Moody's changes outlook on Vivendi Environnement's ratings to stable from negative
Moody's Investors Service has today changed the outlook on the Baa1 long-term issuer and senior unsecured debt ratings of Vivendi Environnement S.A. (VE) to stable from negative.
London, April 28, 2003 -- Moody's Investors Service has today changed the outlook on the Baa1 long-term issuer and senior unsecured debt ratings of Vivendi Environnement S.A. (VE) to stable from negative.
Vivendi Environnement is in the process of changing its name to VEOLIA ENVIRONNEMENT.
The outlook change reflects Moody's assessment that VE's contingent exposures to the put and investment commitments associated with the Spanish company Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas (FCC) and Southern Water are no longer placing downward pressure on VE's credit profile at this rating category. This is due both to recent developments relating to those contingencies and to the positive trends in VE's underlying financial risk profile as discussed below.
With regard to the FCC put option, Moody's is assuming that it will not be exercised in the foreseeable future based upon recent public statements. Moody's had been concerned about the impact on VE, particularly from a liquidity perspective, of having to finance the exercise of the put. It is Moody's view now that the combination of the improving trend in VE's financial risk profile along with the low probability of that put being exercised has resulted in that contingent obligation having become more manageable than had appeared to be the case in the past.
With regard to the uncertainty pertaining to the form and nature of VE's ultimate financial participation in the acquisition of Southern Water in the UK, VE announced in February 2003 modified terms for its participation as a minority investor in Southern Water Investments (SWI). This modified agreement is resulting in VE's total investment exposure in SWI declining to EUR410 million (without any additional commitments) from the EUR600 million contingency anticipated last year. Moody's understands that this transaction will be closing by the end of April.
The stable outlook and current ratings also reflect the following factors:
(1) VE's relatively low to moderate business risk profile underpinned by the stable operating performance of its core businesses and the recurring nature of its contractually based cash flows;
(2) VE's progress over the past year in reducing its gross and adjusted net debt levels while improving the overall terms and quality of its financing arrangements and liquidity support;
(3) VE's focus on improving retained and free cash flow levels going forward by prioritising cash flow generative investments and constraining growth capital expenditures in order to manage its overall debt levels.
The current ratings and outlook are predicated on the expectation that VE will continue to manage its overall capital expenditures, investments and other commitments in order to at least maintain its existing Adjusted Net Debt levels and that VE will demonstrate the ability to generate net free cash flow after 2003. Moody's also assumes VE will report a ratio of Retained Cash Flow to Adjusted Net Debt in at least the mid-teens going forward. An increase in aggregate debt levels due either to significant increases in investments or to M&A activity could result in downward pressure on the ratings depending upon the quality of the cash flows generated by those investments. Continued improvements in VE's retained cash flow, net free cash flow trend and its leverage profile on a sustainable basis could lead to upward pressure on the ratings.
Vivendi Environnement S.A. (soon to be renamed VEOLIA ENVIRONNEMENT), headquartered in Paris, France, is the holding company of one of the world's largest integrated environmental and outsourcing services groups, with turnover of around EUR30 billion in 2002.