Fitch upgrades Gazprom's rating to BBB-, outlook stable

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MOSCOW, July 13 (RIA Novosti) - Fitch Ratings has upgraded the rating of Gazprom [RTS: GAZP] to BBB-, with a stable outlook, the international rating agency said Thursday.

Fitch Ratings also upgraded Gazprom's foreign currency and local currency Issuer Default ratings (IDR) and its senior unsecured rating on $5.7 billion of rated debt to BBB- from BB+ with a stable outlook.

"The upgrade reflects improving prospects for the company's business profile, on the back of strengthening financial results and signs of further state support through the legalization of the company's monopoly export status," Fitch said.

Fitch also said the upgrade was supported by Gazprom's recently released 2005 IFRS financial results, which showed a continuing trend toward increasing profitability through a reduction in operating costs as a percentage of revenues.

Fitch also said it expected the Russian energy giant to continue to raise prices for central and eastern European countries and the former Soviet Union to bring them closer to western European prices.

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