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Rating Action:

Moody's upgrades APRR's ratings to Baa1, positive outlook

13 Dec 2017

London, 13 December 2017 -- Moody's Investors Service (Moody's) has today upgraded the senior unsecured rating of Societe des Autoroutes Paris-Rhin-Rhone-APRR (APRR) to Baa1 from Baa2 . Concurrently, Moody's also upgraded to (P)Baa1 from (P)Baa2 the provisional rating on the company's medium-term note programme. The outlook assigned to the ratings is positive.

RATINGS RATIONALE

The rating upgrade recognises the continued positive traffic performance on APRR's network, which Moody's expects to lead to improved credit metrics on a consolidated basis, even taking into account the debt at its holding company Eiffarie.

The positive outlook on the rating reflects the expectation that the continued positive traffic performance, coupled with interest savings and a consistent prudent financial policy, could lead to a further strengthening of APRR's credit metrics (including debt at Eiffarie) to levels commensurate with the A3 rating category.

APRR and its subsidiary Autoroutes Rhone-Alpes (AREA) reported an increase in traffic of 3.0% for the nine months to September 2017 vs. the corresponding period in 2016, the strongest performance amongst the major toll road operators in France. More specifically, light vehicle traffic increased by 2.7% during the period, supported by a stronger macroeconomic environment and sustained leisure demand. Heavy vehicle traffic increased by 5.1% in the first nine months of 2017, reflecting improved business conditions, as well as the impact of stronger retail, construction and industrial activity. Overall, traffic volumes on APRR's network are currently some 12% above peak pre-crisis levels. Higher traffic volumes translate into growth in APRR's toll revenues, which reached almost EUR1.8 billion in the nine months to September 2017, up 3.9% compared with the corresponding period in 2016.

APRR's financial performance is further supported by above-inflation toll increases for both APRR and AREA. The applicable toll formula provides for annual tariff increases of 85% of the inflation rate plus a fixed margin over the period to 2018, compensating APRR and AREA for (1) the investments associated with the management contracts, providing for EUR500 million of investments over the period 2014-18 and (2) the recovery of a 2013 increase in redevance domaniale (tax on the use of public property).

Beyond 2018, toll increases will reflect 70% of the inflation rate plus a margin compensating APRR and AREA for the 2015 tolls freeze (this additional fixed margin will be applicable until 2023). Toll increases for the period 2019-21 will also potentially include an additional remuneration for investments totalling EUR222 million, agreed in principle under new management contracts, for which finalisation is currently pending. Toll increases for 2018 (applicable from 1 February) are expected to be 2% for APRR and 2.04% for AREA. Whilst APRR's and AREA's committed investments remain relatively sizeable, also reflecting the requirements associated with the plan de relance autoroutier, Moody's expects the continued positive operating performance to increase cash flow generation and support capital expenditure.

The rating upgrade also reflects Moody's expectation that APRR's cash flows will continue to be further supported by a progressive decrease of the company's cost of debt, as a result of the ongoing refinancing and/or repayment of more expensive outstanding debt. In addition, the termination of a legacy swap at the level of APRR's holding company Eiffarie, in June 2018, will have a further material positive impact on interest costs for the overall group.

Moody's considers that the factors above are supportive of the continued deleveraging of the APRR group, thus resulting in a strengthening of key metrics for APRR on a consolidated basis, which includes debt at its holding company Eiffarie.

More generally, APRR's rating continues to reflect (1) the strong characteristics and competitive position of APRR's concession assets, comprising a 2,291 km operating network (excluding ADELAC); (2) the economic strength and diversification of its service area; and (3) the robust traffic profile, with a diversified user base and a long track record of operations under a reasonably well-established regulatory framework.

WHAT COULD CHANGE THE RATING UP/DOWN

APRR's rating could be upgraded if the group's credit metrics, including the additional debt at Eiffarie, were to improve such that the Funds From Operations (FFO)/debt ratio was to be positioned in the mid-teens in percentage terms on a sustainable basis.

The rating could come under negative pressure if the group was unable to demonstrate a minimum consolidated ratio of FFO/debt at least in the low double digit in percentage terms.

The principal methodology used in these ratings was Privately Managed Toll Roads published in October 2017. Please see the Rating Methodologies page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

APRR is one of the main motorway concession companies in France. The company manages 2,303 km of tolled motorways (of which 12 km under construction) under two concession agreements signed with the French state by APRR and its subsidiary AREA: (1) the APRR concession for 1,895 km expiring in November 2035 (including 11 km related to the tunnel Maurice Lemaire, whose concession was merged into the APRR concession in January 2016); and (2) the AREA concession for 408 km, expiring in September 2036.

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 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.

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

Items color coded in purple in this Press Release relate to unsolicited ratings for a rated entity which is non-participating.

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.

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

Andrew Blease
Associate Managing Director
Infrastructure Finance Group
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
Client Service: 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
Client Service: 44 20 7772 5454

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