Tag Archives: Standard & Poor’s

S&P says Republic Bank doing okay

Short note from rating agency Standard & Poor’s on Republic Bank (highlighting mine):

S&P: Republic Bank Ltd. Counterparty Credit Ratings Affirmed At ‘BBB-/A-3’ With Stable Outlook

* The bank’s financial performance has been stable through a period of tough economic conditions in the Caribbean region.
* We are affirming the ‘BBB-/A-3’ counterparty credit ratings on RBL.
* The stable outlook reflects the bank’s likely maintenance of its financial profile in 2009 and 2010.
* A downgrade could result from rising nonperforming assets or falling profits, or an upgrade could result from a curtailing of further nonperformers.

MEXICO CITY Oct. 2, 2009–Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said today that it affirmed its ‘BBB-/A-3’ counterparty credit ratings on Republic Bank Ltd. (RBL). The outlook is stable.

“Our ratings on RBL are based on RBL’s leading market position in Trinidad and Tobago, stable financial performance, and geographic diversification in the Caribbean,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Alfonso Novelo. “However, we believe that strain on the quality of assets through 2010 will pressure profits, the balance sheet relies on short-term funding, and the bank faces strong competition in the region.

S&P’s move on Jamaica suggests there’s pain ahead

This is bad. S&P had previously assigned a rating of B- to Jamaica. In financial parlance, a B- rating sovereign rating suggests that the country is perceived as “high risk” by would-be lenders; in a word, “junk”.

By downgrading Jamaica to triple-C, S&P is saying the island is ” currently vulnerable and dependent on favorable economic conditions to meet its commitments.”

In other words, if economic conditions in Jamaica and the Caribbean get much worse, the country is going to have a hard time meeting its outstanding debts.

Here’s the statement from the rating agency:

Jamaica Downgraded To ‘CCC+’; Outlook Remains Negative

–Jamaica has a vulnerable fiscal profile and faces difficult financing conditions.

–We have lowered our long-term foreign and local currency ratings on Jamaica to ‘CCC+’ from ‘B-‘.

–The outlook remains negative, reflecting the possibility that the government may undertake a distressed debt exchange.

NEW YORK, Aug. 5, 2009–Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said today it lowered its long-term foreign and domestic currency ratings on Jamaica to ‘CCC+’ from ‘B-‘. We kept the recovery rating at ‘4’. We also lowered the T&C assessment to ‘B’ from ‘B+’. The outlook on the ratings remains negative.

“The downgrade and the negative outlook reflect our view that Jamaica’s vulnerable fiscal profile, combined with difficult financing conditions, may compel the government to undertake a debt exchange that we could regard as a distressed debt exchange,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Roberto Sifon Arevalo.

Jamaica’s fiscal accounts, which were already under pressure before the international financial crisis started last September, have deteriorated even further this year. We project the government borrowing requirement for the fiscal year 2009 (ending March 31, 2010) to be 20% of GDP. The debt profile is weak. Variable-rate domestic debt constitutes 58% of total domestic debt. One-quarter of total domestic debt matures within one year. One-half of gross government debt (external plus domestic) is foreign-currency denominated or foreign-exchange indexed. As a result, general government interest is estimated at 60% of 2009 government revenue, up from 48% in 2008.

“We project that gross general government debt will rise to 120% of GDP at fiscal year-end 2009,” said Mr. Sifon Arevalo. The vulnerabilities in the government’s debt profile may give it incentives to negotiate with its creditors, particularly its resident creditors, to extend maturities at below-market prices. In the government’s last debt issue, it placed two-year debt at a 21% coupon.

“While the government’s engagement with the IMF is a positive effort to stabilize external pressures and going forward to address the long-standing structural issues,” added Mr. Sifon Arevalo, “the negative outlook on the ratings signals the risk that a debt exchange, if undertaken by the government, could be an event of selective default under our distress debt exchange criteria.”

Standard & Poor’s downgrades Sagicor Life Inc

I tend to bang on about these rating agency downgrades, but they are important.

For those of you not familiar with these companies, their essence can be distilled thus:  ratings agencies are arbiters of creditworthiness.

In other words, agencies like Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch bestow upon companies and countries¬† grades that indicate the likelihood that the rated entity will be able to pay its debts.

These ratings range from the gold standard – triple-A – which suggests the likelihood of default is minute, to Cs, which suggest the company or country poses a substantial risk to its creditors. The lowest grade – D – is reserved for those entities that have actually failed to pay their debts.

On that – last week, S&P lowered its rating Sagicor Life to BBB from BBB+, which is a one-notch downgrade. Here is the statement, highlighting and bracketed commentary is my own:

S&P: Sagicor Life Inc. Rating Downgraded To ‘BBB’ From ‘BBB+’; Outlook Stable

* Sagicor’s financial flexibility and liquidity could be under pressure if Jamaica’s economic environment continues to deteriorate.
* We are lowering our ratings on Sagicor, including lowering the long-term counterparty credit and financial strength ratings on the company to ‘BBB’ from ‘BBB+’.
* The outlook is stable.

MEXICO CITY July 24, 2009–Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services lowered its long-term counterparty credit and financial strength ratings on Sagicor Life Inc. to ‘BBB’ from ‘BBB+’. The outlook is stable.

At the same time, we lowered to ‘BBB-‘ from ‘BBB’ our rating on the long-term senior unsecured debt rating on the $150 million senior unsecured obligations with up to 10-year maturities issued by Sagicor Finance Ltd., a Cayman Islands-based subsidiary of Barbados-based Sagicor Financial Corp. Sagicor and Sagicor Financial Corp. irrevocably, unconditionally, and jointly guarantee these notes.

“The rating action reflects our opinion that a continued worsening in Jamaica’s economic conditions compromises Sagicor’s financial flexibility and liquidity,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Alfonso J. Novelo. “Also, profits could be pressured as a result of poor conditions in the financial markets and the likelihood of a prolonged period of weaker-than-expected economic conditions in the main countries where the insurance company operates, in particular in Jamaica, where Sagicor has placed 27% of its financial investments.”

On June 10, 2009, we lowered our long-term foreign currency sovereign credit rating on Barbados to ‘BBB’ from ‘BBB+’; in addition, our rating on the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, another one of the countries where Sagicor has a leading position, is on CreditWatch with negative implications. The U.S., the U.K., and other countries of operation are also facing economic challenges.

[In S&P speak, any country or company on “CreditWatch with negative implications” is likely to be downgraded in the very near future]

The counterparty credit and financial strength ratings reflect Sagicor’s strong operating performance, conservative underwriting discipline, good profitability, and strong capitalization. The ratings also reflect the company’s dominant market position as the leading life insurer in the Caribbean and its increasing geographic diversification.

These positive factors are partially offset by a relatively high concentration in revenues and investments in Jamaica, and the aggressive inorganic growth strategy the group has implemented in the past three years, somewhat mitigated by Sagicor’s long and successful track record in mergers and acquisitions.

The rating on the senior unsecured obligations reflects the subordination of the notes to obligations owed to policyholders and creditors of Sagicor’s subsidiaries.

The stable outlook incorporates our expectation that Sagicor will maintain extremely strong capitalization and good profits, even under the more challenging economic environment that the different countries where the group carries out business are experiencing.

We could lower the ratings if capitalization decreases dramatically, even if it remains at more than the 175% target, or if profits deteriorate substantially. Furthermore, ratings will be pressured in the case of negative rating actions on Barbados or Jamaica and the degree of a downgrade of Trinidad and Tobago.