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Fitch downgrades Miss. Power’s credit rating after rate increase denied

Fitch Ratings on Tuesday downgraded Mississippi Power Co.’s Issuer Default  from “A” to A-.”

Fitch also revised the company’s rating outlook from “stable” to “negative.”

The rating agency said the downgrades were in response to the Mississippi Public Service Commission’s order from late June in which commissioners denied a revenue increase the company had requested in connection with the Kemper County coal plant. MPC officials testified at a hearing that in order to raise about $58 million to apply toward the plant, customer rates would need to increase by 13 percent.

In denying the rate increase, commissioners said they would take no action on rate increases associated with the Kemper facility until the Mississippi Supreme Court has its say on litigation surround it. The Sierra Club currently has the issue before a Harrison County chancellor for the second time.

No matter the outcome at the chancery court level, it’s expected to reach the state’s high court again.

Fitch also expressed concern with the 15 percent cost overrun MPC revealed to monitors in May. Currently, the plant’s projected cost sits at $2.76 billion, 15 percent more than the original estimate of $2.4 billion.

“Fitch’s financial analysis indicates that if the project becomes operational within the currently projected capital costs and schedule, and based on the assumption that the MPSC authorizes a timely recovery of both capital and operating costs, Mississippi Power’s credit metrics are expected to revert to Fitch’s guideline ratios of a low risk ‘A-‘ rated utility company by 2015,” Fitch said in a press release. “Until then, however, Fitch expects Mississippi Power’s credit metrics to remain considerably weak.”

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