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Fitch upgrades Kazakhstan’s sovereign rating

November 21, 2011, 19:19 UTC+3

Kazakhstan’s sovereign rating was upgraded one step to BBB at Fitch Rating

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ASTANA, November 21 (Itar-Tass) —— Kazakhstan’s sovereign rating was upgraded one step to BBB at Fitch Rating as energy exports boosted the central Asian country’s assets denominated in foreign currencies.

Kazakhstan, the second-largest oil producer in the former Soviet Union, had its long-term foreign-currency rating raised from BBB-, with a positive outlook, the assessor said in a statement on Monday. That is the second-lowest investment grade and equals the rating of neighbouring Russian, the world’s largest energy exporter.

Kazakhstan’s sovereign balance sheet has strengthened, with sovereign net foreign assets affording a growing cushion against revenue shocks, and underpinning the positive outlook, a Fitch official said. The country’s budget surplus will be at six percent to seven percent of economic output in 2011-2013, while the economy will grow six percent annually over the period, the Fitch official said.

Oil producers stand to benefit as prices may remain above 100 U.S. dollars per barrel next year. The Kazakh government has used “conservative” forecasts in its budget, which will be in surplus next year with oil at 80 U.S. dollars per barrel, the official said.

The tenge (national currency) rose 0.1 percent to 147.89 per U.S. dollar, the strongest level since October 28.

Net foreign assets may rise to 49 percent of the Gross Domestic Product by the end of 2013, from 37 percent at the end of 2010, the ratings service said.

The upgrade follows Standard & Poor’s decision made on November 9 to boost Kazakhstan’s foreign-currency debt rating to BBB+, the third-lowest investment grade, pushing it ahead of Russia. S&P said the rating had a stable outlook.

Kazakhstan’s “growth outlook and sovereign balance sheet outlook effectively outweigh risks emanating from the troubled financial sector, which continues to be a rating weakness,” the Fitch said.

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