Category Archives: Business & Finance

Agreement with IMF essential for Jamaica, Moody’s says

Verbatim from rating agency Moody’s on Jamaica, highlighting mine:

The IMF, which has been negotiating the terms of a $1.2 billion stand-by facility with Jamaica for several months, said on Friday after fund officials spent several days in Kingston, that discussions would continue in Washington next week. The focus, said the IMF, is “on how to reduce the large fiscal deficit and put the debt on a clear downward path.” There was no clarification with respect to the timing for finalizing the discussions.

A delay in reaching an agreement with the IMF could have potentially adverse credit consequences given Jamaica’s continued fiscal underperformance. An agreement with the IMF is crucial to provide essential multilateral funding to strengthen Jamaica’s external position, shore up confidence and meet financing obligations.

A sizeable fiscal adjustment required to stabilize debt dynamics is presenting a major challenge to the government as the majority of expenditures are devoted to wages – which have already been frozen – and interest payments while revenues are declining amid depressed economic activity. This year’s fiscal deficit is projected at 8.7% of GDP and public debt is expected to reach some 120% of GDP.

The government has repeatedly expressed its commitment to service its obligations in both local and foreign currency and has a long track record of timely debt service even during difficult times. However, Jamaica’s limited resources relative to the size of the public debt raise the possibility of a debt restructuring in order to place the government financial position on a sustainable path.

Jamaica’s B2 rating, among the lowest assigned by Moody’s to a sovereign nation, already reflects significant concerns about the government’s ability to honor obligations given its limited policy options to deal with the effects of the on-going economic downturn. High levels of public debt and vulnerability to interest and exchange rate movements limit the country’s flexibility in meeting these challenges.

Another blow for Jamaica from S&P

Hot on the heels of the decision by Standard & Poor’s to slash Jamaica’s sovereign rating comes this announcement from the rating agency:

S&P: National Commercial Bank Jamaica Counterparty Credit Rating Lowered To ‘CCC’; Survivability Assessment Lowered To ‘B’

* On Nov. 2, 2009, we lowered the long-term sovereign rating on Jamaica to ‘CCC’ from ‘CCC+’.
* We are lowering our ratings on NCB, including the long-term counterparty credit rating, to ‘CCC’ from ‘CCC+’. We are also lowering our survivability assessment on NCB to ‘B’ from ‘B+’.
* The outlook on NCB remains negative, mirroring that on Jamaica, as a result of the bank’s concentration in government debt securities and loans to public entities in the country.

MEXICO CITY Nov. 4, 2009–Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said today that it lowered its ratings on National Commercial Bank Jamaica Ltd. (NCB), including the long-term counterparty credit rating, to ‘CCC’ from ‘CCC+’. At the same time, we lowered our survivability assessment on NCB to ‘B’ from ‘B+’, as assigned on Aug. 6, 2009. The outlook is negative.

[In rating agency speak, the survivability assessment is “a current opinion on the likelihood that over the medium-term, a bank will either directly or through a successor organization, remain in operation, regardless of whether it is solvent or insolvent, paying all of its obligations on a timely basis or not.”

Moreover: “A relatively low survivability assessment does not constitute an opinion by Standard & Poor’s that a particular bank is likely to fail; rather it indicates a vulnerability to adverse circumstances which could affect the bank’s ability to meet its financial obligations on a timely basis, without special circumstances which would clearly enhance the likelihood that it would continue to operate in such an event. ”

And here’s what S&P means by a “B” rating in this area: “A bank with a survivability assessment of ‘B’ is VULNERABLE. Adverse business, financial or economic conditions will likely impair the bank’s ability to maintain operations in which case the bank may become subject to regulatory intervention.”]

The rating action followed the downgrade of the long-term sovereign credit rating on Jamaica (CCC/Negative/C) to ‘CCC’ from ‘CCC+’.

“NCB has a very large exposure to Jamaican sovereign-debt securities and loans to public entities,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Alfredo Calvo. “Also, Jamaica’s deteriorating economic situation and the more-challenging conditions for the Jamaican banking system will continue to pressure the financial performance of the bank.”

The action on the survivability assessment was based on the downgrade of NCB and our view that vulnerabilities in the government’s debt profile have grown significantly from previous years, narrowing the government’s capacity to support the bank in times of stress.

However, we are still maintaining our survivability assessment at three notches higher than the counterparty credit rating on NCB. This reflects our continuing expectation that the government could give certain assistance to the bank if needed because of NCB’s significant market share in the country, adequate financial performance, and large branch network and deposit base.

If the liquidity and market share of the bank shrink significantly, we could further adjust our survivability assessment.

The ratings on NCB are limited by the bank’s large exposure to Jamaica’s government; greater loan concentration than peers; operation within a relatively small and nondiversified economy with high debt; and the more challenging environment for the Jamaican banking system.

However, the bank’s leading market presence in the Jamaican banking system, adequate but pressured performance under more-challenging conditions, and consistent improvements in its operating performance support the rating.

Jamaica’s Central Bank governer resigns; S&P downgrades island’s rating to CCC

Can’t say you weren’t warned, but this is still a serious blow to Jamaica.

From rating agency Standard & Poor’s on Monday, highlighting mine:

Jamaica Long-Term Ratings Lowered One Notch To ‘CCC’, Outlook Negative

Jamaica’s Central bank governor, who was the lead negotiator on a possible standby facility from the IMF, has resigned.

We are lowering the long-term foreign and domestic currency ratings on Jamaica to ‘CCC’ from ‘CCC+’.

— The negative outlook on the ratings signals the growing risk of a debt exchange operation that could be an event of selective default under our distress debt exchange criteria.

NEW YORK, Nov. 2, 2009–Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services lowered its long-term foreign and domestic currency ratings on Jamaica to ‘CCC’ from ‘CCC+’. The outlook on the ratings is negative.

We kept the recovery rating on the senior unsecured debt at ‘4’ and the country transfer and convertibility (T&C) assessment at ‘B’.

The downgrade on Jamaica follows the resignation of Central Bank governor Derick Latibeaudiere, who was the lead negotiator within the framework of a possible standby facility from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

On Aug. 5, 2009, we downgraded Jamaica’s domestic and foreign currency long-term ratings to ‘CCC+’ with a negative outlook. At that time, we highlighted the fact that Jamaica’s severe fiscal situation as well as the vulnerabilities in the government’s debt profile may give it incentives to renegotiate with its creditors, particularly its resident creditors that hold the larger bulk of Jamaican debt.

“Since then, the government’s room to maneuver continues to narrow as it becomes increasingly difficult to further cut public expenditures–as reflected, in part, in the recently amended budget–in order to sustain an interest burden of about 60% of general government revenue,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Roberto Sifon Arevalo.

The negative outlook on the ratings signals the growing risk of a debt exchange operation that could be an event of selective default under our distress debt exchange criteria. While the government’s engagement with the IMF is a positive effort to address the long-standing structural issues in Jamaica, recent events highlight the complexity of the negotiation process and create more uncertainty about the timeframe for reaching an agreement with the Fund.