Eskom bailout plan credit negative – says last Moody’s standing

By Gordon Bell

(Bloomberg) – South Africa’s decision to more than double its financial support for Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. is “credit negative” for the sovereign rating as it’s an additional drain on the budget, Moody’s Investors Service said.

While the government may try absorb some the costs of the plan to help rescue the cash-strapped power utility in the medium-term budget in October, the “room to manoeuvre is extremely constrained,” Moody’s said in a report on its website. The rand weakened.

“The lack of a strategy to return Eskom to more stable financial situation that would reduce the need for government support exacerbates the problem for the government,” it said.

Read also: WORLDVIEW: Focus on Eskom distracts SA from more serious issues

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni this week announced a second multi-billion dollar bailout for Eskom within five months, aid that may force the cash-strapped government to increase borrowing and taxes. The 59 billion-rand ($4.3-billion) cash injection over the next two years adds to the three-year, 69-billion-rand bailout unveiled in the budget in February.

Moody’s is the only major credit-rating company that still assesses South Africa’s debt at investment grade.