NEW YORK — Moody's Investor Service here lowered the ratings of Whole Foods Market yesterday and said the chain's ratings remain on review for possible further downgrades. Yesterday's downgrade — from Ba3 to Ba2 — followed the company's announcement last week of lower earnings. On Friday, Standard & Poor's cut the chain's rating from BB to BB-, citing declining expectations on profitability and performance. Moody's said the review for further possible downgrade reflects its expectations that pressures in the weak economic environment will continue in the near term. Moody's said the review also considers the company's announcement that it plans to sell $425 million of Series A preferred stock to a subsidiary of Leonard Green & Partners, which would improve the company's liquidity but result in incremental leverage. "Ratings could be lowered if it appears a combination of further earnings declines and continued aggressive capital spending will weaken the company's liquidity and increase leverage," Moody's said.
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