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TEXT - Fitch rates Cox Communications notes 'BBB+'
November 26, 2012 / 8:15 PM / 5 years ago

TEXT - Fitch rates Cox Communications notes 'BBB+'

Nov 26 - Fitch Ratings has assigned a 'BBB+' rating to Cox Communications,
Inc.'s (CCI) proposed issuance of 10- and 30-year senior unsecured notes. Fitch
currently has a 'BBB+' Issuer Default Rating (IDR) on CCI, as well as for its
parent Cox Enterprises Inc. (CEI). The Rating Outlook for both is Stable. A full
list of ratings can be found at the end of this release.

The proceeds of the issuance will be used to fund a $500 million dividend to 
CEI, as well as to redeem a portion of the $1.25 billion 5.45% unsecured notes 
maturing in December 2014.The notes will be issued under CCI's existing 
indenture (dated June 27, 1995) and will be pari passu with all existing CCI 
debt. Similar to existing notes, the new bonds will not have any financial 
covenants and no change of control repurchase requirements. Secured debt will be
limited to 15% of total debt.

The partial redemption of the 2014 notes will reduce the company's near-term 
maturity schedule. CCI also has a $600 million maturity due in June 2013, which 
the company will have the ability to repay with cash on hand and revolver 
borrowings. 

The $500 million dividend to CEI comes on the heels of a $900 million dividend 
CCI paid to CEI in August 2012. CEI used $450 million of this to reduce debt and
made a $450 million dividend to its shareholders (primarily the Cox family). 
Fitch believes the August shareholder dividend paid by CEI was driven by 
uncertainties around future tax policy, and believes that future dividends will 
revert back to historical levels (less than $100 million). The increase in debt 
from the announced $500 million dividend to CEI is more than offset by CCI's 
repayment of a $900 million maturity in October 2012, principally with cash on 
hand. As a result, CCI's pro forma leverage likely declined very slightly from 
the 2.3x reported at Sept. 30, 2012.

Fitch upgraded CCI and CEI one notch to 'BBB+' in July 2012, based on the 
improvement in credit protection metrics as a result of active debt reduction 
and EBITDA growth, as well as the company's decision to exit the wireless 
business. The ratings incorporate the expectation that CEI will maintain its 
2.5x maximum leverage threshold (based on its reported leverage). Fitch believes
that acquisitions will remain a part of the company's growth strategy as it 
seeks to grow and diversify its businesses. The ratings also incorporate 
expectations that any transactions that result in leverage above this metric 
will be followed by a period of focused deleveraging to return to below 2.5x. 
CEI reported leverage of 2.2x at Sept 30, 2012. 

Fitch's ratings reflect the size and strong competitive position of CCI, the 
company's largest business segment and the third-largest cable multiple system 
operator (MSO) in the U.S. CCI's operating profile derives its strength from its
formidable subscriber clustering profile in the company's nine primary markets 
located in 18 states, and growing revenue diversity as the result of the ongoing
success of its commercial business. In Fitch's opinion CEI's cable business, and
the cable industry overall, has proven to be resilient to persistent competitive
pressures and weak housing formation and employment markets.

Fitch links the IDRs of CCI and CEI in accordance with its criteria. While no 
cross defaults or cross guarantees exist between the entities, Fitch believes 
that CCI's probability of default would be understated (rated higher) if it did 
not consider CEI's businesses and weaker credit profile. At the same time, Fitch
believes it would overstate CEI's probability of default if the rating only 
incorporated the CEI businesses on a standalone basis and did not consider 
potential upstream cash flows CEI could access in distress.

The ratings recognize the company's solid financial flexibility, as well as the 
sound operating profile and competitive position of the cable business. The 
ratings are also supported by the company's demonstrated conservative financial 
policies and commitment to investment grade ratings. Fitch expects that CCI will
generate the majority of CEI's consolidated revenues and cash flow but notes 
that each of CEI'a segments is positioned to generate positive free cash flow 
over Fitch's ratings horizon. 

Within the cable business, ratings concerns are centered on the company's 
ability to adapt to changing competitive dynamics and maintain its relative 
market position given the challenging competitive environment. The competitive 
pressure associated with the service overlap among the different 
telecommunications service providers, while intense, is not expected to 
materially change during the ratings horizon. In addition, lackluster housing 
formation conditions and a weak employment environment will likely hinder the 
company's ability to grow its subscriber base given the maturity of CCI's 
services. The slower subscriber growth metrics together with ongoing programming
cost inflation may limit the company's ability to expand operating margins.

CCI's liquidity position at Sept. 30 was solid, with $944 million of cash on 
hand (much of which likely went to the Oct. 1 bond payment) and $2 billion 
available under the $2 billion revolver maturing July 2016. Either CEI or CCI 
may borrow up to $2 billion, provided that the aggregate amount outstanding 
under the facility cannot exceed $2 billion. CEI and CCI are each severally, but
not jointly, liable for their respective borrowing. Liquidity is further boosted
by CCI's stable and recurring free cash flow, which totaled 1.3 billion before 
dividends to CEI during the last 12-month period ended Sept. 30, 2012 ($24 
million cash burn when including dividends paid in December 2011 and August 
2012). Subject to certain conditions CEI has the ability to access the cash 
flows from CCI. CEI's credit agreement does not limit dividends from CCI as long
as leverage (calculated in accordance with covenants) is below 5.0x. In addition
to the previously discussed 2012 dividends, CCI paid dividends to the parent of 
$450 million in 2011, and $500 million in 2010 and 2009, which CEI used to repay
debt. 

WHAT COULD TRIGGER A RATING ACTION

Positive: Fitch does not anticipate further ratings upside. An upgrade would 
only come with a commitment to, and a credible rationale for, a substantially 
tighter leverage target, which is not expected.

Negative: Such rating actions would occur in tandem with a change in the 
company's capital structure policy or an event such as a debt-financed dividend 
or leveraging acquisition that would drive leverage towards 3.0x (as calculated 
by CEI) for a sustained period of time, with no credible plan to delever back to
2.5x over a 12-24-month timeframe.

Fitch rates CCI and CEI as follows:

Cox Enterprises, Inc. 

--IDR at 'BBB+';
--Senior unsecured debt at 'BBB+'.
--Short-term IDR at 'F2'; 
--Commercial paper at 'F2'.

Cox Communications, Inc. 
--IDR at 'BBB+';
--Senior unsecured debt at 'BBB+'.
--Short-term IDR at 'F2'; 
--Commercial paper at 'F2'.

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