DBRS Morningstar Confirms Lower Mattagami Energy Limited Partnership at A (high) and R-1 (low), Stable TrendsProject Finance
DBRS Limited (DBRS Morningstar) confirmed Lower Mattagami Energy Limited Partnership’s (the Issuer or LMELP) Issuer Rating and Senior Secured Bonds (the Bonds) rating at A (high) and its Commercial Paper rating at R-1 (low). All trends remain Stable. The rating confirmations reflect the Issuer’s continuing robust performance in F2020. The Stable trends reflect DBRS Morningstar’s expectation for credit metrics to remain stable over the next 12 months under a cost-of-service (COS)-style contract. DBRS Morningstar believes that the ongoing Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic has so far had no material impact on the Issuer.
LMELP and Lower Mattagami Limited Partnership are single-purpose limited partnerships established by Ontario Power Generation Inc. (OPG; rated A (low) with a Stable trend by DBRS Morningstar) for redeveloping and operating four hydroelectric generating facilities totalling 924 megawatts on the Lower Mattagami River (the Project). Energy generated from the Project is sold under a 50-year Hydroelectric Energy Supply Agreement (HESA) to the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO; rated A (high) with a Stable trend by DBRS Morningstar) until 2064.
For F2020 ended December 31, 2020, the debt service coverage ratio (based on deemed principal amortization) of 2.12 times (x) was higher than the forecast 1.98x, driven by stable revenue and lower-than-expected operating and interest expenses. The debt-to-capital ratio of 59% as at December 31, 2020, was also lower than the targeted 65%. The seven-tranche bullet Bonds of $1,595 million in total are well staggered to mature between 2021 and 2052, subject to refinancing. On May 14, 2021, the $225 million tranche was successfully refinanced with a new 10-year tranche of $375 million due in 2031. The increased amount was used to partially finance the capital cost of the Little Long Dam Safety Project, which was approved by the IESO with incremental future revenue under the HESA. Despite the higher refinanced debt amount, the overall debt-to-capital ratio is still well below 65%.
DBRS Morningstar considers two types of refinancing risk in the transaction structure. If the term of the refinanced debt is still well within the initial HESA term, such refinancing risk is considered low because of the remaining contractual cash flow. There is also a $400 million Commercial Paper program, fully backstopped by credit facilities of the same amount, to provide further liquidity support in an event of market disruption. If the term of the refinanced debt extends beyond the initial HESA term, the credit quality of such debt would likely be negatively affected by potential merchant exposure. It is currently estimated that approximately one-third of the original Bonds will remain outstanding in 2064 when the HESA expires. For the time being, DBRS Morningstar is unable to qualify the hypothetical refinancing uncertainty because of many factors that could affect the refinancing by 2064. This type of refinancing risk, however, is partially mitigated by the 10-year HESA extension option.
The ratings are underpinned by (1) the COS-style HESA, which eliminates hydrology, electricity prices, and the majority of operating cost and capital expenditure risks; (2) the reliable and low-cost nature of the underlying hydro assets; and (3) OPG’s experience as the operator and primary sponsor. The Issuer Rating is on par with offtaker IESO’s rating because DBRS Morningstar considers the residual risk between the offtaker and the Issuer to be negligible. DBRS Morningstar expects the current ratings to remain stable for the next 12 months; however, a negative rating action on IESO, or a sustained and material deterioration of key operating or credit metrics, could trigger negative rating actions.
A description of how DBRS Morningstar considers ESG factors within the DBRS Morningstar analytical framework can be found in the DBRS Morningstar Criteria: Approach to Environmental, Social, and Governance Risk Factors in Credit Ratings at https://www.dbrsmorningstar.com/research/373262.
All figures are in Canadian dollars unless otherwise noted.
The principal methodologies are Rating Project Finance (September 1, 2020; https://www.dbrsmorningstar.com/research/366229), DBRS Morningstar Criteria: Commercial Paper Liquidity Support for Nonbank Issuers (March 9, 2021; https://www.dbrsmorningstar.com/research/375001), and DBRS Morningstar Criteria: Guarantees and Other Forms of Support (May 31, 2021; https://www.dbrsmorningstar.com/research/379424), which can be found on dbrsmorningstar.com under Methodologies & Criteria. Other applicable methodologies include the DBRS Morningstar Criteria: Approach to Environmental, Social, and Governance Risk Factors in Credit Ratings (February 3, 2021; https://www.dbrsmorningstar.com/research/373262).
For more information regarding rating methodologies and Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), please see the following DBRS Morningstar press release: https://www.dbrsmorningstar.com/research/357883.
The related regulatory disclosures pursuant to the National Instrument 25-101 Designated Rating Organizations are hereby incorporated by reference and can be found by clicking on the link under Related Documents or by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The rated entity or its related entities did participate in the rating process for this rating action. DBRS Morningstar had access to the accounts and other relevant internal documents of the rated entity or its related entities in connection with this rating action.
Generally, the conditions that lead to the assignment of a Negative or Positive trend are resolved within a 12-month period. DBRS Morningstar trends and ratings are under regular surveillance.
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- Rating Project Finance (Archived) / September 1, 2020
- DBRS Morningstar Criteria: Guarantees and Other Forms of Support (Archived) / May 31, 2021
- DBRS Morningstar Criteria: Commercial Paper Liquidity Support for Nonbank Issuers (Archived) / March 9, 2021
- DBRS Morningstar Criteria: Approach to Environmental, Social, and Governance Risk Factors in Credit Ratings (Archived) / February 3, 2021