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20 Nov 2003
MOODY'S COMMENTS ON NATIONAL GRID TRANSCO'S ANNOUNCED CHANGE IN DIVIDEND POLICY
London, 20 November 2003 -- Moody's today announced that the senior unsecured ratings of Baa1
on National Grid Transco plc (NGT), A2 on Transco plc and A3 on
Transco Holdings plc (together the Transco subgroup), and A2 on
National Grid Company plc (NGC) are not affected by the Group's
announced change in dividend policy. Moody's does not believe
that the financial implications of the increased dividend to NGT shareholders,
which will be funded by the upstream of cash from the Transco subgroup,
will have a substantial impact on the credit metrics of all involved entities.
NGT today announced on the back of its first-half results for the
period ending 30th September 2003, that it intended to raise its
full year dividend by a nominal 15% in 2003/04 to 19.78
pence per share. It aims to then increase the dividend by 7%
per annum in nominal terms through to March 2008. This compares
with the Group's existing dividend policy of 5% real increases
per annum until March 2006, which would have indicated a nominal
increase in 2003/04 of approximately 8%. The dividend levels
that are within the existing policy will be funded by cash upstreamed
from both the Transco subgroup and NGC.
Moody's said that, although the increased dividend somewhat
narrows financial flexibility at the Transco subgroup, the magnitude
of the dividend increase balances both debt and equity investor interests
and is expected to only marginally affect the Group's credit metrics
going forward. Moody's ratings do not encompass material
increases in leverage towards the regulatory assumption of 62.5%
debt-to-Regulated Asset Value (RAV). At year end
March 2003, debt to RAV of the Transco subgroup was 45.7%
and that of NGC was 58.4%.
Moody's notes that the A2 rating on NGC, A2 rating on Transco
plc and the A3 rating on Transco Holdings plc, which all have a
stable outlook, continue to reflect the stable and predictable cash
flows generated from the regulatory framework in which they operate.
The agency also pointed out that it was continuing to monitor events relating
to the recently announced potential sale of up to 4 of Transco's
8 regional gas distribution networks. In determining any rating
implications, Moody's will focus on the possible effects of
the sale on Transco's business mix, its financial impact with
regard to leverage and debt service coverage, and NGT's strategy
regarding the use of disposal proceeds. Moody's takes some
comfort from management's stated desire to maintain single A ratings
on its regulated UK operating subsidiaries.
Headquartered in London, England, National Grid Transco is
the holding company for a range of international businesses focusing on
the ownership and operation of electricity and gas networks. Its
two principal geographic areas of activity are the UK and the US.
Transco plc, a wholly owned subsidiary of Transco Holdings plc,
owns and operates the UK natural gas transmission and distribution network.
Transco Holdings plc is a wholly owned indirect subsidiary of NGT.
National Grid Company plc, a wholly owned subsidiary of NGT,
owns and operates the high-voltage electricity transmission system
in England and Wales.
Corporate Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454
Philipp L. Lotter
Asst Vice President - Analyst
Corporate Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454
No Related Data.
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