Russian police detain opposition leader Navalny at Moscow protest
MOSCOW, March 26 Russian police detained opposition leader Alexei Navalny in central Moscow on Sunday at a rally which Navalny had called to protest against corruption.
Dec 17 - Fitch has placed the ratings of the Laclede Group, Inc. (LG) on Rating Watch Negative following the announcement of a definitive agreement to acquire the assets of Missouri Gas Energy (MGE) and New England Gas Company (NEG) from Southern Union Company for approximately $1.035 billion. In addition, Fitch has affirmed the ratings of Laclede Gas Company (LGC) with a Stable Rating Outlook. A full list of ratings appears at the end of this release. The purchase price is comprised of $1.015 billion in cash and approximately $20 million of assumed first mortgage bonds at NEG. LG has obtained a $1.02 billion fully committed bridge loan facility, although Fitch expects that the permanent financing, to be completed in 2013, will be a balanced mix of debt and equity. The Negative Watch reflects the expectation for increased leverage at the parent which will pressure credit metrics at their current rating category. Post-merger, Fitch expects LG's EBITDA coverage to remain above 5.0x through 2015. Fitch does not factor in any cost synergies or concessions to obtain regulatory approvals, which could temporarily suppress earnings. Fitch estimates that the purchase price, based on a hypothetical 50% debt, 50% equity mix will significantly increase leverage. Debt-to-EBITDA acquisition financing is approximately 5.0x and Fitch estimates pro forma leverage will approximate 4.0x to 4.5x over the next few years. The resulting leverage is greater than prior forecasts. The post-acquisition corporate and debt structure will weigh on ultimate rating assignments. By acquiring assets, LG will establish corporate entities for MGE and NEG. Fitch expects the permanent debt to be issued from MGE and NEG as well as LG. MGE and NEG are regulated natural gas local distribution companies (LDCs) located in western Missouri and Massachusetts, respectively, that service approximately 500,000 and 50,000 customers. The acquisition effectively doubles LG's size by increasing its customer base to approximately 1.2 million and solidifies the company's position as the largest LDC in Missouri. For the LTM period ending Sept. 30, 2012, the acquired companies' combined EBITDA approximated $96 million and the acquisition price reflects a roughly 10.8x EBITDA multiple, slightly higher but in line with other acquisitions in the industry. Fitch expects customer concessions to be offered to obtain regulatory approvals, which may temporarily pressure EBITDA. The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals from the Missouri Public Service Commission (MPSC) and the Massachusetts Dept. of Public Utilities (MDPU) and, notably, does not require shareholder approval. Management anticipates the acquisition to close by the end of the third quarter of 2013. Fitch does not expect to resolve the Rating Watch until after financing plans are defined and/or regulatory approvals are obtained. Fitch factors in a regulatory approval process of 12 months or longer. LGC's ratings have been affirmed; Fitch does not believe the acquisitions will alter the company's financial profile. Fitch expects to resolve its Rating Watch after regulatory approvals are obtained. The corporate and debt structure, financing plan, and customer concessions will be important in determining post-acquisition ratings for LG. Should a rating downgrade occur, a one-notch downgrade is possible. LG is a utility holding company. Its primary subsidiary is LGC, the largest natural gas distribution company in Missouri, which serves approximately 628,000 customers in St. Louis and the surrounding metropolitan area. LG's largest unregulated subsidiary, Laclede Energy Resources, is engaged in the marketing of natural gas and related activities. Other smaller subsidiaries include Laclede Pipeline, a FERC-regulated transporter of liquid propane, a real estate development business, a natural gas compressor subsidiary, and other financial investments. Fitch places the following ratings on Rating Watch Negative: LG --Issuer Default Rating (IDR) 'A-'. Fitch affirms the following ratings with a Stable Outlook: LGC --IDR at 'A-'; --First mortgage bonds at 'A+'; --Short-term IDR at 'F1'; --Commercial paper at 'F1'. Additional information is available on www.fitchratings.com. The ratings above were solicited by, or on behalf of, the issuer, and therefore, Fitch has been compensated for the provision of the ratings. Applicable Criteria and Related Research: --'Corporate Rating Methodology' (Aug. 8, 2012); --'Rating North American Utilities, Power, Gas and Water Companies' (May 3, 2012); --'Short-Term Ratings Criteria for Non-Financial Corporates' (Aug. 9, 2012). Applicable Criteria and Related Research: Corporate Rating Methodology Rating North American Utilities, Power, Gas, and Water Companies Short-Term Ratings Criteria for Non-Financial Corporates
DUBAI, March 26 Here are some factors that may affect Middle East stock markets on Sunday. Reuters has not verified the press reports and does not vouch for their accuracy.