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Rating Action:

Moody's assigns issuer rating of Aaa to Metropolitan Expressway

01 Jul 2008
Moody's assigns issuer rating of Aaa to Metropolitan Expressway

First-Time Rating

Tokyo, July 01, 2008 -- Moody's Investors Service has assigned a local currency issuer rating of Aaa to Metropolitan Expressway Company Limited (Metropolitan Expressway). The rating outlook is stable. This is the first time that Moody's has assigned a rating to Metropolitan Expressway.

The rating reflects Metropolitan Expressway's intrinsic strengths, which include highly predictable cash flow from its toll road operations and lease payments to Japan Expressway Holding and Debt Repayment Agency (JEHDRA, rated Aaa), backed by the Japanese government's legislative and contractual framework. The rating also incorporates the credit support that Moody's believes the government would provide in a stressful situation.

Metropolitan Expressway's ownership is divided 50/50 between the central government and local governments (as a group). Because of this ownership and the company's importance to Japan's transportation infrastructure, Moody's "overlays" its baseline credit assessment of 4 -- which represents the company's fundamental credit strength and is equivalent to an Aa3 on Moody's global rating scale -- with our joint default analysis for government-related issuers.

Metropolitan Expressway is engaged in the management and operation of expressway networks currently in service, and also in the construction of new expressway routes in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. Its network constitutes an important infrastructure sustaining the metropolis' various functions. The company thereby plays an integral role in Japan's motorway infrastructure policy.

Metropolitan Expressway's operations are governed by related laws and agreements with JEHDRA. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MLIT) is heavily involved in the development of the company's business plans, as well as its construction of expressways, collection of tolls, issuance of long-term debt, and offerings of new stock.

The expressway properties are owned by JEHDRA and leased to Metropolitan Expressway. The lease payments, tolls, and restrictions on construction costs are prescribed in the agreements between the two parties in accordance with the relevant laws. New expressways are constructed by Metropolitan Expressway and are transferred to JEHDRA upon completion, together with the relevant debt. The government may guarantee bonds issued by Metropolitan Expressway to finance the construction of expressways.

Furthermore, the central and local governments contribute equity and provide subsidies to JEHDRA, which in turn extends interest-free loans to the company for its expressway operations.

In Moody's view, this framework provides Metropolitan Expressway with a highly stable operating environment, allowing for predictable cash flow and debt payments. The agreements allow enough flexibility for the periodic -- or whenever necessary -- adjustment of rents and tolls to ensure Metropolitan Expressway's sound financial conditions. The predictable cash flow enables the company to manage its liquidity properly throughout the year.

Metropolitan Expressway is one of the entities in Japan's Fiscal Investment and Loan Program (FILP). Portions of its bond issues are guaranteed by the government under the FILP, although the company also issues non-guaranteed bonds. Moody's believes that the Japanese government is strongly disposed to protect the holders of Metropolitan Expressway's bonds and to extend credit support to the company when necessary.

As such, Moody's scores the government's willingness to provide extraordinary support to the company as "high" in its joint default analysis, and its ability to provide such support to prevent default is measured by the Aaa local currency deposit ceiling. Support at this ceiling level implies a "high" default dependence in the analysis. The combination of the company's baseline credit assessment and these support factors results in a long-term rating of Aaa for Metropolitan Expressway.

Metropolitan Expressway Company Limited was established on October 2005, and is owned by Japanese government and local governments. Its headquarters are in Tokyo. The company manages and operates a total of 293.5 kilometers in Metropolitan Area's expressway networks as of March 31, 2008. Its total revenue for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2008 was JPY 445 billion.

Tokyo
Tomomichi Nagaoka
Senior Vice President
Corporate Finance Group
Moody's Japan K.K.
JOURNALISTS: (03) 5408-4110
SUBSCRIBERS: (03) 5408-4100

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

No Related Data.
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