DBRS Comments on Enbridge Energy Partners, L.P. Following FERC MLP Tax AnnouncementEnergy
DBRS Limited (DBRS) notes the impact of the announcement by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that it will no longer allow master limited partnership (MLP) interstate natural gas and oil pipelines to recover an income tax allowance in cost of service (COS) rates on the following ratings of Enbridge Energy Partners, L.P. (EEP):
-- Issuer Rating of BBB, Stable trend
-- Senior Unsecured Notes rating of BBB, Stable trend
-- Junior Subordinated Notes rating of BB (high), Stable trend
-- Commercial Paper rating of R-2 (middle), Stable trend
DBRS estimates that the potential financial impact of the FERC decision and U.S. Tax Reform noted below would likely reduce EEP’s financial risk profile (on a DBRS modified-consolidated basis) to the low end of the BBB range in the absence of corrective measures. However, DBRS’s current business risk assessment of EEP as well as Enbridge Inc.’s (ENB; rated BBB (high) with a Stable trend by DBRS) history of supporting EEP through various measures are both supportive of the current ratings.
As an MLP, EEP’s credit metrics would be negatively affected by the implementation of the FERC decision, as some of the rates applicable to its expansion projects are tolled annually on a COS basis via the Lakehead Facility Surcharge Mechanism (FSM). EEP has indicated that, should FERC’s new policy be announced with an assumed implementation date of March 31, 2018, the 2018 financial impact to EEP is expected to be an approximate $100 million reduction in revenues and a $60 million reduction to distributable cash flow (DCF), net of non-controlling interests. Consequently, EEP has adjusted its 2018 DCF guidance range to $650 million -- $700 million and 2018 total distribution coverage to approximately 1.0 times (x) from approximately 1.15x.
DBRS notes that the current 2018 Guidance adjustments follow previous 2018 Guidance adjustments announced on February 15, 2018 (concurrently with the Q4 2017 results announcement). In that case, as a result of U.S. Tax Reform, EEP adjusted its 2018 DCF guidance range to $720 million - $770 million from $775 million - $825 million and 2018 total distribution coverage to approximately 1.15x from approximately 1.2x.
On a combined basis, the impact of these 2018 Guidance adjustments would be to reduce mid-point 2018 DCF guidance by approximately 15.6%, eliminate the approximate 20% cushion on 2018 total distribution coverage (or, stated differently, to increase EEP’s payout ratio to 100% from 80%) and, in the absence of corrective measures, significantly weaken EEP’s key credit metrics. This would eliminate a significant portion of the remaining cushion currently embedded in EEP’s ratings. Please see DBRS’s rating report on EEP dated September 29, 2017, for further information.
All figures are in U.S. dollars unless otherwise noted.
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