Fitch Affirms Gabelli Fund Auction Preferred Ratings at 'AA'
OREANDA-NEWS. Fitch Ratings has affirmed the 'AA' ratings assigned to the outstanding auction rate preferred shares of the four Gabelli equity closed-end funds listed below. All funds are managed by Gabelli Funds, LLC as investment adviser.
Gabelli Equity Trust Inc. (NYSE: GAB)
--$72,000,000 of auction rate cumulative preferred stock (ARPS), series C;
--$28,000,000 of ARPS, series E.
Gabelli Multimedia Trust Inc. (NYSE: GGT)
--$15,000,000 of ARPS, series C.
Gabelli Utility Trust (NYSE: GUT)
--$22,500,000 of auction market preferred shares (AMPS), series B.
Gabelli Dividend & Income Trust. (NYSE: GDV)
--$90,000,000 of AMPS, series B;
--$108,000,000 of AMPS, series C;
--$121,500,000 of ARPS, series E.
Fitch's ratings above speak only to the auction preferred shares outstanding by each fund. Fitch has not reviewed or assigned ratings to the retail fixed-rate preferred shares outstanding by the funds ($313.7 million in GAB, $139.8 million in GDV, $19.8 million in GGT and $78.8 million in GUT).
KEY RATING DRIVERS
The 'AA' long-term ratings primarily reflect:
--Sufficient asset coverage provided to the preferred shares as calculated per the funds' overcollateralization (OC) tests;
--The structural protections afforded by mandatory collateral maintenance and de-leveraging provisions in the event of asset coverage declines;
--The legal and regulatory parameters that govern the funds' operations;
--The capabilities of Gabelli Funds, LLC as investment adviser.
The 'AA' ratings address credit risk only and do not speak to the liquidity of the preferred shares on the secondary market.
The funds are closed-end management investment companies regulated by the 1940 Act. As of May 31, 2016, the funds invest primarily in equity securities of U. S.-based companies and to a lesser extent in foreign-based companies.
GAB's primary objective is long-term growth of capital with income as a secondary objective. On May 31, 2016, GAB had total net assets of $1.7 billion and its top equity investments were in the Broadcasting, Media and Cable sectors.
GGT's investment objective is long-term growth of capital, with income as a secondary objective. On May 31, 2016, GGT had total net assets of $240 million and its top equity investments were in the Broadcasting, Media and Cable sectors.
GUT's investment objective is long-term growth of capital and income. On May 31, 2016, GUT had total net assets of $342 million and its top equity investments were in the Utilities (Power) sector.
GDV's investment objective is to seek a high level of total return with an emphasis on dividends and income. On May 31, 2016, GDV had total net assets of $2.2 billion and its top equity investments were in the Banking, Finance and Insurance sectors.
As of May 31, 2016, leverage ratios were approximately 24%, 15%, 30% and 21% for GAB, GGT, GUT and GDV, respectively. The funds have both Fitch-rated auction preferred and non-Fitch rated retail preferred outstanding. Asset coverage and structural protections for the Fitch-rated preferred stock is described below.
The funds' asset coverage ratio (pro forma for GDV incorporating the effect of the spin-off) as calculated in accordance with the Fitch total and net OC tests (Fitch OC tests) per the 'AA' rating guidelines outlined in Fitch's closed-end fund criteria, were in excess of 100%. These are the minimum asset coverage threshold required by the funds' governing documents.
The Fitch OC tests calculate standardized asset coverage by applying haircuts to portfolio holdings based on riskiness and diversification of the assets and measuring their ability to cover both on and off-balance-sheet liabilities at the assigned 'AA' stress level.
The funds' asset coverage ratio, as calculated in accordance with the Investment Company Act of 1940 (1940 Act) at current market value, were in excess of 200%. This is the minimum asset coverage threshold required by funds' governing documents.
Compliance with the Fitch OC and Asset Coverage tests is tested periodically. The fund manager is expected to cure any breach by altering the composition of the portfolio toward assets with lower discount factors (for Fitch OC breaches), or by reducing leverage in a sufficient amount (for all other breaches) within a pre-specified time period.
For Fitch OC and Asset Coverage tests, the maximum market value exposure (i. e. valuation, cure and redemption) that preferred shareholders would be exposed to before cure or redemption is approximately 30 and 113 calendar days, respectively.
Gabelli Funds, LLC is the funds' investment advisor, responsible for the funds' overall investment strategies, day-to-day operations, and their implementation. Gabelli Funds, LLC has approximately $22.1 billion of assets under management as of Mar. 31, 2016. GAMCO Investors, Inc. (NYSE: GBL) is the parent company of the investment adviser.
The rating assigned to the preferred shares may be sensitive to material changes in the leverage composition, portfolio quality or market risk of the fund, as described above. A material adverse deviation from Fitch guidelines for any key rating driver could cause the rating to be lowered by Fitch.