Standard & Poor's upgrades Cyprus

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 July, 2013, 2:56pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 July, 2013, 2:56pm

Standard & Poor’s has upgraded the sovereign foreign credit rating on Cyprus to CCC-plus from selective default following completion of an exchange of bonds the credit rating agency deemed distressed.

Cyprus undertook a 1 billion euros (HK$10.1 billion) debt exchange as part of a financial adjustment program worked out with the troika of the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

On June 28, S&P said that the exchange should help alleviate strains on the nation’s financial liquidity and that after completion it would put the rating back up to CCC-plus. When a rating is reduced to selective default, it signifies a distressed debt exchange, but also an assumption that the issuer will continue to honour its other obligations.

The affected bonds are known as “local law” bonds, meaning the covenants or rules governing payment of the debt are covered under Cypriot law, versus foreign law.

S&P added that despite all the financial manoeuvring, “Cyprus’ economic prospects will remain difficult.”

The discovery of off-shore natural gas fields, a positive prospect for future growth, will require a reorienting of the economic base as they are developed, S&P said in a statement.

However, the expected reduction in public and financial services will likely lead to “significant job losses in these areas as well as in real estate and tourism; these sectors account for over 50 per cent of Cyprus’ GDP.”

The firm expects the economy to contract by about 20 per cent between this year and 2016.

The outlook on the credit is stable, S&P said. The rating is one notch higher than prior to the default because of easing immediate liquidity strains following the release of an additional 1 billion euro tranche of financial aid from the troika.

In addition, S&P notes Cyprus extended the maturity of a 1.8 billion euro-denominated bond that came due June 28 for one year to July 1, next year.

“Fiscal reserves of approximately $1.7 billion also suggest that immediate liquidity pressures have lessened,” S&P said.

Moody’s Investors Service on Monday said the debt exchange amounted to a default, but maintains a Caa3 rating with a negative outlook.

Fitch downgraded Cyprus’ local currency bonds affected by the exchange to D from CCC but affirmed the remainder at CCC, on June 28.

However, at that time it noted a distinction with the foreign law bonds and maintained that since these foreign currency denominated bonds was unaffected by the exchange, their long-term ratings were affirmed at B-minus with a negative outlook.