American Seafoods Group, the big Seattle operator of factory trawlers, is putting together a package of deals to keep estimated debts of more than $900 million from swamping the company — but some of its lowest-priority creditors may pay the price, says Standard & Poor’s.

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American Seafoods Group, the big Seattle operator of factory trawlers, is putting together a package of deals to keep estimated debts of more than $900 million from swamping the company — but some of its lowest-priority creditors may pay the price, says Standard & Poor’s.

The rating agency said Thursday that American Seafoods reached agreement last month with a potential investor to recapitalize the company, and that certain noteholders have agreed to swap their debt “at a substantial discount for either cash or equity.”

For local employees and suppliers, that would be a much better outlook than a reorganization in bankruptcy. Although such swaps can mean the affected noteholders “get taken out at a discount,” said S&P analyst Chris Johnson, “generally they improve the solvency of the company by removing a big obligation off their books.”

But until those agreements are finalized, American Seafoods’ finances continue to deteriorate, according to S&P: It lowered its corporate rating another notch to CC, the third lowest of its 10 letter grades.

Without the debt restructuring, “the company’s leverage is very high and increasing, and cash-flow-to-debt metrics are thin,” wrote S&P analysts Johnson and Kim Logan.

Once such a debt swap is completed, though, often there will be “a bounce-back in the ratings afterward,” Johnson said.

American Seafoods employs about 1,000, according to its website, and is based on First Avenue near Pike Place Market.

Its six catcher-processor ships often fish in the Bering Sea, where American Seafoods has about 45 percent of the quota for at-sea harvesting of pollock. When in Seattle, the vessels dock at Terminal 91 near Magnolia.

American Seafoods spokesman Ron Rogness did not return a call seeking comment Friday afternoon.

According to S&P, American Seafoods says it has agreement from 86 percent of the holders of its payment-in-kind notes — securities whose interest can be paid with additional securities rather than cash — to accept less than what they are owed “because of the perceived risk that ASG may not fulfill its original obligations.”

That deal with the junior debt holders would reduce the debt burden on American Seafoods, and may set the stage for further financial restructuring or a change in the ownership structure.

Owners of American Seafoods’ senior debts, which total more than $600 million, would likely recover 90 percent or more of their money even in a bankruptcy, so they are less motivated to settle for only a portion of what they’re owed.