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30 Nov 2010
London, 30 November 2010 -- Moody's Investors Service has today changed the rating outlook on
the Baa3 senior unsecured rating of Acquedotto Pugliese S.p.A.
("AQP") to positive from stable following the company's
publication of its H1 2010 results.
"The change of outlook to positive from stable reflects the positive
trend in AQP's key credit metrics in 2010, supported by the
6.57% tariff increase implemented by the company from January
2010 and the continued focus of the management team on improving operating
performance and working capital management", says Raffaella
Altamura, an analyst in Moody's Infrastructure Finance Group.
The strengthening in AQP's financial profile also follows the recent
formal approval and enactment of the company's Master Plan,
which covers the period 2010-18, and the successful renegotiation
of maturing credit lines cumulatively amounting to EUR255 million.
Moody's notes that these facilities give AQP the flexibility to
implement its sizeable investment plan without short-term refinancing
risk. In addition, the recent reconfirmation of AQP's
senior executives for three years to June 2013 ensures a positive continuity
in terms of implementing its strategy focused on delivering efficiency
policies, implementing investments and reducing historically high
bad debt levels.
In Moody's view, the combination of the above factors have
a positive impact on AQP's credit profile and prompted the rating
agency to change the company's rating outlook to positive from stable.
Moody's would consider upgrading AQP's rating as a result of the
consolidation of the improving trend in financial metrics --
with funds from operations (FFO) interest coverage above 2.5x,
an FFO/net debt ratio above the low teens and a debt/capitalisation ratio
below 70% -- associated with: (i) the implementation
of required investments according to the Master Plan; (ii) a continued
focus on improving operating performance and working capital management;
and (iii) evidence of a consistent application of the regulatory framework.
Moody's notes that the recent approved changes in the company's
articles of association, requiring the retention of profits,
should support the strengthening of AQP's credit metrics by confirming
the historical approach of no dividend payments.
In addition, Moody's notes the recent approval, by the
regional council, of law 07/2010, which sets out changes to
the provision of water services and the legal status of AQP, to
be transformed into a non-profit organisation. Moody's
further notes the questions surrounding the applicability of this law,
in particular following the sentence 325/2010 of the Italian Constitutional
Court, published on 24 November 2010. In addition to those
mentioned above, a further condition for considering an upgrade
of AQP's rating would be clarity around the potential implementation
of this law and any impact that it might have on AQP's ability to
preserve its improving financial profile.
In light of its 87.1% ownership by the Region of Puglia
(rated A1, stable outlook), AQP falls under Moody's
rating methodology for government-related issuers. The company's
Baa3 senior unsecured rating therefore incorporates a two-notch
uplift for potential government support.
The principal methodology used in rating AQP is Moody's "Global
Regulated Water Utilities Rating Methodology", published in
December 2009. Other methodologies and factors that may have been
considered in the process of rating this issuer can also be found on Moody's
Please see ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on Moodys.com
for the last rating action and the rating history.
AQP is Italy's second-largest water company, providing integrated
water services to all municipalities within the Region of Puglia,
the country's largest water system zone. In the first six months
to June 2010, AQP reported revenues of EUR168 million.
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454
MD - Infrastructure Finance
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
Moody's changes AQP's rating outlook to positive from stable
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