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 December 9, 2015 - 5:51 PM EST
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Fitch Rates Tortoise MLP Fund Notes and Pfd Stock; Affirms Existing Notes' and Pfd Stock Rating

Fitch Ratings assigns an 'AA' rating to the following series of mandatory redeemable preferred shares (MRPS) and an 'AAA' rating to the following series of notes issued by Tortoise MLP Fund (NYSE: NTG), a registered closed-end fund managed by Tortoise Capital Advisors, LLC (Tortoise). Fitch also affirms ratings on the fund's existing notes as listed at the bottom of this press release.

--$5,000,000 series C 3.73% MRPS due on Dec. 8, 2020 at 'AA';

--$40,000,000 series D 4.19% MRPS due on Dec. 8, 2022 at 'AA';

--$20,000,000 series L floating rate notes due on Apr. 17, 2021 at 'AAA';

--$10,000,000 series M 3.06% notes due on Apr. 17, 2021 at 'AAA'.

KEY RATING DRIVERS

The rating assignments and affirmations reflect:

--Sufficient asset coverage provided to senior notes and MRPS as calculated per the fund's asset coverage 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 fund's operations;

--The capabilities of Tortoise Capital Advisors, LLC as investment advisor.

FUND'S PROFILE

NTG is a non-diversified, closed-end management investment company with an investment goal of obtaining a high level of total return with an emphasis on current distributions. The fund invests the majority of portfolio in equity securities of publicly-traded Master Limited Partnerships (MLP) and their affiliates in the energy infrastructure sector. These companies gather, transport, process, store, distribute or market natural gas, natural gas liquids, coal, crude oil, refined petroleum products or other natural resources, or explore, develop, manage or produce such commodities.

FUND LEVERAGE

NTG manages a portfolio of approximately $1,620.9 million in assets and utilized $508 million in leverage as of Oct. 31, 2015. The total leverage ratio is approximately 32%. Pro forma leverage consists of approximately $69.8 million in bank borrowings, $329 million in Fitch-rated senior notes (pari-passu to the bank borrowings), and $110 million in junior Fitch-rated MRPS.

ASSET COVERAGE

The fund's asset coverage ratio, as calculated in accordance with the Fitch total and net overcollateralization tests (Fitch OC tests) per the 'AAA' rating guidelines for the senior notes and the 'AA' rating guidelines for the MRPS, outlined in Fitch's closed-end fund criteria, were in excess of 100%. These are the minimum asset coverage guideline required by the fund's 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 stress level that corresponds to the assigned rating.

The fund's asset coverage ratio for the senior notes, as calculated in accordance with the Investment Company Act of 1940 (1940 Act) at current market value, was in excess of 300%. The fund's asset coverage ratio for total leverage, including the MRPS, as calculated in accordance with the 1940 Act also at current market value, was in excess of 200%. These are the minimum asset coverage ratios required by the fund's governing documents.

NOTES STRUCTURAL PROTECTIONS

Should the asset coverage tests decline below their minimum threshold amounts (as tested on the last business day of each week), under the terms of the senior notes the fund is required to deliver notice to the note purchasers within five business days. The fund's managers are then expected to cure the breach by altering the composition of the portfolio toward assets with lower discount factors (for Fitch OC Tests breaches), or by reducing leverage in a sufficient amount (for both the Fitch OC Tests and the 1940 Act test breaches) within a pre-specified time period (a maximum of 47 calendar days for the Fitch OC Tests and a longer period for the 1940 Act test).

Failure to cure an asset coverage breach as described above is an event of default under the terms of the notes. The fund must then deliver a notice within five business days to the senior note purchasers and a majority vote of note purchasers may then declare all the notes then outstanding to be immediately due and payable.

The fund is also prohibited from paying out a common stock dividend if it fails to cure a breach to the notes' 300% 1940 Act asset coverage test. Fitch views this as an added incentive to cure and deleverage in a timely manner, regardless of acceleration by the notes purchasers.

MRPS STRUCTURAL PROTECTIONS

Should the MRPS Asset Coverage Test and Fitch OC Test decline below their minimum threshold amounts (as tested weekly) the fund is required to deliver notice to the MRPS purchasers within five days of becoming aware of such fact.

The fund's managers are required to cure the breach by altering the composition of the portfolio toward assets with lower discount factors (for Fitch OC Tests breaches), or by reducing leverage in a sufficient amount (for both the Fitch OC Tests and Asset Coverage Test breaches) within a pre-specified time period (a maximum of 47 calendar days).

THE ADVISOR

Tortoise, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tortoise Holdings, LLC, is the fund's investment adviser, responsible for the fund's overall investment strategy and its implementation. The advisor was formed in October 2002 and, as of Oct. 31, 2015, it had approximately $14.6 billion in assets under management. Montage Asset Management, LLC, a wholly-owned entity of Mariner Holdings, LLC owns approximately 61% of Tortoise Holdings, LLC, with the remaining interest held by certain senior Tortoise employees.

RATING AFFIRMATIONS

Fitch affirms the following ratings:

--$24,000,000 3.14% Series B notes due on Dec. 15, 2015 at 'AAA';

--$57,000,000 3.73% Series C notes due on Dec. 15, 2017 at 'AAA';

--$112,000,000 4.29% Series D notes due on Dec. 15, 2020 at 'AAA';

--$25,000,000 Series E floating rate notes due on Dec. 15, 2015 at 'AAA';

--$10,000,000 4.35% Series G notes due on May 12, 2018 at 'AAA';

--$45,000,000 Series H floating rate notes due April 17, 2019 at 'AAA';

--$10,000,000 2.77% Series I notes due April 17, 2018 at 'AAA';

--$30,000,000 3.72% Series J notes due April 17, 2021 at 'AAA';

--$35,000,000 Series K notes due Sept. 09, 2019 at 'AAA';

--$25,000,000 of series A MRPS due Dec. 15, 2015 at 'AA';

--$65,000,000 of series B MRPS due Dec. 15, 2017 at 'AA'.

In addition, Fitch expects the following series to be paid in full at maturity and will be marked as paid in full at that time:

--$24,000,000 3.14% Series B notes due on Dec. 15, 2015;

--$25,000,000 of series A MRPS due Dec. 15, 2015;

--$25,000,000 Series E floating rate notes due on Dec. 15, 2015.

RATING SENSITIVITIES

The rating is based on the terms stipulating mandatory collateral maintenance and de-leveraging provisions in the event of asset coverage declines. In the case of the rated notes, should the fund fail to cure an asset coverage breach, or the note purchasers not declare the notes due and payable upon an event of default, this may lengthen exposure to market value risk and cause the ratings to be lowered by Fitch.

The ratings may also be sensitive to material changes in the credit quality or market risk profile of the fund. A material adverse deviation from Fitch guidelines for any key rating driver could cause the ratings to be lowered by Fitch.

For additional information about Fitch closed-end fund ratings guidelines, please review the criteria referenced below, which can be found on Fitch's website.

To receive forthcoming complimentary closed-end fund research from Fitch, opt-in at the following link:

http://pages.fitchemail.fitchratings.com/FAMCEFBlankOptin/

Additional information is available at www.fitchratings.com.

The sources of information used to assess this rating were the public domain and Tortoise Capital Advisors.

Applicable Criteria

Rating Closed-End Fund Debt and Preferred Stock (pub. 16 Sep 2015)

https://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=871119

Additional Disclosures

Dodd-Frank Rating Information Disclosure Form

https://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/press_releases/content/ridf_frame.cfm?pr_id=996375

Solicitation Status

https://www.fitchratings.com/gws/en/disclosure/solicitation?pr_id=996375

Endorsement Policy

https://www.fitchratings.com/jsp/creditdesk/PolicyRegulation.faces?context=2&detail=31

ALL FITCH CREDIT RATINGS ARE SUBJECT TO CERTAIN LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS. PLEASE READ THESE LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS BY FOLLOWING THIS LINK: HTTP://FITCHRATINGS.COM/UNDERSTANDINGCREDITRATINGS. IN ADDITION, RATING DEFINITIONS AND THE TERMS OF USE OF SUCH RATINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON THE AGENCY'S PUBLIC WEBSITE 'WWW.FITCHRATINGS.COM'. PUBLISHED RATINGS, CRITERIA AND METHODOLOGIES ARE AVAILABLE FROM THIS SITE AT ALL TIMES. FITCH'S CODE OF CONDUCT, CONFIDENTIALITY, CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, AFFILIATE FIREWALL, COMPLIANCE AND OTHER RELEVANT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES ARE ALSO AVAILABLE FROM THE 'CODE OF CONDUCT' SECTION OF THIS SITE. FITCH MAY HAVE PROVIDED ANOTHER PERMISSIBLE SERVICE TO THE RATED ENTITY OR ITS RELATED THIRD PARTIES. DETAILS OF THIS SERVICE FOR RATINGS FOR WHICH THE LEAD ANALYST IS BASED IN AN EU-REGISTERED ENTITY CAN BE FOUND ON THE ENTITY SUMMARY PAGE FOR THIS ISSUER ON THE FITCH WEBSITE.

Fitch Ratings
Primary Analyst
Ian Rasmussen
Senior Director
+1-212-908-0232
Fitch Ratings, Inc.
33 Whitehall Street
New York, NY, 10004
or
Secondary Analyst
Ralph Aurora
Senior Director
+1-212-908-0528
or
Committee Chairperson
Alastair Sewell
Senior Director
+44 20 3530 1147
or
Media Relations
Hannah James
+ 1-646 582 4947
New York
hannah.james@fitchratings.com


Source: Business Wire (December 9, 2015 - 5:51 PM EST)

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