PRAGUE, July 26 Czech gas pipeline operator
Net4Gas is in the final stages of overhauling its capital
structure with equity financing, bonds and bank loans, it said.
Investors Allianz and Borealis Infrastructure bought into
the pipeline company last year, paying German utility RWE
some 1.6 billion euros ($2.15 billion), and have taken
advantage of favourable debt markets to seek better terms for
the company's capital structure.
Net4Gas said the new debt plan, which has raised concerns at
the top energy regulator and among government officials, would
not lead instability at an important infrastructure company.
"The new capital structure is based on conservative and
prudent business assumptions and has been designed in a way to
maintain full financial strength for executing our planned
investments in the long-term development of the transmission
system," Net4Gas Chief Executive Andreas Rau said in a company
release late on Friday.
Under the new structure, Net4Gas will have 42.12 billion
crowns ($2.06 billion) of capital, of which 27.90 billion is
from new issues of 6.5-, 7- and 12-year bonds completed this
month along with a four-year, 8.25 billion crown bank credit.
Shareholders will provide the rest of the capital.
Net4Gas said the new structure would not have any impact on
customers' gas bills and that its gearing of two-thirds debt to
one-third equity was in line with other European operators.
The company also plans investments totalling 10 billion
crowns, it said, including a new pipeline with a large-scale
connection to Poland.
Still, the new capital plan has raised worries, and company
officials are due to meet with Industry Minister Jan Mladek.
The head of ERU energy regulator has expressed concerns that
any economic instability at the firm could threaten the state's
energy security, according to Czech media.
($1 = 20.4320 Czech Crowns) ($1 = 0.7447 Euros)
(Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Toby Chopra)