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Moody's revises outlook of Sempra, Oncor after merger settlement

Moody's on Dec. 20 revised the ratings outlook for Sempra Energy to negative from stable and Oncor Electric Delivery Co. LLC to positive from stable.

The revision was made after Sempra and Oncor reached a settlement agreement with the staff of the Public Utility Commission of Texas and other key stakeholders for Sempra's proposed acquisition of Energy Future Holdings Corp. and its 80% interest in Oncor.

Sempra on Dec. 14 announced that it had entered into a settlement agreement supporting the deal with PUCT regulatory staff, the Office of the Public Utility Counsel, the Steering Committee of Cities Served by Oncor and the Texas Industrial Energy Consumers group.

Sempra's negative outlook reflects its planned long-term debt issuance to help fund 35% of the $9.45 billion price tag for Oncor, Moody's said. "Sempra has taken a big step towards completing the acquisition of Oncor," Moody's Vice President and Senior Analyst Natividad Martel said. "This transaction is cash flow coverage dilutive to Sempra and key financial metrics will be lower for longer." Moody's also affirmed Sempra's Baa1 senior unsecured and issuer ratings.

Oncor's positive ratings outlook reflects the momentum to close the deal and Moody's expectation that the regulators will likely approve the settlement. Moody's also affirmed Oncor's A3 senior secured rating. "This transaction is credit positive for Oncor because it would remove the key constraint that has weighed down Oncor's rating, namely a highly levered, bankrupt parent," added Jairo Chung, Moody's assistant vice president.