Gaz de France, the French state controlled natural gas company, has had its credit outlook lowered to “negative” from “stable” by Moody's Investors Service, which expects the utility to lose its government backing.
Moody's first lowered the company's credit rating to “Aa1,” one notch below its top rating, in June 2000 amid the prospect for reduced state support. Today's change means there may be another downgrade within twelve to eighteen months, said Moody's analyst Neale Marvin.
After last week's parliamentary elections, France's new government may move ahead with state asset sales to raise funds to pay for programs such as pension plans. It also faces pressure to reduce control over the country's energy market.
“We can no longer keep a stable outlook on the company because we feel there will be some sort of movement away from” the state owned status, Marvin said. “It's very difficult to predict a time horizon for when privatization may occur.”
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969