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Rating Action:

MOODY'S ASSIGNS Baa3 RATING TO FPL NATIONAL WIND'S PROPOSED ISSUE OF SENIOR SECURED BONDS; ALSO, ASSIGNS Ba2 RATING TO NATIONAL WIND PORTFOLIO'S PROPOSED ISSUE OF SENIOR SECURED BONDS; STABLE OUTLOOK

10 Feb 2005
MOODY'S ASSIGNS Baa3 RATING TO FPL NATIONAL WIND'S PROPOSED ISSUE OF SENIOR SECURED BONDS; ALSO, ASSIGNS Ba2 RATING TO NATIONAL WIND PORTFOLIO'S PROPOSED ISSUE OF SENIOR SECURED BONDS; STABLE OUTLOOK

Approximately $451 Million of Debt Securities Affected.

New York, February 10, 2005 -- Moody's Investors Service assigned a Baa3 rating to approximately $351 million of senior secured bonds due 2024 to be issued by FPL Energy National Wind, LLC's (FPL National Wind), and assigned a Ba2 rating to $100 million of senior secured bonds due 2019 to be issued by FPL Energy National Wind Portfolio, LLC (National Wind Portfolio). The rating outlook for FPL National Wind and National Wind Portfolio is stable.

Proceeds from the two offerings will be used to pay related transaction expenses, fund required reserves and return about $435 million of capital to FPL Energy, LLC (FPL Energy), which is the indirect parent of both issuers. FPL Energy originally funded the development and construction of this 533.6 megawatt (mw) portfolio of 9 wind power generating projects at a cost of around $560 million.

The Baa3 rating for FPL National Wind's bonds considers the following factors:

1. Relative predictability of expected cash flow from a portfolio of wind power projects with power purchase agreements (PPAs) that are with investment grade investor-owned, municipal, and cooperative utilities;

2. Receipt of Production Tax Credits (PTC's) from FPL Group Capital Inc (A2 senior unsecured; stable outlook) is expected to represent about 21% of the project's total revenues over the life of the FPL National Wind bonds and approximately 38% through 2013, the year that the PTC's expire;

3. Diversity of cash flows sourced from 361 wind turbines at 9 different wind farms, with PPA's from 8 different off-takers located across 5 independent wind regimes, helps to mitigate the risk of wind variability;

4. Wind generation investments continue to be a strategic business for FPL Group, Inc. (FPL: A2 Issuer rating; stable outlook), which manages these investments through its wholly-owned subsidiary, FPL Energy;

5. Projected debt service coverage ratios (DSCR) are appropriate for the rating category and the nature of the project. The base case DSCR for FPL National Wind is expected to average 1.83x with a minimum DSCR of 1.70x. The consolidated DSCR, which incorporates the $100 million of parent company debt at National Wind Portfolio, is expected to be 1.33x on average, with a minimum annual coverage of 1.30x;

6. The independent engineer expects the FPL National Wind fleet to achieve availability levels of 97% over the life of the bonds;

7. FPL Energy has a strong track record in operating wind projects. Operational risk is further mitigated by warranty programs with the wind turbine manufacturers and the existence of reserves for operations and maintenance and major maintenance;

8. Wind generation has become an important resource for electric generation in the US. Due to the environmental benefits, tax benefits and regulatory mandates provide strong support for its continued development;

9. Fairly tight documentation, a strong collateral package, and a debt service reserve initially sized at 12 months provide significant downside protection for bondholders; and

10. The capital structure is reasonably conservative for transactions of this type, as debt is expected to represent about 65% of total capital at FPL National Wind and consolidated debt is expected to represent about 83% of total capital at National Wind Portfolio.

These factors are balanced against the following risks:

1. Cash flows are totally dependent upon the frequency and variability of wind, as the off-takers' obligation to pay under their respective PPA's and FPL Group Capital's obligation to reimburse the issuer for PTC's only occur when electric energy is produced and sold;

2. Given the dependency on wind volumes as the sole source of revenues and the regular requirement for ongoing maintenance of the existing fleet, the project may experience more volatility in its year-to-year cash flows and resulting DSCR relative to contracted power projects that rely upon other forms of generation;

3. While substantial diversity exists from a wind regime perspective, about 22% of FPL National Wind's annual cash flow comes from one project, FPL Energy Wyoming, LLC (FPL Wyoming) over the life of the bonds;

4. Most of the projects remain exposed to differing degrees of curtailment risk. While Moody's believes that curtailment risk is relatively modest for this portfolio, curtailment risk could increase in certain regions given the challenges of adding to the country's transmission grid;

5. While all of the units have an operating history of at least one year, availability and capacity factors at a number of plants were negatively impacted during 2004 by the severe cold weather in some cases or by teething problems that tend to occur in the early years of operation. Many of these early year operating problems are covered under warranty with the wind manufacturers;

6. A number of the projects have minimum output and availability requirements. While the independent engineer believes that these requirements should be easily satisfied, a failure to meet these requirements could impact the viability of the respective PPA;

7. Aside from General Electric (GE), whose subsidiary manufactures approximately 50.3% of the turbines owned by FPL National Wind, the remaining wind manufacturers are experiencing varying degrees of financial challenges; and

8. Two of the projects, the Meyersdale Windpower, LLC and FPL Wyoming, have PPA's with unrated affiliates of investment grade utilities. Payments under their respective PPAs are guaranteed only on a limited basis by the utility's parent company. Revenues provided from PPA's with limited guarantees represent about 27% of FPL National Wind's expected total cash flows over the life of the bonds.

The Baa3 rating reflects the relatively predictable cash flows expected to be generated from a portfolio of 361 wind turbines spread out over five diverse wind regions. The rating incorporates the solid investment grade average rating for the portfolio of power off-takers, all of which have signed long-term PPA's with the individual projects having remaining maturities of 13 to 25 years. The rating considers the involvement of FPL, which has substantial experience in wind energy, owning about 41% of the country's installed wind capacity. Additionally, FPL Group Capital will guarantee the project's receipt of PTC's over the remaining life of the tax benefit. PTC payments, which are equal to 1.8 cents/kwh, represent about 38% of FPL National Wind's projected annual cash flow through 2013. Importantly, FPL Group Capital is obligated to make these payments regardless of the corporation's tax position and irrespective on any change in tax law that could affect the availability of PTC's on a historical or prospective basis.

While most of FPL National Wind's projects have limited operating history ranging from 12 to 18 months, operating risk is expected to be relatively low. FPL Energy, which plans to operate the entire portfolio by year-end 2005, has a demonstrated track record of strong operating performance at its sizeable wind fleet. Moreover, to the extent that poor operating performance surfaces at a particular site, the impact to the portfolio is likely to be modest given the number of turbines (361) in the portfolio and the modest cost for most turbine repairs.

The rating also considers the wind assessment risk, which Moody's believes is among the most significant risks with this technology. While each of the PPA's requires that the utility take and pay for the output produced, FPL National Wind is only paid the kwh tariff and the PTC when energy is produced and sold (i.e., when the wind blows). The wind consultant's report indicates that the sites chosen in the portfolio have historically exhibited a relatively consistent degree of wind. Through 2004, the historical wind volume history for FPL National Wind has generally been in line with the wind consultant's estimates for annual wind volumes. Moody's also recognizes the low degree of wind correlation among the five regions, which helps to mitigate the wind assessment risk to some degree.

Although there is substantial diversity in the portfolio, about 22% of the cash flows come from FPL Wyoming, a project that also has the greatest near-term technical and operating risk due to the use of a fairly new turbine, which has experienced some operational problems during its first full year of operation. FPL National Wind's financial performance will be significantly affected by this site's future operating performance.

The rating also incorporates other technological and operating risks that exist in the portfolio. While there have been numerous advances in wind technology, Moody's believes that there is some uncertainty about the long-term operating effectiveness of the fleet given the limited number of operational hours for most of the portfolio. A related risk is the fact that most of the major wind turbine manufacturers, other than GE, have relatively weak balance sheets, and it can not be assured that support and parts will be available from these manufacturers for the full 19 years that the bonds are outstanding. However, the cost to retrofit a turbine remains fairly modest, many of the parts associated with the turbines are under warranty, and the project will have a replenishable $15 million operating reserve that could be used for unexpected needs. FPL National Wind will also have a major maintenance reserve that will ultimately be funded up to $3.5 million.

The FPL National Wind transaction will have a fairly tight covenant and collateral package. The issuer is a funding company, without direct ownership of the physical assets. However, each of the individual projects will provide upstream guarantees of the debt at FPL National Wind on a joint and several basis. While debt service payments will be made on a semi-annual basis, a 12 month debt service reserve will initially be provided to bondholders. However, the debt service reserve could be reduced to 6 months at any time after March 10, 2010, if there is rating affirmation that such change will not result in FPL National Wind's debt being rated below Baa3 or an equivalent rating. About 51% of the project's cash flows are generated in the winter months, while 49% are generated in the summer months. The semi-annual debt service payments will be sized to reflect this modest degree of seasonality.

The Ba2 rating for National Wind Portfolio incorporates structural subordination that exists at the National Wind Portfolio level relative to the debt issued at FPL National Wind. The holding company's sole source of cash flow for debt service will be distributions paid by FPL National Wind from excess cash after FPL National Wind's semi-annual debt service is fully satisfied, various accounts are fully funded, and provided that FPL National Wind satisfies a 1.25x restricted payments test in its indenture. The Ba2 rating considers the increase in consolidated leverage when factoring in the $100 million of holding company debt as the consolidated DSCR at National Wind Portfolio is estimated to average 1.33x over the life of the holding company transaction with a minimum annual DSCR of 1.30x.

National Wind Portfolio will have a 12 month debt service reserve that can be reduced to 6 months at any time after March 10, 2010, so long as all of National Wind Portfolio's ratings remain unchanged from the then existing rating. Importantly, an event of default at FPL National Wind, the operating company, would cause a cross default to the notes being issued at National Wind Portfolio. However, an event of default at National Wind Portfolio, the holding company, would not cause an event of default at FPL National Wind, the operating company. The National Wind Portfolio senior notes will be secured by National Wind Portfolio's indirect equity ownership interests in FPL National Wind.

The rating outlook for FPL National Wind and National Wind Portfolio is stable, reflecting the anticipated predictability of cash flow, the project's geographic and operating diversification, FPL's considerable involvement, and the structural enhancements that support the underlying ratings. An upgrade of the ratings would be unlikely in the near term, given the limited operating history of the portfolio. An upgrade could occur over the longer term if year-over-year wind volumes prove to have lower than expected volatility and this also results in consistent and robust DSCRs. Conversely, the ratings could be downgraded if the credit quality of the off-taker pool or FPL Group Capital were to deteriorate, if the operating performance of the projects, particularly the FPL Wyoming project, were to substantially decline, or if the wind volumes throughout the portfolio were materially lower than forecasted on a consistent basis, resulting in substantially lower than expected cash flow and DSCRs.

FPL National Wind's Baa3 rating and National Wind Portfolio's Ba2 rating are predicated upon Moody's review of final documentation and debt sizing to meet projected base case DSCRs at FPL National Wind and projected consolidated base case DSCRs at National Wind Portfolio.

FPL National Wind is a Delaware limited liability company formed solely for the purpose of financing a 533.6 mw portfolio of 9 wind power generating projects located in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Oregon. FPL National Wind is an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of National Wind Portfolio, which was formed solely for the issuance of intermediate holding company debt. Both FPL National Wind and National Wind Portfolio are indirect wholly-owned subsidiaries of FPL Energy, the largest owner of wind projects in the US. FPL Energy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of FPL Group Capital, which in turn is a wholly-owned subsidiary of FPL.

New York
Daniel Gates
Managing Director
Corporate Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

New York
A.J. Sabatelle
VP - Senior Credit Officer
Corporate Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

No Related Data.
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