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Rating Action:

MOODY'S ASSIGNS (P)Baa3 SENIOR UNSECURED RATING TO ACQUEDOTTO PUGLIESE SPA GBP160 MILLION NOTES DUE 2016/18 AND AFFIRMS THE Baa3 ISSUER RATING

05 Apr 2004
MOODY'S ASSIGNS (P)Baa3 SENIOR UNSECURED RATING TO ACQUEDOTTO PUGLIESE SPA GBP160 MILLION NOTES DUE 2016/18 AND AFFIRMS THE Baa3 ISSUER RATING

Approximately $292 Million of Debt Securities Affected.

Milan, April 05, 2004 -- Moody's Investors Service today assigned a (P)Baa3 long-term senior unsecured rating to Acquedotto Pugliese SpA (AQP) GBP160 million proposed Notes issue due 2016/18. The assigned rating assumes that there will be no material variations to the draft legal documentation reviewed by Moody's, and assume that the agreement is legally valid, binding, and enforceable. At the same time, Moody's affirmed the existing Baa3 issuer rating of AQP. The outlook is stable.

The rating primarily reflects AQP's low and fully regulated business risk and the strong and monopolistic concessionary franchise - which expires in 2018 - for the core water distribution and waste water businesses which allows AQP to benefit from fully regulated earnings and cash flows that provide significant support to AQP's debt obligations. The rating also reflects the capital intensive nature of the business with debt levels expected to rise significantly over the next several years due the very intense and ambitious capital expenditures program agreed with the ATO Authority, the Regulator. Overall, business risk remains low with a relatively transparent and efficient tariffs system which allows the company a total pass-through of operating costs as well as a fairly good return on new investments (7%). The regulated tariffs scheme period, at 3 years, is not particularly long and while the Regulator appears to be reasonably flexible in terms of tariffs adjustments in case of external shock events, their willingness to do so is, as yet, untested.

Although AQP is currently achieving low credit ratios and debt should grow further, the stable outlook reflects Moody's expectation of profitability and efficiency improvements in line with the company's Master Plan agreed with the Regulator. Any substantial unexpected variation from what AQP is planning to achieve in terms of operating results and main debt protection measures or any failure to successfully re-balance the debt maturity profile and put in place and adequate liquidity back-up arrangement, would put negative pressure on the rating. Conversely, an achievement of better than expected positive operating performance, and a substantial and unforeseen debt reduction, would be considered as positive elements for the rating.

Proceeds from the bond issue will be initially used to reduce utilisation under the existing EUR240m bank facility which will expire before end-2004 and then to finance the investment under the Master Plan program. We note that the company intends to re-negotiate the existing committed bank facility on terms that would ensure adequate liquidity back-up coverage in accordance with Moody's standard. AQP's current rating assumes a successful rebalancing of the company's debt maturity profile and the existence of adequate liquidity back-up. The ratings also include Moody's expectation that Total Debt, on a gross basis, at YE Dec. 2004 will be in a range between EUR300-325 million, and any higher level might put negative pressure on the existing ratings.

Acquedotto Pugliese SpA (AQP) is headquartered in Bari and was incorporated as a joint stock company (SpA) and assigned with the management of the integrated water services in the Region of Puglia in May 1999, by Law n. 141. In 2001 (Law n. 448), AQP share capital was transferred from the State to the regions of Puglia (A2) and Basilicata (A1) which own 87.1% and 12.9% of the company's capital, respectively. The license granted by the Region of Puglia to AQP provides for the integrated water services within all the municipalities included in the territorial basin of the ATO of Puglia. The core activity is the abstraction, purification and supply of potable water, and the collection and treatment of waste water.

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

Milan
Stefano Zeni
Vice President - Senior Analyst
Corporate Finance
Moody's Investors Service
JOURNALISTS: 33 1 53 43 93 78 SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

No Related Data.
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