MBNA Corp.'s senior management asserted Monday that a rating agency's decision to reevaluate the credit company's senior debt would have little impact.
Moody's Investors Service put MBNA's long-term senior debt under review on Friday for a possible downgrade after having the second-largest credit card company on "negative outlook" on and off for the past year and a half.
Market sources were not surprised by the action, since Moody's as well as Standard & Poor's Corp. have voiced concerns over MBNA's leverage as a result of its rapidly growing loan portfolio.
"This is not a big deal," said MBNA's vice chairman and chief financial officer, M. Scot Kaufman.
He acknowledged that a downgrade could raise the cost of MBNA's debt issuance, but pointed out that Moody's only rates 6% of the company's debt.
Bruce L. Hammonds, MBNA's vice president and chief operating officer added that MBNA's chargeoffs have been just 3.8% of loans, against 6.5% industrywide. "We see nothing that will move out of this range that we are in," he said.
Moody's action had a modest impact on MBNA's seven-year senior debt, whose spread-the gap between yields on the company's bonds and comparable Treasury securities-widened by about 2 basis points during Monday trading, according to bank bond analyst Katharine Rossow of Chase Manhattan Securities Inc.
MBNA's debt tends to trade 10 basis points tighter than the bonds of other credit card companies, she noted. Bonds of credit card companies were much more effected by Advanta's announcement that it would suffer first- quarter losses earlier in the year.
Other market experts noted, however, that MBNA's bonds trade tighter only because of its higher rating.
"But when you look at the numbers between Capital One and MBNA, there is not much of a difference," said one source, who declined to be identified. "So either MBNA is rated too high or Capital One is rated too low. We already know what Moody's thinks."
MBNA executives dismissed such talk, adding that Moody's action would not hamper MBNA's growth.
"We think this is the year of opportunity," said Mr. Hammonds. "Our competitors are raising prices and reducing their marketing, which gives us real opportunity to put on more new accounts."