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Rating Action:

MOODY'S ASSIGNS (P)Aaa RATINGS AND (P)Baa3 UNDERLYING RATINGS TO NEWHOSPITALS (ST HELENS AND KNOWSLEY) FINANCE PLC SENIOR SECURED BONDS AND EUROPEAN INVESTMENT BANK DEBT; STABLE OUTLOOK

24 May 2006
MOODY'S ASSIGNS (P)Aaa RATINGS AND (P)Baa3 UNDERLYING RATINGS TO NEWHOSPITALS (ST HELENS AND KNOWSLEY) FINANCE PLC SENIOR SECURED BONDS AND EUROPEAN INVESTMENT BANK DEBT; STABLE OUTLOOK

London, 24 May 2006 -- Moody's Investors Service has assigned provisional (P)Aaa ratings to approximately GBP176.6 million index-linked guaranteed secured bonds due 2047 (including GBP25.3 million variation bonds) and GBP151.3 million index-linked European Investment Bank guaranteed secured debt due 2038 to be issued by NewHospitals (St. Helens and Knowsley) Finance plc ("Issuer").

The (P)Aaa debt ratings are based solely upon the unconditional and irrevocable guarantees of scheduled principal and interest (as adjusted for indexation) pursuant to financial guarantee policies to be issued by Financial Security Assurance (U.K.) Ltd ("FSA"). The outlook on the (P)Aaa ratings is stable.

The Issuer is a financing conduit that will on-lend the proceeds of the bonds and bank debt to NewHospitals (St.Helen's and Knowsley) Limited ("ProjectCo") to fund the design, redevelopment and financing of an acute general hospital and a diagnostic treatment centre pursuant to a PFI project agreement.

Moody's has also assigned provisional (P)Baa3 underlying ratings to the bonds and bank debt. The underlying ratings reflect: (1) the project's construction risk profile and the adequate structural protections during the construction period, (2) the project's high debt leverage and operating period mitigations, (3) the project's fixed revenue subject to indexation and performance deductions provided by a high credit quality counter-party, and (4) the contractual terms of the project's sub-contracts, and the project's ability to sustain higher costs or lower revenues in the event that parts of the sub-contractual framework expire.

Under a 41.2 year project agreement with the St. Helens & Knowsley NHS Trust, ProjectCo is required to design, redevelop and finance health facilities on two sites, namely the Whiston Acute General Hospital and the St. Helens Diagnostic Treatment Centre. ProjectCo has entered into a fixed-price turnkey sub-contract with Taylor Woodrow Construction Limited to demolish certain of the existing buildings, and construct new buildings in a phased process of decanting, construction and occupation. This is a complex phased project with need to maintain existing buildings and infrastructure in full operation during construction but is executed by an experienced contractor using traditional construction methods. ProjectCo's construction period risks are partially mitigated by certain financial structural features, including an amount of third-party support for the contractor's obligations, thus providing adequate protection at the (P)Baa3 rating level against delays on construction completion and costs that may be incurred to replace the construction contractor if this were needed.

Hard and soft facility management services will be provided, through a sub-contract with Taylor Woodrow FM and Medirest respectively, throughout the concession by ProjectCo. ProjectCo's ability to absorb cost overruns or deductions to revenues, absent the pass down of such risks to the sub-contractors, has been tested and is in line with other rated hospital PFI projects.

The Underlying Rating is constrained by the construction profile of the project. However, once construction is complete the underlying rating may be eligible for upgrade, particularly as ProjectCo should then have a number of years of successful operation of facilities on site. The underlying rating could be downgraded if ProjectCo was to incur material delays in the progress of construction as this could cause a delay in the build up of revenues.

The rating rationale is set out further in a pre-sale report.

Moody's issues provisional ratings in advance of the final sale of securities, and these ratings only represent the rating agency's preliminary opinion. Upon a conclusive review of the transaction and associated documentation, Moody's will endeavour to assign definitive ratings to the bonds and bank debt. Final ratings may differ from provisional ratings.

London
Stuart Lawton
Managing Director
European Corporates
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

London
Johan Verhaeghe
Vice President - Senior Analyst
European Corporates
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

No Related Data.
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