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14 Mar 2003
MOODY'S DOWNGRADES ENA'S LONG TERM ISSUER RATING AND AUDASA'S SENIOR UNSECURED DEBT RATINGS TO A2 FROM Aaa; AUCALSA'S SHORT TERM ISSUER RATING TO P-2 FROM P-1 (SPAIN)
All ratings remain on review for further possible downgrade
London, 14 March 2003 -- Moody's Investors Service today downgraded to A2 from Aaa the long-term
issuer rating of Empresa Nacional de Autopistas, S.A.
("ENA") and the senior unsecured debt ratings of Autopistas del Atlantico,
Concesionaria Espanola, S.A. ("AUDASA").
Moody's also downgraded the short-term issuer rating of Autopista
Concesionaria Astur-Leonesa, S.A. ("AUCALSA")
to Prime-2 from Prime-1. All ratings remain on review
for further possible downgrade.
The debt ratings of ENA and its group were placed on review for possible
downgrade on 03 December 2002 following the announcement of a formal privatisation
process by competitive tender in November by Aaa-rated Sociedad
Estatal de Participaciones Industriales ("SEPI"), the Spanish government's
wholly-owned public law entity which holds equity stakes in companies
across various industries. SEPI currently owns 100% of ENA,
although it provides no explicit guarantees of the company's debt obligations;
Moody's ratings were previously underpinned by the support implied both
by government ownership of ENA and by the subsidies and capital injections
which the state provided. Following the privatisation announcement
and subsequent discussions with SEPI, ENA and the Spanish Finance
Ministry, Moody's believes that the privatisation is most likely
to proceed as planned and that, once it has been completed,
bondholders will no longer be able to rely on the potential support which,
in Moody's view, the entity might have received because of their
ownership by SEPI.
Today's downgrade of the ratings of ENA and its group companies
reflects the substantial borrowing requirements of the group over the
next 12 months. AUDASA continues to fund a capital expenditure
programme, expected to be completed in 2003, on the Fene-Ferrol
and Rebullón-Tui road sections, representing 11.4%
of the eventual total kilometres in the AUDASA concession. Both
AUDASA and AUCALSA also have substantial sums of debt falling due in the
Moody's believes that the privatisation itself is unlikely to have been
completed prior to many of these debts falling due, increasing the
likelihood that any refinancing available to the group may be on terms
detrimental to the overall financial strength of the group. In
addition, a number of other debt instruments contain change of control
clauses which must be addressed prior to privatisation and which could
adversely impact the group as either increased cost of debt and/or further
The ENA group's only alternate source of liquidity is potential access
to funding through SEPI; also it does not have the ability to generate
cash from internal resources sufficient to meet these cash calls.
The current rating level is underpinned by Moody's expectation that SEPI
would act as lender of last resort were the group to encounter significant
setbacks to these refinancing requirements prior to privatisation;
any indications to the contrary could result in significant downward pressure
on the ratings. The downgrade of AUCALSA's short-term issuer
rating to P-2 reflects Moody's view that, in light of the
clear intention to privatise the group, this entity no longer exhibits
a superior ability to repay its short-term debt obligations.
Moody's said that it remains too early to address the potential rating
level once ENA has been acquired, as the identity of the ultimate
owner, its method of financing the acquisition, its financing
structure and credit quality, and its dividend policy with respect
to ENA's concession companies, are not yet known. Today's
rating action reflects Moody's expectation that A2 is the highest outcome
that can be expected from this process. The ongoing review reflects
Moody's view that there is a reasonable likelihood the ratings could move
closer to the fundamental credit strength of ENA as a stand-alone
entity, which would be lower than A2. In the unlikely event
that the privatisation is either postponed or abandoned, Moody's
would not expect the ratings to return to their former levels.
Moody's expects to resolve the review of ENA's A2 rating for further possible
downgrade as the privatisation process proceeds and further information
AUDASA and AUCALSA are both toll motorway concession companies within
the ENA group of companies. AUDASA's concession is for the A-9
motorway from El Ferrol to Tuy in the Galicia region of Spain; AUCALSA's
concession is for the A-66 motorway between León in Castilla-León
and Campomanes in Asturias. ENA total operating income in the year
ended 31 December 2002 was EUR157.4 million.
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
44 20 7772 5454
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
44 20 7772 5454
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