Blackstone Said to Advise Abu Dhabi’s Taqa on Rising Debt

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Abu Dhabi National Energy Co., the government-owned oil and gas producer, hired investment and advisory firm Blackstone Group LP to review options for its debt obligations, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

Taqa, as the company is known, appointed the U.S. firm to review a range of possibilities for the $24 billion it owes, including ways to reduce financing costs, according to the people, who asked not to be identified as the information is not public. The hiring doesn’t mean that Taqa is planning an imminent debt restructuring, according to one of the people.

Taqa produces power, oil and gas from Canada to North Africa and helps generate most of the electricity sold in the United Arab Emirates, of which Abu Dhabi is the biggest sheikhdom. The company expanded since its inception in 2005 by snapping up local and overseas energy assets, including buying Calgary-based Northrock Resources for $2 billion in 2007 and acquiring BP Plc’s North Sea assets for $1.1 billion in 2012.

Blackstone’s restructuring group is looking at about 80 energy companies that are struggling after oil slumped, Tim Coleman, the unit’s head, said in a March interview. The company is merging its restructuring and merger advisory groups with a firm led by former Morgan Stanley banker Paul Taubman.

Taqa asked banks to submit proposals to replace a $2.2 billion revolving credit facility maturing this year, three bankers with knowledge of the matter said last month.

Blackstone and Taqa, through their press offices, declined to comment.

Rating Lowered

Moody’s Investors Service lowered Taqa’s standalone credit rating, which strips out support from the Abu Dhabi government, to b2 on June 23. Lower oil and gas prices have substantially eroded the company’s profitability, Moody’s said. Taqa’s rating remained at A3 once government support was factored in.

Taqa is cutting spending for a second year after its loss widened to 3 billion dirhams ($817 million) in 2014, from 2.52 billion dirhams a year earlier, the company said in April.

“It is clear that Taqa has been taking steps to address its high debt levels for some time,” David Staples, Dubai-based managing director for Moody’s Investors Service corporate finance group, said by phone. “We strongly believe that this will be done in a way that addresses Taqa’s challenges without relying on creditors to assume the burden of any financial re-engineering.”

Taqa’s share price gained 1.6 percent to 64 fils at the close in Abu Dhabi and has declined 20 percent this year.

The utility said in August it planned to sell assets and didn’t intend to return to the bond market until 2017. The company had appointed Macquarie Group Ltd. and McKinsey & Co. Inc. to advise on potential asset sales, people with knowledge of the matter said in September.

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