made a similar downgrade, lowering its rating on Sycamore’s Jasper Merger Sub Inc., which will be merged into Jones, to “B-minus” from “B.”

The deal is expected to be closed in the second quarter. Once Weitzman, Geiger and Jones are spun off, Nine West is expected to have pro-forma sales of more than $2 billion from brands such as Nine West, Gloria Vanderbilt, L.E.I. and Easy Spirit.