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Rating Action:

MOODY'S UPGRADES NIPPON OIL'S RATINGS TO A3 FROM Baa1; OUTLOOK STABLE

01 Jul 2005
MOODY'S UPGRADES NIPPON OIL'S RATINGS TO A3 FROM Baa1; OUTLOOK STABLE

Tokyo, July 01, 2005 -- Moody's Investors Service has upgraded to A3 from Baa1 the senior unsecured debt ratings of Nippon Oil Corporation (NOC) and its supported subsidiaries, Nippon Oil Finance (Netherlands) B.V. and Nippon Oil (U.S.A.) Limited. The rating action reflects Moody's increasing confidence that NOC's overall earnings and cash flow-generating ability will increase, supported by its solid position in the Japanese oil market. The rating action also reflects Moody's expectation that NOC will further reduce debt over the medium term by executing its conservative financial policy. The rating outlook is stable. This rating action concludes the review initiated on March 22, 2005

NOC's operating performance significantly improved in fiscal 2004, as evidenced by the recovery in its operating profit to Yen 201.5 billion from Yen 55.9 billion a year earlier, driven by a hike in sales margins in refining & marketing (R&M), exploration & production (E&P) and petrochemical operations. Its debt was Yen 953.7 billion at the end of fiscal 2004, a significant reduction from Yen 1661.7 billion four years earlier, and its total debt to total capitalization ratio improved to 45.3% from 59.6% in the same period.

The rating agency comments that NOC benefits from strong market fundamentals for refined oil products backed by a tight supply/demand balance -- in turn due to strong demand growth in China and reductions in the refining capacity in Japan. In addition, Japanese oil companies' determination to eliminate excess competition has made them more able to pass through increased crude oil costs to end-users. As a result, profit margins have improved.

Moody's acknowledges the volatile nature of oil refining margins, which require timely adjustments of wholesale prices to sustain. The rating agency believes that NOC now has more flexibility responding to changes in market conditions with an increased ability to pass through movements of crude oil costs to end-users and thus is likely to maintain higher margins and cash flow generation than its historical levels.

NOC has been enhancing its E&P activities, reaching production of 110,000 BD in 2004, up from 50,000 BD in 2002. It aims to further boost production capacity in the intermediate term. As a result, Moody's expects NOC's E&P and R&M activities will increasingly work as natural hedges of each other, against movement in crude oil prices and the yen/US dollar exchange rate. An oil company that branches into both upstream and downstream sectors tends to have more stable operating performance, according to the rating agency.

NOC has also shown steady enhancement of its chemical operations, mainly supported by growing demand in China and rationalization efforts. Profit recovery in paraxylene and benzene businesses is one factor boosting total profitability.

NOC announced recently that over the next three years it will put Yen 500 billion into strategic expansion and investment in core business areas, and that these investments will be managed within cash flow. These actions have the potential to enhance the company's revenue and profit opportunities. Moody's also expects NOC to reduce debt over the intermediate term, backed by its relatively conservative financial policy.

Nippon Oil Corporation, headquartered in Tokyo, is Japan's largest oil company.

Tokyo
Junichi Yamaki
Senior Vice President
Rating Group
Moody's Japan K.K.
JOURNALISTS: (03) 5408-4110
SUBSCRIBERS: (03) 5408-4100

Tokyo
Takahiro Morita
Managing Director
Rating Group
Moody's Japan K.K.
JOURNALISTS: (03) 5408-4110
SUBSCRIBERS: (03) 5408-4100

No Related Data.
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