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18 Apr 2001
MOODY'S CONFIRMS THE RATINGS OF ATMOS ENERGY CORPORATION AT A3 SR. UNS.
Approximately $150 million of debt affected.
New York, April 18, 2001 -- Moody's Investors Service confirmed the ratings (A3 sr. uns.,
(P)A3 shelf registration) of Atmos Energy Corporation ending the review
for possible downgrade. The ratings have been under review since
April 14, 2000, when Atmos announced its agreement to acquire
the Louisiana Gas Service assets of Citizens Communications Corp.
for $365 million in cash. Today, the Louisiana Public
Service Commission voted to approve the transaction.
The rating confirmation reflects our expectation that its credit measures
will not weaken from the debt financing for this acquisition. Atmos
has issued a significant amount of equity in recent months that partly
offsets the $350 million of acquisition debt. Last December,
it sold $150 million of common stock in a public offering and issued
$27 million more earlier this month to acquire interests in Woodward
Marketing it did not already own. The acquisition debt will leave
the company fairly leveraged (about 60% at September year-end
2001) for its rating as well as its comfort level. However,
this ratio reflects the acquisition debt without the cash flows attributable
to the acquired assets. Since the acquisition closes in June 2001,
Atmos misses the winter heating season when the assets generate cash.
Although Atmos has long had an acquisition strategy, the management
has been disciplined in focusing on regulated gas distribution assets
that are contiguous to its existing operations. We expect that
the company will strive towards a long-term debt target of 50%;
however, future acquisitions could cause leverage to periodically
rise to as high as current levels. We expect, too,
that Atmos will continue to consider selling some of its smaller operations
in which economies of scale are difficult to achieve. Targeted
asset sales, such as the sale of its South Carolina operations last
year, will generate additional cash and help to support returns.
Atmos' capital expenditures over the past few years were higher than normal
because of investments in establishing a central calling center and upgrading
technology. With those investments complete, we expect that
Atmos will be able to comfortably finance its capital requirements through
its internal cash flow and to have excess cash that can be applied to
pay down debt or for other uses.
Atmos' financial performance is strengthening from its efforts to increase
rates, to ensure earnings stability, and to improve efficiency.
It has addressed regulatory lag, realizing $18 million in
rate increases over the past two years. The company is seeking
to make its earnings less sensitive to weather, mostly through regulatory
mechanisms. About half its customers have weather-mitigated
rates, either through weather normalization adjustments or rates
that are based more on recovery of fixed costs and less on volume.
When regulatory mechanisms are not available, the company will use
weather insurance or other products to mitigate the risk. Atmos
is beginning to accrue operating efficiencies from its technology investments.
Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Atmos Energy Corporation is
a gas distribution company with operations in Colorado, Georgia,
Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana,
Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
Moody's Investors Service
JOURNALISTS: (212) 553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: (212) 553-1653
Vice President - Senior Analyst
Moody's Investors Service
JOURNALISTS: (212) 553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: (212) 553-1653
No Related Data.
© 2019 Moody’s Corporation, Moody’s Investors Service, Inc., Moody’s Analytics, Inc. and/or their licensors and affiliates (collectively, “MOODY’S”). All rights reserved.
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