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27.06.2012 14:10

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Solveig Gas Norway A.S. -- Moody's assigns A3 rating to Solveig's USD650 million notes; outlook stable

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London, 27 June 2012 -- Moody's Investors Service has today assigned an A3 rating to the USD650 million 4.00% Guaranteed Secured Senior Notes due December 27, 2027 (the "Notes") to be issued by Solveig Gas Norway AS (Solveig). The outlook on the rating is stable.

RATINGS RATIONALE

Solveig owns a 24.12% stake in the unincorporated joint venture, Gassled, which owns the Norwegian sub-sea high pressure gas network and associated gas processing and export facilities. The network connects the Norway based gas producing platforms in the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea to export points in the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The network operations and upgrade activity is undertaken by Gassco (not rated), which is 100% owned by the Norwegian government (Aaa, stable).

The A3 rating on the notes is underpinned by the supportive regulatory regime that has been in place since Gassled was formed in 2003. Tariff setting under the regulation, which is overseen by Norway'sMinistry of Petroleum and Energy (MPE), provides a return of 7% pre-tax on the assets and escalates with inflation, in addition to allowing the full ultimate claw back of operating costs. The ratings are also supported by the fact that the over 40% of pipeline capacity is already booked for the life of the licence, and about 80% booked until 2020.

The ratings on the notes also take into account the anticipated acquisition of ENI SpA's 1.276% stake in Gassled which Moody's expects to be financed initially through equity and shareholder loans.

The Norwegian government has an indirect stake in Gassled of just over 50% through its ownership of Gassled participants, Statoil Petroleum AS and Petoro AS, which, in Moody's view, means there is a high probability of a continuing supportive regulatory and operating environment for Gassled.

All revenues are paid by the gas shippers under the annually published tariffs, and are collected by Gassco and passed on directly to the Gassled participants, according to their share of the joint venture. Similarly, Gassco demands funding for both operating costs and expansion expenditure from the participants which must be paid within 30 days of the demand. Failure to pay the amounts could lead relatively quickly to a participant losing its licence which will place emphasis on Solveig's management of working capital.

The transaction is lightly structured and Moody's has not given the transaction any benefit in terms of rating uplift. The lenders do benefit from borrowing covenants, including minimum DSCR and a debt service reserve account equal to six months debt service and funded from cash. Lenders also benefit from the ability to step into the rights of the shareholders and operate the entity in a continuing event of default, although this security is relatively weak as the lenders are not able to access the gas transmission assets themselves.

Moody's expects that Solveig will maintain a DSCR of around 1.9x over the expected term of the financing and a concession life cover ratio ("CLCR") in excess of 2.0x.

Outlook

The outlook is stable. The outlook reflects our expectation that Solveig will maintain a DSCR of greater than 1.8x for the life of the debt, including debt amortisation. We also do not anticipate that Solveig's CLCR will fall persistently below 2.0x. In addition, we expect the debt to be fully repaid by December 2027, 12 months prior to the termination of the licence.

What Could Change the Rating -- Up

We do not expect there to be upward pressure on the rating for the foreseeable future due to the relatively high levels of subordinated debt repayment and additional capital expenditure during the early years of the transaction.

What Could Change the Rating -- Down

The rating could be lowered in the event of a negative change to the current regulatory environment which could reduce the return allowed to the project, a loss of the licence, acquisition of an additional stake in Gassled that led to a material weakening of the financial parameters indicated above or a significant breakage in the pipeline network that requires Solveig to make significant levels of liquidity available. Furthermore, a licence extension combined with a reduction on the return on capital plus additional significant capital expenditure could create negative pressure on the rating if associated with a decline of Solveig's financial metrics below the minimum level indicated above.

The principal methodology used in this rating was Regulated Electric and Gas Utilities published in August 2009. Please see the Credit Policy page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

For ratings issued on a program, series or category/class of debt, this announcement provides relevant regulatory disclosures in relation to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series or category/class of debt or pursuant to a program for which the ratings are derived exclusively from existing ratings in accordance with Moody's rating practices. For ratings issued on a support provider, this announcement provides relevant regulatory disclosures in relation to the rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular rating action for securities that derive their credit ratings from the support provider's credit rating. For provisional ratings, this announcement provides relevant regulatory disclosures in relation to the provisional rating assigned, and in relation to a definitive rating that may be assigned subsequent to the final issuance of the debt, in each case where the transaction structure and terms have not changed prior to the assignment of the definitive rating in a manner that would have affected the rating. For further information please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page for the respective issuer on www.moodys.com.

The rating has been disclosed to the rated entity or its designated agent(s) and issued with no amendment resulting from that disclosure.

Information sources used to prepare the rating are the following : parties involved in the ratings, parties not involved in the ratings, public information, confidential and proprietary Moody's Investors Service information, and confidential and proprietary Moody's Analytics information.

Moody's considers the quality of information available on the rated entity, obligation or credit satisfactory for the purposes of issuing a rating. However, the rating was based on limited historical data.

Moody's adopts all necessary measures so that the information it uses in assigning a rating is of sufficient quality and from sources Moody's considers to be reliable including, when appropriate, independent third-party sources. However, Moody's is not an auditor and cannot in every instance independently verify or validate information received in the rating process.

The rated entity has received an Indicative Assessment Service within the last two years preceding the credit rating action.

Moody's Investors Service may have provided Ancillary or Other Permissible Service(s) to the rated entity or its related third parties within the two years preceding the credit rating action. Please see the special report "Ancillary or other permissible services provided to entities rated by MIS's EU credit rating agencies" on the ratings disclosure page on our website www.moodys.com for further information.

Please see the ratings disclosure page on www.moodys.com for general disclosure on potential conflicts of interests.

Please see the ratings disclosure page on www.moodys.com for information on (A) MCO's major shareholders (above 5%) and for (B) further information regarding certain affiliations that may exist between directors of MCO and rated entities as well as (C) the names of entities that hold ratings from MIS that have also publicly reported to the SEC an ownership interest in MCO of more than 5%. A member of the board of directors of this rated entity may also be a member of the board of directors of a shareholder of Moody's Corporation; however, Moody's has not independently verified this matter.

Please see Moody's Rating Symbols and Definitions on the Rating Process page on www.moodys.com for further information on the meaning of each rating category and the definition of default and recovery.

Please see ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on www.moodys.com for the last rating action and the rating history.

The date on which some ratings were first released goes back to a time before Moody's ratings were fully digitized and accurate data may not be available. Consequently, Moody's provides a date that it believes is the most reliable and accurate based on the information that is available to it. Please see the ratings disclosure page on our website www.moodys.com for further information.

Please see www.moodys.com for any updates on changes to the lead rating analyst and to the Moody's legal entity that has issued the rating.

Paul Lund VP - Senior Credit Officer Infrastructure Finance Moody's Investors Service Ltd. One Canada SquareCanary WharfLondon E14 5FA United Kingdom JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456 SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454 Monica Merli MD - Infrastructure Finance Infrastructure Finance JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456 SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454 Releasing Office: Moody's Investors Service Ltd. One Canada SquareCanary WharfLondon E14 5FA United Kingdom JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456 SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454 (C) 2012 Moody's Investors Service, Inc. and/or its licensors and affiliates (collectively, "MOODY'S"). All rights reserved.

CREDIT RATINGS ISSUED BY MOODY'S INVESTORS SERVICE, INC. ("MIS") AND ITS AFFILIATES ARE MOODY'S CURRENT OPINIONS OF THE RELATIVE FUTURE CREDIT RISK OF ENTITIES, CREDIT COMMITMENTS, OR DEBT OR DEBT-LIKE SECURITIES, AND CREDIT RATINGS AND RESEARCH PUBLICATIONS PUBLISHED BY MOODY'S ("MOODY'S PUBLICATIONS") MAY INCLUDE MOODY'S CURRENT OPINIONS OF THE RELATIVE FUTURE CREDIT RISK OF ENTITIES, CREDIT COMMITMENTS, OR DEBT OR DEBT-LIKE SECURITIES. MOODY'S DEFINES CREDIT RISK AS THE RISK THAT AN ENTITY MAY NOT MEET ITS CONTRACTUAL, FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS AS THEY COME DUE AND ANY ESTIMATED FINANCIAL LOSS IN THE EVENT OF DEFAULT. CREDIT RATINGS DO NOT ADDRESS ANY OTHER RISK, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO: LIQUIDITY RISK, MARKET VALUE RISK, OR PRICE VOLATILITY. CREDIT RATINGS AND MOODY'S OPINIONS INCLUDED IN MOODY'S PUBLICATIONS ARE NOT STATEMENTS OF CURRENT OR HISTORICAL FACT. CREDIT RATINGS AND MOODY'S PUBLICATIONS DO NOT CONSTITUTE OR PROVIDE INVESTMENT OR FINANCIAL ADVICE, AND CREDIT RATINGS AND MOODY'S PUBLICATIONS ARE NOT AND DO NOT PROVIDE RECOMMENDATIONS TO PURCHASE, SELL, OR HOLD PARTICULAR SECURITIES. NEITHER CREDIT RATINGS NOR MOODY'S PUBLICATIONS COMMENT ON THE SUITABILITY OF AN INVESTMENT FOR ANY PARTICULAR INVESTOR. MOODY'S ISSUES ITS CREDIT RATINGS AND PUBLISHES MOODY'S PUBLICATIONS WITH THE EXPECTATION AND UNDERSTANDING THAT EACH INVESTOR WILL MAKE ITS OWN STUDY AND EVALUATION OF EACH SECURITY THAT IS UNDER CONSIDERATION FOR PURCHASE, HOLDING, OR SALE.

ALL INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN IS PROTECTED BY LAW, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO, COPYRIGHT LAW, AND NONE OF SUCH INFORMATION MAY BE COPIED OR OTHERWISE REPRODUCED, REPACKAGED, FURTHER TRANSMITTED, TRANSFERRED,DISSEMINATED, REDISTRIBUTED OR RESOLD, OR STORED FOR SUBSEQUENT USE FOR ANY SUCH PURPOSE, IN WHOLE OR IN PART, IN ANY FORM OR MANNER OR BY ANY MEANS WHATSOEVER, BY ANY PERSON WITHOUT MOODY'S PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT.

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MIS, a wholly-owned credit rating agency subsidiary of Moody's Corporation ("MCO"), hereby discloses that most issuers of debt securities (including corporate and municipal bonds, debentures, notes and commercial paper) and preferred stock rated by MIS have, prior to assignment of any rating, agreed to pay to MIS for appraisal and rating services rendered by it fees ranging from $1,500 to approximately $2,500,000. MCO and MIS also maintain policies and procedures to address the independence of MIS's ratings and rating processes. Information regarding certain affiliations that may exist between directors of MCO and rated entities, and between entities who hold ratings from MIS and have also publicly reported to the SEC an ownership interest in MCO of more than 5%, is posted annually at www.moodys.com under the heading "Shareholder Relations -- Corporate Governance -- Director and Shareholder Affiliation Policy."

Any publication into Australia of this document is by MOODY'S affiliate, Moody's Investors Service Pty Limited ABN 61 003 399 657, which holds Australian Financial Services License no. 336969. This document is intended to be provided only to "wholesale clients" within the meaning of section 761G of the Corporations Act 2001. By continuing to access this document from within Australia, you represent to MOODY'S that you are, or are accessing the document as a representative of, a "wholesale client" and that neither you nor the entity you represent will directly or indirectly disseminate this document or its contents to "retail clients" within the meaning of section 761G of the Corporations Act 2001.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, credit ratings assigned on and after October 1, 2010 by Moody's Japan K.K. ("MJKK") are MJKK's current opinions of the relative future credit risk of entities, credit commitments, or debt or debt-like securities. In such a case, "MIS" in the foregoing statements shall be deemed to be replaced with "MJKK". MJKK is a wholly-owned credit rating agency subsidiary of Moody's Group Japan G.K., which is wholly owned by Moody's Overseas Holdings Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of MCO.

This credit rating is an opinion as to the creditworthiness or a debt obligation of the issuer, not on the equity securities of the issuer or any form of security that is available to retail investors. It would be dangerous for retail investors to make any investment decision based on this credit rating. If in doubt you should contact your financial or other professional adviser.

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