SANRAL 'not surprised' by Moody's downgrade

JANUARY 21, 2015

The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) on Tuesday said it is not surprised by the downgrade over the e-tolling system by credit rating agency, Moody’s Investors Service.

Sanral chief financial officer Inge Mulder said: “Sanral is solvent, although non-payment of tolls has had a negative impact on the debt levels on the toll portfolio.

“The non-toll portfolio, which covers 85% of the national road network, is healthy. Sanral was not surprised by Moody’s downgrade of its rating from stable to negative.”

Mulder said the ratings agency had warned at the time of the previous two ratings (July and November 2014) that any failure by Sanral to generate e-toll revenue leading to deteriorating cash flows and growing borrowing needs would lead to a downgrade.

“We were ahead of forecasted income at the time when the E-toll Advisory Panel was announced by the Gauteng Province.

“Since then, income has dipped appreciably and Moody’s itself makes a correlation between the increase in the non-payment of e-tolls and the decision by the Gauteng province to establish a panel to assess the socio-economic impact of e-tolls – something that could have sparked speculation among the general public that the e-toll project may be abandoned.

“We now await the outcome of the process led by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on e-tolling to provide policy clarity as well as the funding model for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP). With policy certainty, we can devise a plan to repay our debt, which should improve our rating,” Mulder said.

The road agency operates two portfolios - toll roads and non-toll roads. The non-toll portfolio consists of funds from the national fiscus, an amount of approximately R10 billion per annum.

The funds are used by Sanral to manage its non-toll network which accounts for 85% of the total national road network of 21 403 km. There are no funding challenges with the non-toll portfolio as it is business as usual.

The agency tolls are financed through the capital markets by issuing bonds and the ones operated by the concessionaires are financed through private sector capital on a Build, Operate and Transfer basis.

“The second portfolio accounts for 15% of the total road network, and constitutes of agency tolls (1 832 km) and those run by concessionaires (1 288 km).

“Importantly, there is no cross-subsidisation of funds between the toll portfolio and the non-toll portfolio,” said Mulder. -SAnews.gov.za