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Rating Action:

MOODY'S ISSUES COMMENTS ON THE CALIFORNIA UTILITIES

22 Dec 2000
MOODY'S ISSUES COMMENTS ON THE CALIFORNIA UTILITIES New York, December 22, 2000 -- Moody's Investors Service views yesterday's interim decision by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) as a necessary first step in helping to support the financial viability of the two large investor-owned utilities, Southern California Edison Company and Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Although the CPUC decision falls short of providing any near-term cash relief for the utilities, it does set the stage for the commission to end each company's rate freeze, provide for needed rate relief, and allow for each utility to recover past and future procurement costs.

Of particular note to Moody's is the language in the order, which states that "the commission intends to take action to avoid conditions that may jeopardize the utilities' creditworthiness and their ability to continue to procure energy on behalf of their customers". The order also states that the commission believes that "retail rates in California must begin to rise" and that it is the commission's "intent to maintain the utilities' access to capital on reasonable terms".

Moody's believes that the comments made by the CPUC in this order, as well as comments by the Governor of California and by key legislators, suggest a desire by these interested parties for the utilities to maintain investment grade access to the capital markets. Ultimately, the ability of these utilities to maintain investment grade access to the capital markets is critical to their ability to fund upcoming and future under collected wholesale power costs and is directly dependent upon the outcome of the pending January 4, 2001 rate case decision. Specifically, at that meeting, the utilities need to obtain the right to immediately raise rates by a sizeable amount and must obtain the unquestioned and unambiguous ability to recover past and future wholesale procurement costs. The failure by the CPUC to act in a prompt and constructive way around these two issues could result in the utilities' ratings being downgraded to below investment grade, which could impact their ability to fund their wholesale power costs and their day-to-day operations.

Moody's will continue to review for possible downgrade the ratings of Southern California Edison Company and its parent, Edison International, and the ratings of Pacific Gas and Electric Company and its parent, PG&E Corporation, and may take additional rating action next week prior to the January 4th meeting. However, it is not anticipated at this point that any rating action taken prior to the January 4th meeting would result in the ratings of the utilities or their respective parents falling below investment grade.
No Related Data.
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