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Rating Action:

Moody's assign provisional ratings to Belfast Gas Transmission Financing plc

21 Feb 2008
Moody's assign provisional ratings to Belfast Gas Transmission Financing plc

Approximately GBP 119 million of new debt facilities rated

London, 21 February 2008 -- Moody's Investors Service has assigned a provisional (P)Aaa rating to approximately GBP119 million of index-linked secured guaranteed bonds due 2047 (the "Bonds") to be issued by Belfast Gas Transmission Financing plc (the "Issuer"). The (P)Aaa rating of the Bonds is based solely upon the unconditional and irrevocable guarantee of scheduled principal and interest by Financial Security Assurance (U.K.) Limited ("FSA UK", Aaa insurance financial strength rating). The outlook on the (P)Aaa rating is stable.

Moody's has also assigned a (P)A1 underlying rating to the Bonds, assuming that the financial guarantee insurance policy to be issued by FSA UK is absent. Moody's rating rationale for the (P)A1 underlying rating is set out in a pre-sale report which will be made available at www.moodys.com.

The Issuer is a wholly owned subsidiary of Northern Ireland Energy Holdings Limited ("NIEH") and has been established to fund the acquisition of Phoenix Natural Gas Limited ("PNG" but to be renamed Belfast Gas Transmission Limited ("BGTL") following acquisition), owner of the Belfast Transmission Pipeline ("BTP"), a 37km high-pressure gas pipeline that connects the downstream distribution network in the Greater Belfast and Larne area with the Scotland Northern Ireland Pipeline ("SNIP") at Island Magee, on the east coast of the country, and hence to the gas network in Great Britain.

NIEH was established to own and operate energy infrastructure assets in Ireland in the long-term interests of the energy consumers of Northern Ireland. It is a company limited by guarantee with members rather than shareholders and any financial surpluses are retained for the benefit of its operating companies and hence consumers. The company already owns Moyle Interconnector Limited, owner and operator of the Moyle Interconnector, linking the electricity grid in Northern Ireland with that in Great Britain, and Premier Transmission Limited, owner and operator of SNIP.

SNIP and BTP are seen as key to efforts to address fuel poverty in Northern Ireland and benefit from a supportive regulatory framework including what is known as postalisation which allows operators of designated high-pressure gas pipelines (known as Designated Pipeline Operators or "DPOs") to recover from gas shippers the required revenue as set out in their licences. Specifically, this framework (the "Postalised System") allows Premier Transmission Limited and PNG to recover all of their operating and financing costs. Like other DPOs, Premier Transmission Limited and PNG are not exposed to demand risk or to the risk of default by any single shipper as any under payment may be recovered from all other shippers.

We cannot rule out future changes in the regulatory regime, indeed the likely move to an all-island market in gas means that change may be inevitable. The Government, through the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment ("DETI"), and the regulator (the Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation or the "Authority") will however provide comfort letters (the "Comfort Letters") setting out their current intentions. In exercising their powers and authority to implement any arrangements to restructure or replace the Postalised System this will include due regard to the ability of BGTL to meet its financing commitments. DETI will also confirm that it does not currently intend that it will dismantle, or will be involved in any actions or decisions which have the effect of dismantling the basic structure of the Postalised System and the protections afforded to PNG which are inherent in that structure. These letters will not be legally binding nor will they fetter the ability of either DETI or the Authority to exercise their powers but can be interpreted as strong indications of the Government's and the Authority's current views.

The Bonds will benefit from financial covenants and a security package. There will be a cash trapping mechanism that is designed to enable cash reserves to be built up to fund the repurchase or redemption of the bonds following any adverse regulatory event; such adverse events will include any announcement by the Government or the Authority that they will or may act in a manner inconsistent with the Comfort Letters or in a way which could have a material adverse effect on any aspect of the financing arrangements. The payment obligations of the Issuer will be supported by security over BGTL's assets including the pipeline.

BGTL will have the benefit of a liquidity facility and there will be additional reserves that will be available to meet operating or financing costs following any cost overruns, under-recoveries from shippers or shipper defaults.

The rating of the Bonds will follow the rating of FSA UK. Factors which could lead to the underlying rating being upgraded include greater comfort with the Postalised System over time and the successful implementation of all-island gas market. Factors that could lead to a downgrade include material adverse changes to the regulatory regime or the amount of liquidity proving to be inadequate.

London
Neil Griffiths-Lambeth
Vice President - Senior Analyst
Infrastructure Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

New York
Thomas J. Keller
Managing Director
Infrastructure Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

No Related Data.
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