Fitch Ratings said that significant investment and reform of NJSC Naftogaz of Ukraine's ('B-'((B minus)) /Rating Watch Negative) gas transit system under the aegis of an EU-Ukraine agreement would at best have a neutral credit impact on the company, the agency's press release reads.

Proposed changes would increase the transparency, efficiency and stability of Naftogaz's transit operations.

However, the experts note that consolidated leverage following a capex expansion could increase significantly and core credit problems such as a mismatch between gas costs and domestic tariffs would remain.

On March 23, 2009, the European Commission (EC), Ukraine, the European Investment Bank, EBRD, and the World Bank announced the possibility of multilateral financing for infrastructure renewal of Ukraine's gas transit system, which is owned and operated by Ukrtransgaz, a fully-owned subsidiary of Naftogaz.

The EC and the multilateral institutions did not make any commitments to fund a capex program that Ukraine has estimated at USD 5.55billion, but stated an intention to consider such funding following a due diligence review of Naftogaz's proposed capex projects.

Most importantly, a condition for any future funding would be Naftogaz's adherence to the EU's 2003 gas unbundling directive, pursuant to which gas transmission operators must run transparent, open-access, fairly-priced gas systems that are functionally and legally unbundled from network owners.

The 2003 EU directive does not require ownership unbundling and Fitch anticipates that a functionally and legally unbundled Ukrtransgaz would remain fully consolidated.

JSC Gazprom and Russia's Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, have expressed disappointment that the EC-Ukraine framework agreement does not contemplate Russian involvement.

This suggests some future negotiations with Russian partners will be necessary, which would forestall swift implementation of an investment and reform program at Ukrtransgaz, Fitch notes.


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