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Netflix Plans to Raise $2 Billion in New Debt to Fund Content Spending

Netflix is again going to debt markets to fund its enormous appetite for content, announcing plans Monday to raise $2 billion in financing through debt securities.

As of Sept. 30, 2018, Netflix reported $8.34 billion in long-term debt, up 71% from $4.89 billion a year prior. The latest proposed debt offering is the sixth time in less than four years that the company is raising $1 billion or more through bonds.

Netflix shares fell more than 3% in early trading Monday after the announcement of the plans to issue $2 billion in new debt. [UPDATE: The stock recovered a bit, closing down 0.9% for the day to $329.54 per share.]

On Monday, Moody’s Investors Service assigned a “Ba3” junk-bond rating to Netflix’s proposed offering, indicating a non-investment grade “speculative” security. The outlook for Netflix remains “stable,” according to Moody’s, which “reflects our expectation that Netflix’s operating results will improve gradually and the company will de-lever through revenue, EBITDA and margin growth.”

The proposed $2 billion debt offering comes less than a week after Netflix blew past expectations for subscriber growth for the third quarter of 2018, netting 7 million new streaming customers for the period (including 1.09 million in the U.S.).

Netflix continues to burn cash — and, as it has repeatedly told investors, that will continue for at least another year. Netflix’s free cash flow in Q3 was -$859 million (compared with -$465 million in the year-earlier quarter). For full year 2018, the company expects free cash flow will be closer to -$3 billion than to -$4 billion, and that negative free cash flow in 2019 will be roughly flat with this year.

In addition to its rising debt load, Netflix has billions in off-balance-sheet content-spending obligations mostly due within the next five years. As of Sept. 30, 2018, the company had $18.6 billion of obligations, which includes $10.2 billion due in one year or beyond.

“We recognize we are making huge cash investments in content, and we want to assure our investors that we have the same high confidence in the underlying economics as our cash investments in the past,” Netflix said in its Oct. 16 letter to shareholders. “These investments we see as very likely to help us to keep our revenue and operating profits growing for a very long time ahead.”

According to Netflix, for the $2 billion in new debt (the principal amount which may change), the interest rate, redemption provisions, maturity date and other terms will be determined by negotiations between the company and the initial purchasers.

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