Uncertainty surrounding a long-term contract with bankrupt Calpine Corp. and a pending rate case leaves Kern River Gas Transmission Co. with a question about its future credit outlook, albeit with a current relatively high “A-” rating and the ultimate backing of its parent company, Berkshire Hathaway’s utility unit, MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., according to Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services. S&P Monday affirmed the “A-” rating on senior secured debt of Kern River’s funding arm, Kern River Funding Corp, Salt Lake City.
S&P added a “CreditWatch with negative implications” designation to the Kern River funding unit because of what it called concerns over “deteriorating credit” of some Kern River shippers, an ongoing rate case, and potential lower debt service coverage ratios at the interstate natural gas pipeline company in the West. The rating agency is concerned about Kern River’s ability to remarket capacity that could be turned back from Calpine Energy Services LP, which holds a 15-year firm transportation contract with Kern.
“We expect to resolve the Credit Watch listing when there is more certainty around the future” of the contract with bankrupt Calpine’s subsidiary, the ongoing rate case, and the question about Kern’s ability to re-sell turned back capacity at full-tariff rates.
Kern River Funding Corp.as of last June 30 had a total of about $1.13 billion of long-term senior notes outstanding, S&P said.
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