NEW YORK — Credit ratings agency Moody’s Investor Services on Monday placed the debt ratings of Saks Inc. on review for a possible upgrade.

This story first appeared in the August 19, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

About $2 billion in debt could be affected by an upgrade. Affected ratings include the senior implied of “B1,” long-term issuer rating of “B2” and senior unsecured public debt ratings of “B1.” As reported, Moody’s downgraded Saks’ debt in January 2002.

The ratings agency said that while Saks’ sales trends remain negative, they’ve become “more closely aligned with its peer group, indicating a stabilization in market share and overall business trends.”

In July, Saks’ department store group’s comparable-store sales fell 0.5 percent while Saks Fifth Avenue Enterprises’ rose 6.5 percent.

The agency said margins have improved because of better operating leverage on higher sales. Moody’s will focus its review on business and franchise trends within Saks’ two retail divisions: the department store group and Saks Fifth Avenue. Moody’s said it also will consider the retailer’s strategies to further improve sales trends; its ability to generate free cash flow for debt reduction or investment for future growth, and the value of Saks’ unencumbered assets, which includes a significant amount of property.

Saks is scheduled to report second-quarter earnings results today.