LIPA lands a positive outlook from S&P

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The Long Island Power Authority sports a positive outlook from S&P Global Ratings.

S&P revised its outlook on LIPA’s A-minus debt rating from stable last week ahead of a $350 million bond sale planned Nov. 30 to fund system improvements. The utility’s large-term term unsecuritized debt has declined sharply from $6.6 billion in late 2012 to $3.5 billion as of Dec. 31, 2016 following a series of bond refunding sales as part of a financial plan implemented by New York State.

“The outlook revision reflects the benefits of the basket of financial tools the New York State Department of Public Service has created for recovering changes in a wide range of variable costs from customers, including a decoupling mechanism that tempers the exposure of energy sales and revenue to energy efficiency programs, distributed generation and weather,” S&P analyst David N. Bodek said in a report Wednesday. “We believe these measures can limit the need for litigating base-rate increases and we view the mechanisms as potentially sustaining a sound alignment among revenues, expenses and debt service.”

Only two years ago LIPA had a negative outlook from S&P, which was revised to stable in late 2015. Moody’s Investors Service reaffirmed its A3 LIPA rating last week. In 2016 it upgraded the utility citing a three-year rate plan that called for modest increases. Fitch Ratings rates LIPA bonds A-minus.

LIPA’s recent $369 million debt refinancing deal sold through its conduit issuer, the Utility Debt Securitization Authority, netted the authority $45 million in present value savings. The transaction marked the fifth and final issue authorized under 2015 legislation signed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to restructure $4.5 billion of debt through the USDA. The USDA refinancing deals all received triple-A ratings.

The $350 million bond sale will fund in part LIPA’s $761 million capital budget for 2018, according to Moody’s. Cash from operations and grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide the remainder of capital funding. Some of the planned infrastructure improvements include installing 200 smart switches to minimize storm-related outages, replacing 60,000 feet of underground cable, upgrading four substations and rebuilding 320 miles of distribution circuits with stronger wires and poles.

LIPA officials have estimated that its overall debt will total around $7.9 billion at the end of 2017 compared to $7.73 billion a year ago. Its operations were taken over by PSEG Long Island in 2014 under terms of the LIPA Reform Act of 2013.

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Utilities Ratings Long Island Power Authority New York