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Rating Action:

Moody's assigns Prime-2 to Northern States Power Co Wisconsin

23 Mar 2011

A $150 Million CP Program and Bank Loan Rated

New York, March 23, 2011 -- Moody's Investors Service assigned a rating of Prime-2 for Northern States Power Company, a Wisconsin corporation (NSP-Wisconsin), in connection with the company's newly established $150 million Section 4(2) exempt commercial paper program. Moody's also assigned an A3 rating to NSP-Wisconsin's new credit agreement which will backstop its commercial paper program. Moody's affirmed NSP-Wisconsin's existing ratings, including the A3 rating on its senior unsecured debt obligations, and its stable outlook.

Assignments:

..Issuer: Northern States Power Company (Wisconsin)

....Senior Secured Bank Credit Facility, Assigned A3

....Senior Unsecured Commercial Paper, Assigned P-2

RATINGS RATIONALE

The Prime-2 rating recognizes the stability and predictability of cash flows generated by NSP-Wisconsin's regulated operations. In the fiscal year ended December 2010, the company internally funded its capital expenditures. Over the next several years, however, NSP-Wisconsin expects its capital expenditures to step up significantly above historical levels while it invests in new electric generation and transmission assets for the Northern States Power system.

The Prime-2 rating assumes that NSP-Wisconsin will manage the amount of commercial paper and other near term obligations outstanding within the limits of its readily available sources of cash, including its new committed bank credit facility. Moody's believes that the $150 million program should be ample for its foreseeable liquidity needs over the medium term.

"NSP-Wisconsin has improved its liquidity resources by establishing its own external short-term borrowing program," says Moody's Vice President Mihoko Manabe. "The utility will no longer have to rely on affiliate borrowing agreements while it undergoes a period of heavier than normal capital investments."

Previously, NSP-Wisconsin's alternative source of liquidity comprised an affiliate agreement to borrow up to $100 million from its sister utility Northern States Power -- Minnesota (NSP-Minnesota, A3 senior unsecured).

NSP-Wisconsin recently put in place a $150 million unsecured revolving credit facility rated A3 that matures in March 2015. The sole financial covenant is the maintenance of a maximum 65% consolidated debt-to-capital ratio. Based on the covenant calculations, NSP-Wisconsin was comfortably in compliance with this test at 45% as of December 31, 2010. After implementation, each extension of credit does not require a representation that there has been no material adverse change in the condition of NSP-Wisconsin. Moody's believes that the lack of such conditional language improves the quality of this credit facility, because it reduces the risk that the banks refuse to lend under it in a time of stress.

NSP-Wisconsin's rating outlook is stable, reflecting the low volatility of the financial performance of the company's underlying utility operations, the supportive regulatory environment in Wisconsin, and the sound financial policies under its ownership by Xcel Energy Inc. (Baa1 senior unsecured).

Positive rating action could result from a sustainable improvement in financial performance as demonstrated, for example, by cash flow from operations before working capital (CFO pre-WC) as a percentage of total adjusted debt being sustained above 25%. Moody's believes that excluding the temporary near-term benefit of bonus depreciation, NSP-Wisconsin's credit metrics would be more prone to softening over the next several years of higher than normal capital spending.

Negative rating action could result from a deterioration of financial performance as demonstrated, for example, by CFO pre-WC as a percentage of total adjusted debt falling below 20% for an extended period. Factors that could contribute to this deterioration include adverse regulatory rulings and significant operating difficulties.

Because of NSP-Wisconsin's operational integration with NSP-Minnesota and its financial integration with Xcel, NSP-Wisconsin's ratings could move up or down with a change in the ratings of NSP-Minnesota or Xcel.

The principal methodology used in this rating was Regulated Electric and Gas Utilities published in August 2009.

Northern States Power Company, a Wisconsin corporation, is headquartered in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The company is one of the four principal operating subsidiaries of Xcel Energy Inc., an electric utility holding company.

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

Information sources used to prepare the credit rating are the following: parties involved in the ratings, public information, confidential and proprietary Moody's Investors Service information, confidential and proprietary Moody's Analytics information, public and other information.

Moody's Investors Service considers the quality of information available on the issuer or obligation satisfactory for the purposes of maintaining a credit rating.

Moody's adopts all necessary measures so that the information it uses in assigning a credit rating is of sufficient quality and from sources Moody's considers to be reliable including, when appropriate, independent third-party sources. However, Moody's is not an auditor and cannot in every instance independently verify or validate information received in the rating process.

Please see ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on Moodys.com for the last rating action and the rating history.

The date on which some Credit Ratings were first released goes back to a time before Moody's Investors Service's Credit Ratings were fully digitized and accurate data may not be available. Consequently, Moody's Investors Service provides a date that it believes is the most reliable and accurate based on the information that is available to it. Please see the ratings disclosure page on our website www.moodys.com for further information.

Please see the Credit Policy page on Moodys.com for the methodologies used in determining ratings, further information on the meaning of each rating category and the definition of default and recovery.

New York
Mihoko Manabe
VP - Senior Credit Officer
Infrastructure Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

New York
William L. Hess
MD - Utilities
Infrastructure Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Moody's Investors Service
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Moody's assigns Prime-2 to Northern States Power Co Wisconsin
No Related Data.
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