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Rating Action:

MOODY'S DOWNGRADES CREDIT RATINGS OF GREEN MOUNTAIN POWER CORPORATION (SR. SEC. TO Ba1)

18 Apr 2000
MOODY'S DOWNGRADES CREDIT RATINGS OF GREEN MOUNTAIN POWER CORPORATION (SR. SEC. TO Ba1) Moody's Investors Service downgraded Green Mountain Power Corporation's (GMP) senior secured debt rating to Ba1 from Baa3 and downgraded the company's preferred stock rating to "ba3" from "ba2". The ratings had originally been placed on review for possible downgrade on November 12, 1998. Today's rating actions primarily reflect heightened levels of concern about GMP's ability to meet near-term liquidity needs if its banks elect not to renew the company's existing line of credit, which expires on June 21, 2000. In Moody's view, this scenario is inconsistent with an investment grade rating. Concurrently, Moody's indicated that the ratings will remain on review for possible further downgrade, emphasizing that GMP's ratings could drop precipitously if its banks do not renew the line of credit. Even if the bank credit facility is renewed, GMP's ratings will remain on review for possible further downgrade because of additional credit concerns that center around the company's contract to purchase expensive power from Hydro Quebec (HQ), as well as the uncertainty relating to the outcome of pending Vermont regulatory and court proceedings. The extent to which GMP is able to address cost recovery issues relating to the HQ contract, whether through contract buyout, price renegotiation, or further rate increases, will play a pivotal role in the ultimate outcome of the continuing review process. It is likely that significant additional information will become available in the near-term; perhaps as early as mid-year, but probably not later than year-end.

Meanwhile, Moody's notes that GMP has successfully secured temporary rate increases on two occasions, aggregating approximately 8.5%, to help cover some of the rising costs associated with power purchases from HQ. The temporary rate increases to date, together with aggressive cost reductions under the company's GMPworks program, have enabled GMP to produce marginally adequate financial results and keep their banks and auditors satisfied. Without the rate increases, GMP would likely have not met standards required under FASB 71 and FASB 5, which would have caused significant writeoffs of regulatory assets. The specter of potential writeoffs related to these accounting rules remains a major credit concern. Moreover, even with the rate increases, GMP is still prone to rely on outside sources of funds to meet its peak working capital needs during the winter season. This likely situation makes renewal of the line of credit a critical credit issue.

There is, however, a glimmer of hope that GMP's persistence in seeking temporary rate increases and reducing operating and maintenance costs, while striving to resolve its contract issues with HQ, might bode well for garnering more support in the regulatory and political arena. Indeed, Moody's will continue to focus on GMP's ability to gain support from the Vermont Public Service Board in its current rate case, while management seeks to negotiate a settlement with HQ, renew its bank credit facility, awaits an outcome from its appeal of a March 1998 rate order to the Vermont Supreme Court, and awaits the outcome of the ongoing arbitration of a dispute between HQ and all of the Vermont utilities arising from HQ's failure to deliver power during much of the first quarter of 1998.

Green Mountain Power Corporation is an investor-owned electric utility whose headquarters are in Colchester, Vermont.

No Related Data.
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