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Announcement:

Moody's publishes the A1 underlying rating for Guaranteed Secured Index-Linked Bonds issued by Criterion Healthcare Plc; stable outlook

23 Jun 2014

London, 23 June 2014 -- Moody's Investors Service has published the A1 underlying rating for the GBP 64.6 million Guaranteed Secured Index-Linked Bonds due 2031 issued by Criterion Healthcare PLC ("the Issuer"). The outlook on the rating is stable. Due to an internal administrative error, the A1 underlying rating was not published on 18 January 2013, when the backed rating of the bonds was downgraded to A1, following the downgrade of the financial guarantor of the bonds, Assured Guaranty (Europe) Ltd., to A2.

RATINGS RATIONALE

In 1999, the Issuer entered into a Concession Agreement (the "CA") with County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust (the "Trust") to design and construct a new 347 bed hospital (304 inpatient beds and 43 day care beds) and refurbish certain existing buildings, in Bishop Auckland, North East England, and to provide Facilities Management ("FM") services (such works and services, together "the Project"). The CA lasts up to 60 years from contracted completion of construction, subject to rights of the Trust to terminate the CA, which are first exercisable after 30 years. The Project's construction phase, performed by Shepherd Construction Limited, was completed in 2002, and hospital service availability was achieved on 28th June 2002 and full operational service on 17th January 2003.

The A1 rating reflects as positives (1) the Issuer's long-term Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract with the Trust to redevelop and then provide FM services at the Bishop Auckland Hospital in County Durham; (2) the credit strength of the Trust supported by a Deed of Safeguard provided by the Secretary of State; (3) a stable revenue stream and benign payment mechanism under the CA; (4) the more than 10 years of strong performance of FM services, and the reduced stress on operation and maintenance works following a review of clinical services that has reduced the number of inpatient beds; (5) a range of creditor protections included within the Issuer's financing structure, such as debt service and maintenance reserves; (6) the Issuer's robust debt service coverage ratios relative to other rated PFI/PPP transactions; and (7) our expectation that there is a likelihood of high recovery for lenders following any default by the Issuer.

The rating is, however, constrained by the Project's high leverage, which reduces the Issuer's ability to withstand unexpected stress.

The Bonds benefit from an unconditional and irrevocable guarantee of scheduled principal and interest from Assured Guaranty (Europe) Ltd ("Assured", A2 stable) pursuant to a financial guarantee insurance policy. The rating on the Bonds is determined as the higher of (1) Assured's insurance financial strength rating; and (2) the A1 standalone credit quality of the Bonds, absent the benefit of the guarantee. Accordingly, the rating of the Bonds is A1.

WHAT COULD CHANGE THE RATINGS UP/DOWN

Given the stable outlook, an upgrade of the rating is unlikely in the medium term. Conversely, Moody's could consider downgrading the rating if (1) lifecycle cost assumptions were to prove inadequate; or (2) poor service delivery or a deterioration in the Issuer's relationship with the Trust were to increase the possibility of a default under the project agreement.

The principal methodology used in this rating was Operating Risk in Privately-Financed Public Infrastructure (PFI/PPP/P3) Projects published in December 2007. Please see the Credit Policy page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

Moody's ratings on securities that are guaranteed or "wrapped" by a financial guarantor are generally maintained at a level equal to the higher of the following: a) the rating of the guarantor (if rated at the investment grade level); or b) the published underlying rating (and for structured securities, the published or unpublished underlying rating). Moody's approach to rating wrapped transactions is outlined in Moody's special comment "Assignment of Wrapped Ratings When Financial Guarantor Falls Below Investment Grade" (May, 2008); and Moody's November 10, 2008 announcement "Moody's Modifies Approach to Rating Structured Finance Securities Wrapped by Financial Guarantors".

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

For ratings issued on a program, series or category/class of debt, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series or category/class of debt 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 rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular 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 rating action, and whose ratings may change as a result of this 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.

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.

Christopher Bredholt
Asst Vice President - Analyst
Infrastructure Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
One Canada Square
Canary Wharf
London E14 5FA
United Kingdom
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Neil Griffiths-Lambeth
Senior Vice President
Infrastructure Finance Group
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Releasing Office:
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
One Canada Square
Canary Wharf
London E14 5FA
United Kingdom
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Moody's publishes the A1 underlying rating for Guaranteed Secured Index-Linked Bonds issued by Criterion Healthcare Plc; stable outlook
No Related Data.
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