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CreditSights upgrading Dominion, Sempra, Fortis bonds

CreditSights on Oct. 5 said it is upgrading the holding company bonds of Dominion Energy Inc. and Sempra Energy in the U.S., and Fortis Inc. in Canada, to "outperform" from "market perform."

"We are highly cognizant ... [of] the pressure facing utilities but are comfortable reaching for yield among utility bonds," CreditSights analysts wrote in an Oct. 5 report. The analysts pointed to the pressure from rising interest rates, federal tax reform and "continued headline risk from rooftop solar 'disruption.'"

"Despite the above concerns, we view credit quality as staying very strong in the sector and driven by continued regulator blessed [transmission and distribution] spending," analysts wrote.

As part of this view on the sector, CreditSights upgraded Dominion and Sempra bonds, while the firm is "still on the sidelines" when it comes to Southern Co. amid Alvin W. Vogtle Nuclear Plant expansion cost overruns.

"Sempra just successfully headed off a Moody's downgrade review by announcing a $1.5 billion asset sale while Dominion has followed through on all of its stated plans: buying in its MLP, plans to issue $3 billion of project debt at Cove Point for parent level debt reduction and selling power plants for $1.3 billion also for parent level debt reduction," analysts wrote.

CreditSights said it is upgrading Fortis holding company bonds "based on stronger credit metrics, lower holdco debt relative to total debt outstanding and less business risk at its non-utility operations than [Canadian peer] Emera Inc."