TEXT-Fitch rates Power Grid's USD500m notes final 'BBB-'

Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:45am EST

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(The following statement was released by the rating agency)

Jan 14 - Fitch Ratings has assigned India-based Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd's (PGCIL, 'BBB-'/Negative) USD500m 3.875% notes due 2023 a final rating of 'BBB-'.

The assignment of the final rating follows a review of the final documentation materially conforming to the draft documentation previously received.

PGCIL is rated a notch below its standalone credit profile of 'BBB', due to constraint by the 'BBB-' Issuer Default Rating of its 69.4% owner, the state of India, which is on Negative Outlook. The Indian government exercises control over management and appoints the board. Fitch assesses the legal linkages between the two entities as moderate as the Indian government guarantees only 20%-30% of PGCIL's total debt.

PGCIL is strategically important to the Indian government given its dominant position in India's electricity transmission sector. The company accounts for more than 90% of India's inter-state and inter-regional transmission systems and over 50% of the electricity transmitted in India. The company benefits from a stable and transparent regulatory system. The regulator, the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission, is consultative in its draft regulations. The well-established tariff mechanism provides cash flow predictability by allowing for a return on equity and has cost pass-through measures.

Tariffs are linked to PGCIL's transmission network availability and are not dependent on the actual power transmitted. In the financial year ended March 2012, PGCIL's system availability was 99.94% against the regulatory benchmark of 98%. Despite the grid failure in the Northern, Eastern, and North Eastern Grids in July 2012, the availability for H1 FY13 was 99.92%.

The ratings are constrained by the weak profile of counterparties, mostly state electricity boards (SEBs) distribution companies, and PGCIL's high levels of debt as a proportion of net fixed assets. However, PGCIL has managed to maintain receivables at healthy levels. Distribution companies prioritise payments to PGCIL due to the company's dominance in India's electricity transmission sector, and also because transmission cost payments are small compared with SEBs' payments to generation companies.

The company has a high capital expenditure plan of around INR1,000bn over the next five years. This will be largely debt-funded, and hence debt as a share of net fixed assets is likely to increase above 70% from the 67% at FYE12. As a result PGCIL's credit metrics are not expected to improve materially over the short- to medium-term. Its leverage, as measured by adjusted debt net of cash to fund flow from operations, was around 6x at FYE12.

PGCIL has substantial secured debt. Currently, around 95% of the total debt is secured against its tangible assets. As such, Fitch has rated its senior secured debt at 'BBB-', one notch below its unconstrained rating of 'BBB'.

WHAT COULD TRIGGER A RATING ACTION?

Negative: Future developments that may, individually or collectively, lead to a negative rating action include:

- A downgrade of India's ratings

- FFO net leverage rising above 6x, and the fixed charge cover falling below 2.5x (FY12: 2.9x), both on a sustained basis, leading to a downgrade of the standalone rating

Positive: Future developments that may, individually or collectively, lead to a positive rating action include:

-An upgrade in India's rating to 'BBB'. This would result in an upgrade in the IDR, though the senior unsecured rating would remain unchanged

- FFO net adjusted leverage falling below 5x, and FFO fixed charge cover rising over 3.5x on a sustained basis, leading to an upgrade in the standalone rating.

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