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Rating Action:

MOODY'S UPGRADES ACQUEDOTTO PUGLIESE TO Baa2; STABLE OUTLOOK

05 Dec 2005
MOODY'S UPGRADES ACQUEDOTTO PUGLIESE TO Baa2; STABLE OUTLOOK

Approximately EUR240 Million of Long-Term Debt Instruments Upgraded

London, 05 December 2005 -- Moody's Investors Service has today upgraded the long-term issuer and debt ratings of Acquedotto Pugliese SpA ("AQP"), the Italian water utility, to Baa2 from Baa3. The outlook on the ratings is stable. This upgrade concludes the rating review initiated on 23 June 2005.

The upgrade reflects Moody's view that the likelihood of the Region of Puglia, which owns 87.1% of AQP's share capital (expected to increase to 100% over time), providing support to the company to avoid a potential default has increased following the change in administration at the regional government, which is now opposed to a privatisation of AQP.

AQP's Baa2 ratings reflect the application of Moody's rating methodology for government-related issuers ("GRIs") (see "The Application of Joint Default to Government-Related Issuers", published in April 2005). In accordance with this methodology, AQP's ratings are based on a combination of the following inputs:

(i) a baseline credit assessment of 5 (on a scale of 1 to 6, where 1 represents the lowest credit risk);

(ii) the A2 rating of the Region of Puglia;

(iii) medium dependence, reflecting the fact that the Region and AQP enjoy different revenue sources, the Region's funding being relatively insulated from the local economy as it comes predominantly from central government equalisation mechanism and EU transfers.

(iv) medium support, reflecting (a) AQP's strategic importance to the Region as the provider of essential public services, and (b) the opposition by the new regional government to a privatisation of AQP.

AQP's baseline credit assessment of 5 is strongly positioned in its category and factors in (a) the low business risk of the company's activities, as the provider of integrated water services in the region of Puglia on the basis of an exclusive concession to 2018, (b) the capital programme that AQP will have to execute in the coming years in accordance with the terms of its concession, which is estimated at over EUR3 billion (of which about one third funded by public contributions) and is very large in comparison with the company's existing capital base and will determine a material increase in its debt burden, (c) a regulatory framework that, although generally supportive of cost and investment recovery, is untested and needs to prove its ability to balance political pressures on tariffs with the company's need to maintain an appropriate financial balance to fund substantial negative cash flows in coming years, and (d) suitable liquidity arrangements to cover investment requirements in the intermediate term.

The stable outlook on AQP's rating reflects the stable outlook on the Region of Puglia's rating and assumes that the company will build on the improvement to revenue collection recently achieved and proceed with the implementation of its investment programme. Positive rating pressure could develop in the event of (i) a positive change in the Region of Puglia's rating or rating outlook, or (ii) AQP building a track record of stable and predictable financial performance over the coming years, including as a result of the regulatory framework becoming more transparent and established. Conversely, negative rating pressure could develop in the event of (i) a negative change in the Region of Puglia's rating or rating outlook, (ii) unfavourable developments in the regulatory framework, or (iii) AQP's failure to maintain suitable liquidity arrangements.

The following ratings of Acquedotto Pugliese SpA were upgraded to Baa2 from Baa3 and assigned a stable outlook:

- Issuer rating.

- GBP165 million 6.92% Bonds due 2018.

Acquedotto Pugliese SpA is headquartered in Bari and is responsible for the management of the integrated water services in the Region of Puglia. The company's core activities are the abstraction, purification and supply of potable water, and the collection and treatment of waste water. The company's turnover in the year ended 31 December 2004 was about EUR342 million.

London
Stuart Lawton
Managing Director
Corporate Finance
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

London
Monica Merli
VP - Senior Credit Officer
Corporate Finance
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

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