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Nevada PUC reopens solar net metering; Peabody files reorganization plan

Flying Into The Danger Zone; Norwegian Air Shuttle

Banking

Street Talk Episode 39 - A New Era For Blockbuster Bank M&A

Advertising Market Growth Unable To Keep Up With Strong GDP

Street Talk Episode 38 - PG&E Bankruptcy Reveals Climate Change Risk Facing Calif. Utilities


Nevada PUC reopens solar net metering; Peabody files reorganization plan

Top News

Nev. PUC reopens solar net metering in northern Nevada

Nevada utility regulators took an unusual step toward reversing their prior decision-making on net energy metering, or NEM, of rooftop solar customers by reopening NEM to customers in Sierra Pacific Power Co.'s service territory. The Public Utilities Commission on Dec. 22 ordered the reopening starting Jan. 1, 2017, of 6 MW of installed capacity for rooftop solar systems under prior net energy metering terms and rates for customers of the NV Energy Inc. subsidiary in northern Nevada who wish to install new solar systems.

Destruction of house haunts Energy Transfer's huge Rover gas project

The Energy Transfer Partners LP's Rover pipeline project faces a possible delay in its permitting and construction schedule after the developer knocked down a house of potential historic significance near the proposed route. Despite the complication, Energy Transfer anticipated FERC would issue a certificate order shortly, according to spokeswoman Vicki Granado. Height Securities analyst Katie Bays said a quick approval might not happen.

Top 10 coal events of 2016

The past year has been a turbulent one for coal. Some large mines showed the lowest production levels in years, while the federal election and a turnaround in metallurgical coal prices injected new hope into the ailing industry. S&P Global Market Intelligence has compiled a list of what we think are the top 10 most significant news events of 2016, in no particular order.

Peabody lays out plan to emerge from bankruptcy early Q2'17

Peabody Energy Corp. moved one step closer to emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy after the company filed a plan of reorganization and disclosure statement with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on Dec. 22. The proposed plan provides for a new capital structure that will significantly reduce the company's pre-filing debt levels by more than $5 billion.

Power

* Massachusetts' Attorney General wants regulators to investigate and explain why ratepayers in the state are paying more for energy than the rest of New England even as utility companies' allowed profits continue to rise. State Attorney General Maura Healey in a Dec. 19 letter called on the Department of Public Utilities, or DPU, to launch a "comprehensive and public review of utilities' allowed profits and to bring more clarity and openness to the rate-setting process.

* Portland General Electric Co. is seeking to amend the site certificate of its Carty Generating Station in Morrow County, Ore., to increase the total nominal capacity of the facility to 1,360 MW from from 900 MW. The company's plan calls for increasing the nominal capacity of an approved but yet-to-be constructed Catry unit 2 to 530 MW from 450 MW, adding a 330-MW natural gas-fired unit and a 50-MW photovoltaic solar unit, according to a notice published by the Oregon Department of Energy.

* The Kansas Corporation Commission has approved the proposed $2.4 billion merger of Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. and Empire District Electric Co. With the receipt of the final required regulatory approval, the companies expect to close the deal Jan. 1, 2017.

* TransAlta Corp. has agreed to terminate its 122-MW Mississauga cogeneration facility's existing contract with the Ontario Electricity Financial Corp. on Dec. 31, 2016, and replace it with a new nonutility generator enhanced dispatch contract with the Ontario Independent Electricity System Operator on Jan. 1, 2017. The new contract provides TransAlta fixed monthly payments until Dec. 31, 2018, with no delivery obligations.

* In its annual review of demand response and advanced metering, FERC staff noted a slight uptick in the the contribution of demand response programs in meeting peak demand in the organized wholesale energy markets, thanks in part to strides made in the PJM Interconnection LLC, New York ISO and ISO New England Inc.

* SolarCity Corp. secured a nonrecourse cash equity financing of $241 million to fund 26,000 home residential systems and 19 commercial and industrial solar projects in 16 states, according to a news release. Franklin Park Investments-managed Sammons Renewable Energy led the equity portion of the transaction.

* Ontario will keep its moratorium on offshore wind development until "all the potential impacts are fully understood," The Toronto Star reported, citing a statement from Environment and Climate Change Minister Glen Murray.

* Separately, Windstream Energy Inc. won C$25 million in damages against the Ontario government under the North American Free Trade Agreement. The company had sought up to C$568 million in damages against the government for canceling its planned offshore wind farm in Lake Ontario.

* Southern Power Co. has acquired the 174-MW Salt Fork and 126-MW Tyler Bluff wind facilities in Texas from EDF Renewable Energy for an undisclosed sum. The addition of these facilities grows the Southern Co. subsidiary's wholesale renewable portfolio to more than 3,000 MW, according to a company statement.

* Expenditures for the Site C dam and generator project totaled C$1.3 billion as of Sept. 30, according to BC Hydro and Power Authority's first annual progress report on Site C construction. The report, filed with the British Columbia Utilities Commission, indicated that the proposed 1,098-MW project is on track for both schedule and budget. Site C is forecast to cost C$8.34 billion when it is completed in 2024.

Natural gas/midstream

* The developer of the Plaquemines LNG export terminal will invest $8.5 billion in the Louisiana project, which is expected to send an official application to FERC after the new year. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and Venture Global LNG executives announced the price tag in a Dec. 21 statement that lauded the project's creation of 250 direct jobs.

* The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will hold a lease sale of more than 48 million acres offshore Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi for oil and gas exploration and development. The agency will livestream the lease sale on March 22, 2017, according to a news release.

* Separately, BOEM released its final environmental impact statement, which analyzed the potential effects of oil and gas development in federal submerged lands of Cook Inlet, off Alaska's southcentral coast, according to a news release.

* For the expanding roster of companies vying to export LNG from North America, 2017 will be a year of watching domestic policy and demand shifts overseas to see whether and when the glutted market will have room for the volumes of U.S. and Canadian LNG proposed by developers.

Coal

* Total U.S. coal rail traffic for the week ended Dec. 17 increased by 2.5% year over year to 87,219 carloads, according to data from the Association of American Railroads. Meanwhile, year-to-date coal rail traffic is down 21% through the week.

* Alpha Natural Resources Inc. applied for a waste discharge permit at a preparation plant in Wyoming County, W.Va. The permit would allow for the discharge of dredged and/or fill material into 7,625 linear feet of streams and 0.344 acres of emergent wetland on tributaries of the Right Fork of Big Branch.

Commodities

* Next-day power markets were varied around the country Thursday, Dec. 22, as traders looked to mostly softer load outlooks for the end of the week and the upcoming Christmas holiday. Traders also looked to natural gas for price direction at the power markets Thursday. Surging almost 28 cents in the prior session following a string of losses, front-month January 2017 gas futures settled Thursday at $3.538/MMBtu, down just 0.4 cent following a volatile day of trade after the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a larger-than-expected 209-Bcf pull from storage for the week ended Dec. 16.

* After ending the prior session down a scant 0.4 cent at $3.538/MMBtu, January 2017 natural gas futures showed an upside bias overnight ahead of the Friday, Dec. 23, open, as traders considered the recent storage data that outlined an impressive pull from stocks alongside revisions to weather forecasts that called for seasonable conditions across key heating regions.

* Price action for power dailies could be choppy in the week's closing session Friday, Dec. 23, as fluctuating demand forecasts through and coming off the Christmas Day holiday combine with the recent volatility in natural gas. Deals may be covered in a variety of revised packages Friday since the markets will be closed Dec. 26 for the Christmas holiday.

SNL Image

New from RRA

* On Dec. 22, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, by a split vote, approved a default service plan, known as DSP VIII, for Duquesne Light Co. that covers the period June 1, 2017, through May 31, 2021.

* With the closing of the Pepco Holdings LLC acquisition, the Exelon Corp. shares are among the top performers of the RRA utility group thus far in 2016; year-to-date, the shares are up 27% versus a rise of 17% by the RRA companies.

Quoted

"Massachusetts customers should not be paying millions more towards utility profits than customers in neighboring states," Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in calling for state regulators to investigate utilities' allowed rate of return on common equity. "As the ratepayer advocate for the state, we must ensure best practices and a transparent process that is understandable to the public."

The day ahead

* Early morning futures indicators pointed to a lower opening for the U.S. equity markets. To view more SNL equity market indexes, click here. To view more SNL Energy commodities prices, click here.

The Daily Dose is updated as of 7:30 a.m. ET. Some links may require registration or a subscription.


Credit Analysis
Flying Into The Danger Zone; Norwegian Air Shuttle

Highlights

This analysis was published by S&P Global Market Intelligence and not by S&P Global Ratings, which is a separately managed division of S&P Global. This is not investment advice or a stock suggestion.

Feb. 13 2019 — The headwinds are picking up for Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA (“Norwegian”), the eighth largest airline in Europe. The carrier has been battling with rising fuels costs, increased competition from legacy carriers, and persistent aircraft operational issues. Norwegian’s problems are a continuation of what have been turbulent months for budget airlines in Europe resulting in a collapse of Primera Air, based in Denmark, near-default of WOW air, Iceland’s budget carrier, and most recently bankruptcy of Germania.

When we pull back the curtain and review the creditworthiness of European airlines to explore further some of the causes for Norwegian’s turbulent period, we see Norwegian’s business strategy and financial structure have made the carrier highly exposed. Coupled with the traditionally slow winter season, the airline may have to navigate through the storm clouds forming on the horizon.

A View From Above

S&P Global Market Intelligence has developed CreditModelTM Corporates 2.6 (CM2.6), a statistical model trained on credit ratings from our sister division, S&P Global Ratings. The model combines multiple financial ratios to generate a quantitative credit score and offers an automated solution to efficiently assess the credit risk of both public and private companies globally.1 Within CreditModel, the airline industry is treated as a separate global sub-model to better encompass the unique characteristics of this industry.

Figure 1 shows the overview of S&P Global Market Intelligence credit scores obtained using CreditModel for European airlines. Norwegian’s weak position translate into the weakest credit score among its competitors. The implied ‘ccc+’ credit score suggests that Norwegian is vulnerable to adverse business, financial, or economic conditions, and its financial commitments appear to be unsustainable in the long term. In addition to Norwegian, Flybe and Croatian Airlines rank among the riskiest carriers in Europe and share a similar credit risk assessment. The airlines with the best credit scores are also Europe’s biggest airlines (Lufthansa, Ryanair, International Airlines Group (IAG), and easyJet). The exception among the top five European airlines is Air France-KLM, which is crippled by labour disputes and its inability to reshape operations and improve performance.

Figure 1: Credit Risk Radar of European Airspace
Overview of credit scores for European airlines

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence. For illustrative purposes only.
Note: IAG operates under the British Airways, Iberia, Vueling, LEVEL, IAG Cargo, Avios, and Aer Lingus brands. (January 3, 2019)

S&P Global Market Intelligence’s sister division, S&P Global Ratings, issued an industry outlook for airlines in 2019 noting that the industry is poised for stability.2 It stated the global air traffic remains strong and is growing above its average rate at more than 6% annually. The report also cited rising interest rates dampening market liquidity while increasing the cost of debt refinancing and aircraft leases. Oil prices are expected to settle, and any further gradual increases in oil prices are expected to be compensated by rising airfares and fees. The most significant risks for airlines are geopolitical. Potential downside scenarios include a crisis in the Middle East or other disruptions in oil, causing oil prices to spike. The possibility of trade wars and uncertainty surrounding the Brexit withdrawal agreement represent additional sources of potential disruption or weakening in travel demand.

Flying into the danger zone

Although Norwegian has so far dismissed any notion of financial distress as speculation, it has simultaneously implemented a series of changes to prevent further turbulence.3 The airline announced a $230mm cost-saving program that included discontinuing selected routes, refinancing new aircraft deliveries, divesting a portion of the existing fleet, and offering promotional fares to passengers to shore up liquidity.

In Figure 2, we rank Norwegian’s financial ratios within the global airline industry and benchmark them against a selected set of competitor European budget carriers (Ryanair, easyJet, and Wizz Air). Through this chart, we can conclude that Norwegian’s underlying problems are persistent and the company’s financial results are weak. Norwegian’s business model of rapid growth and a debt-heavy capital structure have resulted in severe stress for its financials. Norwegian ranks among the bottom 10% of the worst airlines in the industry on debt coverage ratios, margins, and profitability. This is in sharp contrast to other European budget carriers, which are often ranked among the best in the industry. On the flip side, Norwegian’s high level of owned assets represents its strong suit and gives the carrier some flexibility to adjust its operations and improve performance in the future.

Figure 2: Flying at Low Altitude
Norwegian’s financial ratios are among the worst in the industry

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence. For illustrative purposes only. (January 3, 2019)
Note: Presented financial ratios are used in CreditModelTM Corporates 2.6 (Airlines) to generate quantitative credit score in Figure 1.

Faster, Higher, Farther

Norwegian has undergone a rapid expansion in recent years, introducing new routes and flying over longer distances. Between 2008 and 2018, the carrier quadrupled its fleet from 40 to 164 planes.4 This enabled it to fly more passengers and become the third largest budget airline in Europe, behind Ryanair and easyJet. However, unlike its low-cost rivals, Norwegian ventured into budget long-haul flights. After establishing its new base at London Gatwick, it started operating services to the U.S., South-East Asia, and South America.

As a result of this expansion, Norwegian’s capacity as measured by available seat kilometres (ASK) and traffic as measured by revenue passenger kilometres (RPK) grew nine-fold between 2008 and 2018, as depicted in Figure 3. By offering deeply discounted fares, the carrier was able to attract more passengers and significantly grow its revenues, which were expected to reach $5bn in 2018. However, to be able to support this rapid growth, Norwegian accumulated a significant amount of debt and highly increased its financial leverage. This rising debt is putting Norwegian under pressure to secure enough liquidity to repay maturing debt obligations.

Figure 3: Shooting for the Stars
Norwegian’s rapid growth propelled by debt

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence. All figures are converted into U.S. dollars using historic exchange rates. Figures for 2018 are estimated based on annualized YTD 2018 figures. For illustrative purposes only. (January 3, 2019)

Norwegian’s strategy to outpace growing debt obligations by driving revenue growth is coming under pressure. The data tells us that expansion to the long-haul market and the undercutting of competitors to gain market share proved to be costly and negatively impacted Norwegian’s bottom line. Operational performance, measured as unit revenue (passenger revenue per ASK) and yield (passenger revenue per RPK), have been slipping continuously since 2008, as depicted in Figure 4. Negative free operating cash flow required Norwegian to continuously find new sources of capital to finance its operations, and profitability suffered. The carrier was able to ride a tailwind of low oil prices and cheap financing for a while, however, the winds seem to be turning.

Figure 4: Gravitational Pull
Slipping operational and financial performance

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence, Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA: “Annual Report 2017”, Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA: “Interim report - Third quarter 2018”. Figures for 2018 are estimated based on annualized YTD 2018 figures. For illustrative purposes only. (January 3, 2019)

Norwegian’s plan to outrun a looming mountain of debt obligations is resulting in a turbulent flight. While growing its top line, the carrier has been unable to convert increased capacity and traffic into consistent profit. With a stable industry outlook and cost-cutting measures in place, Norwegian lives to fly another day. However, any additional operational issues or adverse macroeconomic developments could send Norwegian deep into the danger zone.

Learn more about S&P Global Market Intelligence’s Credit Analytics models.
Learn more about S&P Global Market Intelligence’s RatingsDirect®.

S&P Global Market Intelligence leverages leading experience in developing credit risk models to achieve a high level of accuracy and robust out-of-sample model performance. The integration of Credit Analytics’ models into the S&P Capital IQ platform enables users to access a global pre-scored database with more than 45,000 public companies and almost 700,000 private companies, obtain credit scores for single or multiple companies, and perform scenario analysis.

S&P Global Market Intelligence’s RatingsDirect® product is the official desktop source for S&P Global Ratings’ credit ratings and research. S&P Global Ratings’ research cited in this blog is available on RatingsDirect®.

1 S&P Global Ratings does not contribute to or participate in the creation of credit scores generated by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Lowercase nomenclature is used to differentiate S&P Global Market Intelligence PD credit model scores from the credit ratings issued by S&P Global Ratings.
2 S&P Global Ratings: “Industry Top Trends 2019: Transportation”, November 14, 2018. https://www.capitaliq.com/CIQDotNet/CreditResearch/viewPDF.aspx?pdfId=36541&from=Research.
3 Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA, “Update from Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA”, press release, December 24, 2018 (accessed January 3, 2019), https://media.uk.norwegian.com/pressreleases/update-from-norwegian-air-shuttle-asa-2817995.
4 Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA: “Investor Presentation Norwegian Air Shuttle”, September 2018.

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Tesla Contemplates Going Private; But Who Is Going to Power Its Batteries

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Sears Strikes Out What Is In Store For Other Retailers In The US

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Listen: Street Talk Episode 39 - A New Era For Blockbuster Bank M&A

Feb. 08 2019 — The days of large bank buyers pursuing deals to plant a flag in a new market might be gone with acquirers now seeing deals as a way to support investments in technology. BB&T touted that prospect when discussing its landmark merger of equals with SunTrust. In the episode, we spoke with S&P Global Market Intelligence colleagues Zach Fox and Joe Mantone about the drivers of BB&T/SunTrust merger, how much i-banks advising on the deal stand to earn and the prospect of other similarly sized transactions emerging in the future.

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No content (including ratings, credit-related analyses and data, valuations, model, software or other application or output therefrom) or any part thereof (Content) may be modified, reverse engineered, reproduced or distributed in any form by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC or its affiliates (collectively, S&P).


Technology, Media & Telecom
Advertising Market Growth Unable To Keep Up With Strong GDP

Feb. 07 2019 — Cable and broadcast are losing their dominance in the viewing world. As more eyeballs migrate to online and mobile viewing, major media companies are struggling to adopt a common measurement system. Their goal is to track and consolidate the leaked viewers who have been switching first from analog, with a full ad load, to DVR, which lets them skip ads, and now to digital with limited or no advertising.

Click here for advertising market projections in Excel format.

The business models of the online services differ, with the majority of viewers still watching ads, albeit in much smaller pods. Others have voted with their wallets, paying a premium to view content on Hulu and other platforms without any advertising at all. Hulu with ads is only $5.99, while the subscription without ads is twice the price at $11.99. Clearly, viewers are willing to pay a premium for the privilege of not having to watch ads.

Although the broadcast networks have been somewhat flat for some time, the cable network industry has only recently had to cope with the reality that its heyday is over. After decades of showing strong single- or double-digit growth, cable networks have seen growth slow over the past five years to a range of just 3% to negative 1%.

A number of issues have been impacting cable networks, most notably cord cutting and cord shaving, with companies that are big in the children's market suffering disproportionately. Viacom Inc. was the first to show significant weakness: Gross ad revenue at its behemoth Nickelodeon peaked at nearly $1.3 billion in 2010 and 2011, then dropped to $1.10 billion in 2012. Nickelodeon's average 24-hour rating slipped from 1.44 in 2011 to 1.13 in 2012.

The company recovered slightly to a 1.2 rating in 2013 but has struggled significantly since then, with its overall rating at just 0.74 in 2017.

Parent company Viacom posted zero to negative ad revenue growth from the second quarter of 2014 all the way through the third quarter of 2018, an unprecedented negative run.

By contrast, the other cable network owners posted mixed results, but none have been as consistently negative as Viacom. The timing of big sporting events, especially the Olympics, contributes to much of the volatility at the various networks.

Broadcast and cable combined, including both local and national spots, increased ad revenue market share from 24% in 1988 to 32% in 2018. This was a strong showing given that cable alone rose from a less than 2% share in 1988 to almost 15% in 2018.

Overall, the ad market has continued to grow, mostly due to the popularity of digital spots. However, growth in the U.S. advertising market has been unable to maintain its historical trend of growing in lockstep with the gross domestic product, equating to approximately 2% of GDP.

Its share of GDP was generally in that range until the Great Recession, which pushed that metric from 1.8% in 2007 to 1.6% in 2008 and to 1.4% in 2009. In 2017, we estimate this fell as low as 1.2% with no sign that it can recover to the 2.0% range.

Although the growth of digital has been positive for the ad industry, there have been many less encouraging stories, particularly related to print, which shrank from 67.4% of the market in 1988 to just 41.1% in 2018.

Even after this dramatic shift over several decades left print with a much smaller base, all forms of print continue to struggle. Although the numbers below for the print sector do not include their digital operations, few companies have been able to offset the decline in traditional media with online initiatives.

Much of their revenue has been devoured by the usual internet giants such as Alphabet Inc.'s Google LLC and Facebook Inc. Even companies with disruptive business models targeting the younger generation, such as VICE Media LLC, have struggled.

We do not expect this to change much in our five-year outlook, although digital is certainly entering a mature phase. In 2023, we expect satellite radio to be growing the fastest, albeit from a much smaller base, and digital — although still in the No. 2 spot — is expected to grow at only 4.1% per year, down significantly from the 10.9% growth rate we expect for 2019.

Print is expected to continue to struggle, with Yellow Pages hit the hardest, declining at more than 16% per year. We do not expect most of these paper directories to survive over the long term, with the exception of those with very narrow niche audiences, such as small directories delivered to hotels in resort towns.

Digital has had remarkable progress, with a CAGR of 16.8% from $22.65 billion in 2009 to $91.89 billion in 2018. In sharp contrast, direct mail, the largest ad category in 2009, shrank from $44.50 billion in 2009 to $37.50 billion in 2018. The CAGR of decline has been modest at negative 1.9%.

Direct mail is now in third place with market share of 14.7% in 2018 versus 22.3% in 2009, behind digital at 35.9% and cable TV at 14.8%. The biggest slides occurred in Yellow Pages, which have fallen at a CAGR of negative 19.7% from a 5.5% share in 2009 to less than 1% in 2018; and daily newspapers, which contracted at a negative 11.8% CAGR from 12.4% in 2009 to 4.0% in 2018.

For a lengthy analysis which also includes an analysis of performance of the local ad market versus national, refer to the Economics of Advertising, or Click here.

Economics of Advertising is a regular feature from Kagan, a group within S&P Global Market Intelligence's TMT offering, providing exclusive research and commentary.

This article was published by S&P Global Market Intelligence and not by S&P Global Ratings, which is a separately managed division of S&P Global.

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Listen: Street Talk Episode 38 - PG&E Bankruptcy Reveals Climate Change Risk Facing Calif. Utilities

Feb. 06 2019 — The PG&E Corp. bankruptcy shows that financial backers of California utilities need to consider the risks associated with climate change but that exposure might be unique to entities operating in the state. In the episode, Regulatory Research Associates analysts Dan Lowrey and Dennis Sperduto discuss the next steps in PG&E's bankruptcy process, the future of its power purchase agreements and the risks that climate change can bring to backing utilities.

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No content (including ratings, credit-related analyses and data, valuations, model, software or other application or output therefrom) or any part thereof (Content) may be modified, reverse engineered, reproduced or distributed in any form by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC or its affiliates (collectively, S&P).