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Rating Action:

Moody's changes AES outlook to positive; affirms Ba1 CFR

04 Aug 2021

Approximately $4.4 billion of rated instruments affected

New York, August 04, 2021 -- Moody's Investors Service, ("Moody's") changed the outlook for The AES Corporation (AES) to positive from stable. At the same time, Moody's affirmed AES' Ba1 corporate family rating (CFR), Ba1 senior unsecured rating and Ba1-PD Probability of Default Rating (PDR). AES' speculative grade liquidity is unchanged at SGL-2.

RATINGS RATIONALE

"The positive outlook on AES reflects the company's de-risking strategy and our expectation that incremental cash flow and capital expenditure funding plans will allow it to generate a ratio of cash flow to debt above 14%" said Natividad Martel, Vice President -- Senior Analyst.

The positive outlook also incorporates AES' progress in the implementation of its decarbonization strategy through a combination of retirements and disposals of its interests in coal-fired facilities to be executed by 2025, along with its growing backlog of contracted renewables, a key item in the company's de-risking strategy. This decarbonization strategy is a key ESG risk consideration and an important driver of the organization's improving credit quality.

Today's rating action also considers the recent stabilization of the outlooks of DPL Inc. (Ba1) and Dayton Power & Light Company (Baa2) and affirmation of their ratings, after the outlooks had been negative for some time. It also factors in the growing importance of the US operations of AES due to a combination of planned investments to grow its regulated utility rate base along with material capital expenditures in renewables and battery storage. The latter includes the investments of the sPower development platform that AES started to consolidate through AES Clean Energy in February 2021. We estimate that, if the investment program is implemented as planned, the US Strategic Business Units (SBU) could represent around 40% of AES' consolidated operating income by year-end 2023 compared to around 30% during the 2018-2020 period. This changing business mix composition will also reduce AES' emerging market risk exposure. However, the group's credit quality will still benefit from the geographic diversity provided by its other three non-US SBUs.

AES' Ba1 CFR and positive outlook also consider management's commitment to improve the group's consolidated credit quality and the resilience shown by its contracted power generation operations in the face of the economic disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. It also reflects the group's ability to record a ratio of cash flow from operations pre-working capital (CFO pre-W/C) to net debt of nearly 14% at year-end 2020 and for the last twelve month period (LTM) ended March 2021.

These ratios are calculated excluding the non-recurring impact of a termination payment collected by Empresa Electrica Angamos SpA (Baa3 stable), a subsidiary of AES Gener S.A. (Gener; Baa3 stable). In 2020 and 1QLTM2021, AES' credit metrics were aided by a reduction in the group's total outstanding net debt to around $18.3 billion, due to the combination of subsidiary debt reduction (net) and a higher balance of cash and cash equivalents This debt reductions included the repayment of nearly $445 million of project debt outstanding at Angamos funded with the termination payment. In addition, at year-end 2020, AES started to report around $1 billion of debt outstanding at Mong Duong 2 under assets held for sale. As a point of reference, this asset accounted for around 4% of the subsidiaries' total funds from operations but approximately 6% of the subsidiaries' outstanding debt at year-end 2019.

We note that there is some execution risk that could affect AES' ability to achieve and sustain its targeted ratio of CFO pre-W/C to debt of between 14% and 15%. The improved metrics will depend on several factors including the successful completion of its material investment program. AES does not plan to issue common equity other than the $1 billion of convertible preferred stock issued in March 2021, while a historical reliance on project finance transactions at the non-utility subsidiaries contributes to the group's elevated debt. However, we also acknowledge the amortizing nature of this project finance debt that allows for some deleveraging. This could help to offset the negative impact of the incremental debt at the assets on credit metrics. We expect that AES' reliance on holding company debt issuances to meet its capital requirements will remain limited. We calculate that the ratio of holding company debt to consolidated debt will remain below 20%, despite AES' planned issuance of $1 billion of holding company debt during the 2021-2025 period.

Affirmations:

..Issuer: AES Corporation, (The)

.... Probability of Default Rating, Affirmed Ba1-PD

.... Corporate Family Rating, Affirmed Ba1

....Pref. Stock Preferred Stock, Affirmed Ba3

....Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture, Affirmed Ba1 (LGD4)

Outlook Actions:

..Issuer: AES Corporation, (The)

....Outlook, Changed To Positive From Stable

FACTORS THAT COULD LEAD TO AN UPGRADE OR DOWNGRADE OF THE RATINGS

Factors that Could Lead to an Upgrade

AES' ratings could be upgraded if (i) pending regulatory outcomes are supportive of the utility subsidiaries' credit quality, particularly if DP&L's pending distribution rate case; (ii) there is no material deterioration in any of the key non-utility subsidiaries' credit quality as we gain more clarity regarding the funding of their investments; (iii) pending decarbonization legislation in Chile has no unexpected negative credit implications on AES Gener and (iv) if AES is able to record a ratio of consolidated CFO pre-W/C to consolidated net debt that exceeds 14%, on a sustained basis, including 50% of AES' $1 billion preferred stock issued in March 2021.

As per Moody's Hybrid Equity Credit methodology, an upgrade of AES to investment grade would result in the application of 50% equity treatment to AES' $1 billion preferred stock for the purpose of calculating financial ratios, compared to the current 100% equity treatment applied as long as AES remains non-investment grade.

Factors that Could Lead to a Downgrade

A stabilization of the outlook or a downgrade could occur if AES diverges from its de-risking business strategy or there are credit negative outcomes of any pending regulatory decisions. The implementation of more aggressive financial policies than currently anticipated that adversely affects any of the key subsidiaries' credit quality or a failure of AES to report a consolidated ratio of CFO pre-W/C to net debt of at least 14%, on a sustained basis, is also likely to cause a stabilization of the outlook. A downgrade of AES is likely if the consolidated ratio of CFO pre-W/C to consolidated net debt falls below 11%, for a sustained period of time.

Liquidity Analysis

The Speculative Grade Liquidity Rating (SGL) of SGL-2 reflects good liquidity from both strong internal cash flow generation and external cash sources, including' high availability under its $1 billion unsecured bank credit facility of $853 million at year-end 2020. The amounts available excluded $77 million in letters of credit at year-end 2020. Borrowings under the facility, scheduled to expire in December 2024, are subject to conditionality including a material adverse change clause representation, a credit negative. The facility has two financial covenants including a minimum cash flow coverage ratio of 2.5x and a maximum recourse debt to cash flow ratio of not more than 5.75x (both metrics calculated on a parent only basis). We anticipate that AES will remain in compliance with substantial headroom.

The SGL-2 also factors in management's expectation that the company's free cash flow will range between $775 million and $825 million in 2021. AES also expects to receive net proceeds from the sale of assets of around $100 million this year.

AES has disclosed that during the 2021-2025 period, it expects to have access to around $7.3 billion of discretionary cash that includes nearly $4.8 billion of parent free cash flow (that is, dividends received minus parent company costs such as interest payments) and total net proceeds from asset sales of $500 million (including the aforementioned $100 million). AES plans to issue up to $1 billion in holding company debt over the next four years following the $1 billion preferred stock issued in March 2021.

AES has also disclosed that it plans to use these funds to make equity contributions to its subsidiaries of $4.8 billion and to distribute around $2.5 billion.

The principal methodology used in these ratings was Unregulated Utilities and Unregulated Power Companies published in May 2017 and available at https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1066389. Alternatively, please see the Rating Methodologies page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

AES is a globally diversified power holding company that holds interests in a large portfolio of subsidiaries that operate in twelve countries. These subsidiaries consist of (i) regulated utility subsidiaries (three) and (ii) power generation projects and independent power producers (IPPs). Their total generation capacity exceeds 30,000 MW. AES organizes these subsidiaries under four Strategic Business Units (SBU), largely based on the subsidiaries' geographic operations: (i) US and utilities, (ii) South America, (iii) Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean (MCAC) and (iv) Eurasia. From a strategic perspective, the "other not consolidated" segment (not included in any of the aforementioned SBUs), includes Fluence Energy, LLC, a global energy storage technology and services joint venture.

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

For further specification of Moody's key rating assumptions and sensitivity analysis, see the sections Methodology Assumptions and Sensitivity to Assumptions in the disclosure form. Moody's Rating Symbols and Definitions can be found at: https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_79004.

For ratings issued on a program, series, category/class of debt or security this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series, category/class of debt, security 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.

The ratings have been disclosed to the rated entity or its designated agent(s) and issued with no amendment resulting from that disclosure.

These ratings are solicited. Please refer to Moody's Policy for Designating and Assigning Unsolicited Credit Ratings available on its website www.moodys.com.

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

Moody's general principles for assessing environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks in our credit analysis can be found at http://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1288435.

At least one ESG consideration was material to the credit rating action(s) announced and described above.

The Global Scale Credit Rating on this Credit Rating Announcement was issued by one of Moody's affiliates outside the EU and is endorsed by Moody's Deutschland GmbH, An der Welle 5, Frankfurt am Main 60322, Germany, in accordance with Art.4 paragraph 3 of the Regulation (EC) No 1060/2009 on Credit Rating Agencies. Further information on the EU endorsement status and on the Moody's office that issued the credit rating is available on www.moodys.com.

The Global Scale Credit Rating on this Credit Rating Announcement was issued by one of Moody's affiliates outside the UK and is endorsed by Moody's Investors Service Limited, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5FA under the law applicable to credit rating agencies in the UK. Further information on the UK endorsement status and on the Moody's office that issued the credit rating is available on www.moodys.com.

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.

Natividad Martel
Vice President - Senior Analyst
Infrastructure Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376
Client Service: 1 212 553 1653

Michael G. Haggarty
Associate Managing Director
Infrastructure Finance Group
JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376
Client Service: 1 212 553 1653

Releasing Office:
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376
Client Service: 1 212 553 1653

No Related Data.
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