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Rating Action:

Moody's affirms Amprion's A3 rating; stable outlook

23 Jun 2016

London, 23 June 2016 -- Moody's Investors Service, ("Moody's") has today affirmed the A3 long term issuer rating of Amprion GmbH (Amprion) with a stable outlook.

The rating affirmation follows publication of the draft amendment to the incentive-based regulation ordinance (Anreizregulierungsverordnung, or ARegV), presented by the German government on 1 June 2016, that leaves the regulatory approach for transmission networks broadly unchanged. Consequently, Moody's expect Amprion to continue to benefit from a favourable cost recovery mechanism for large expansion investments, particularly important given their large capex programme, with limited cash flow pressure from a more stringent approach to cost efficiencies due to their current 100% cost efficient status.

RATINGS RATIONALE

Today's affirmation of Amprion's A3 issuer rating reflects the company's track record of strong operational and financial performance but also takes into account Moody's expectations for the next regulatory period for the German regulated networks, particularly in the context of Amprion's large investment programme.

Amprion's credit quality reflects a low business risk profile underpinned by the monopoly transmission network activities and supported by a well-defined incentive-based regulatory regime, which - while still undergoing evolutionary changes - has become more established.

German incentive-based electricity network regulation is now in the second price control period (2014-2018), which has seen a small reduction in the allowed equity return to 9.05% (nominal, pre-corporate tax) for new assets from 9.29% in the previous period. The decline in the allowed returns has - to date - been relatively modest compared with other European frameworks, and reflects the importance of the expansion in the national transmission networks to achieve the goals of the German energy policy with a high focus on renewable generation. With the start of the new regulatory period in 2019, Moody's expects a significant cut in the allowed equity return due to a persistently low interest rate environment, which will reduce financial flexibility in the medium term.

The main constraint for Amprion's A3 rating is a very sizeable capital programme, with overall investment of around EUR5.5 billion over the ten years to 2025, stemming from network expansion requirements to meet increasing capacity demands to transfer electricity from the point of generation in the North of Germany to the point of consumption in the South of Germany. These investments will require additional funding over the medium to long term, and Moody's expects the company's currently strong financial profile to weaken accordingly. The shareholder agreement provides some protection to maintain a prudent financial structure by confirming additional equity, with EUR400 million received in 2015. Taking these into account, the rating agency forecasts Amprion's long-term financial profile to converge towards leverage of around 40-50% of Net Debt to Fixed Assets (defined by Moody's as net property, plant and equipment) over the medium to long term.

Whilst Amprion currently remains very well positioned in its rating category, the A3 rating already takes into account the expected deterioration in the financial profile as the capex programme continues. It also reflects the managerial and operational challenges presented by the extensive capex programme, with annual investments over the coming three years amounting to around 20% of existing fixed assets.

RATINGS OUTLOOK

The outlook on the ratings is stable, reflecting Moody's view that Amprion's medium-term financial profile will reflect a gradual increase in leverage as the capital investment programme progresses, but nevertheless remain within the minimum financial parameters set for the rating, supported by agreed equity injections.

WHAT COULD CHANGE THE RATING UP/DOWN

Given Amprion's significant investment programme and associated funding requirements, we see limited potential for a rating upgrade over the medium term. However, a sustainable improvement in cash-flow-based debt metrics, such as FFO/net debt consistently at or above 20% and RCF/net debt in the mid-teens in percentage terms, could exert upward pressure on the ratings, if this were accompanied by (1) a levelling off of the investment requirements; (2) no credit-negative changes in the regulatory regime and continued development of its track record of stable, transparent and predictable application of regulatory principles; and (3) a consistently prudent dividend policy.

The rating could come under downward pressure if FFO interest cover fell below 3.5x and FFO to Net Debt declined below the mid-teens and RCF/net debt in the low teens (both in percentage terms), due, for example, to operational underperformance, higher-than-expected dividend payments or a material increase in capital expenditure without offsetting balance sheet measures.

The principal methodology used in this rating was Regulated Electric and Gas Networks published in November 2014. Please see the Ratings Methodologies page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

Amprion is one of the four German electricity transmission network companies, operating the longest extra-high voltage grid of 380kV and 220kV in Germany, with a length of 11,000km, and 170 transformer stations. It covers a territory of over 78,900 square kilometers from Lower Saxony down to the Alps with a population in the grid area of approximately 29 million. It is responsible for one of the largest and most dense network areas in Europe and assumes an important task in the European interconnected system.

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

For ratings issued on a program, series or category/class of debt, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series or category/class of debt or pursuant to a program for which the ratings are derived exclusively from existing ratings in accordance with Moody's rating practices. For ratings issued on a support provider, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the credit rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular credit rating action for securities that derive their credit ratings from the support provider's credit rating. For provisional ratings, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the provisional rating assigned, and in relation to a definitive rating that may be assigned subsequent to the final issuance of the debt, in each case where the transaction structure and terms have not changed prior to the assignment of the definitive rating in a manner that would have affected the rating. For further information please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page for the respective issuer on www.moodys.com.

For any affected securities or rated entities receiving direct credit support from the primary entity(ies) of this credit rating action, and whose ratings may change as a result of this credit rating action, the associated regulatory disclosures will be those of the guarantor entity. Exceptions to this approach exist for the following disclosures, if applicable to jurisdiction: Ancillary Services, Disclosure to rated entity, Disclosure from rated entity.

Regulatory disclosures contained in this press release apply to the credit rating and, if applicable, the related rating outlook or rating review.

Please see www.moodys.com for any updates on changes to the lead rating analyst and to the Moody's legal entity that has issued the rating.

Please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on www.moodys.com for additional regulatory disclosures for each credit rating.

Philip Cope
Analyst
Infrastructure Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
One Canada Square
Canary Wharf
London E14 5FA
United Kingdom
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Neil Griffiths-Lambeth
Associate Managing Director
Infrastructure Finance Group
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Releasing Office:
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
One Canada Square
Canary Wharf
London E14 5FA
United Kingdom
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Moody's affirms Amprion's A3 rating; stable outlook
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