Cooper University Health Care gets A+ rating from Fitch

Norcross: ‘Achievement is testament to commitment of thousands of Cooper team members’

In an announcement that salutes the outstanding operational efforts of Cooper University Health Care — and speaks to a more than two-decade effort at the Camden-based system — Cooper earned an A+ credit rating from Fitch Ratings late Wednesday.

The rating not only follows two credit upgrades from S&P Global and Moody’s since 2022 — it represents a double, or two-level, upgrade over Cooper’s 2022 rating.

George Norcross III, the chairman of the board of trustees of Cooper University Health Care and a champion for all things Camden throughout his professional career, tried to put the moment in perspective.

“This A+ rating marks a remarkable turnaround for Cooper University Health Care from near-bankruptcy at the turn of the century to today’s strong financial position,” he said. “This achievement is a testament to the commitment of the thousands of Cooper team members committed to our mission.”

For Fitch, as it always does, it all came down to the numbers.

“The A+ rating reflects Cooper’s very strong liquidity position, which has nearly doubled over the last five years, driven by a five-year trend of solid operating performance,” the rating agency said.

Despite the symbolic nature of the rating, A+ is not the highest rating by Fitch (it goes up to AAA). Fitch, in its report, indicated it believes Cooper is positioned to continue its upward path.

“Despite Fitch’s expectation for elevated capital spend over the five-year forward look, Fitch believes that Cooper will continue to generate strong ongoing cash flow,” it wrote.

Cooper University Health Care co-CEOs Kevin O’Dowd and Anthony Mazzarelli obviously were thrilled.

“Over the past five years, Cooper has evolved into an elite, nationally recognized academic health system with active patients from all 50 states and more than 35 countries,” O’Dowd said. “Fitch’s A+ rating validates Cooper’s financial strength, prudent growth strategies and the tremendous work by Cooper’s dedicated team members who tirelessly serve our patients, their families and each other, leading to our tremendous success in providing advanced care to the communities we serve.”

Mazzarelli said the rating was the ultimate proof of concept of Cooper’s business model.

“Fitch’s rating is another indicator that our focus on becoming an exceptional academic health system by managing our finances in a way that allows us to continue to grow to meet increasing demand from patients seeking the higher level of care our experts provide is the correct strategy,” he said.

Fitch, in its evaluation, gave credit to all Cooper is doing — especially in regard to its ability to recruit top health care officials.

“Cooper’s market presence and clinical growth is also supported by years of successful physician recruitment efforts,” the rating agency wrote. “Fitch believes that these efforts, along with additional growth initiatives in the (primary service area) and (secondary service area), will continue to support strong volume growth, which exceeded pre-pandemic levels in 2022 and 2023.”