Dec 17 - Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said today that Energy Transfer Equity L.P.'s (ETE; BB/Stable/--) and Energy Transfer Partners L.P.'s (ETP; BBB-/Stable/--) announcement that it has entered into an agreement with The Laclede Group Inc. (A/Stable/--) to sell natural gas utility assets of Southern Union Co. (SUG; BBB-/Stable/--), will not affect ETE's, ETP's and SUG's ratings. The ratings are not affected because we factored the sale of these assets to reduce consolidated leverage into our analysis in late March 2012 when ETE closed its purchase of SUG and when ETP completed the formation of a new ETP-controlled company that includes SUG and Sunoco Inc. (not rated ) on Oct. 5, 2012. The sale of SUG's gas utilities (about 10% of SUG's EBITDA), which include Missouri Gas Energy (MGE) and New England Gas Co. (NEG) divisions, is for about $1.035 billion, consisting of $1.015 billion in cash and $20 million of NEG debt. We expect ETE to deleverage its balance sheet, with stand-alone and consolidated debt to EBITDA of about 3.5x and the low 5x area, respectively, in 2013. We expect SUG to execute its organic growth strategy, mainly related to its gathering and processing business segment and maintain debt to EBITDA in the mid-4x area in 2013.
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