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S&P affirms Russia ratings, outlook remains negative

October 25, 2014, 2:38 UTC+3 LONDON

The ratings are supported by the economy's net external asset position and the Russian government's modest net debtor position, which we expect to be maintained in 2014-2017,” the ratings agency said

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© Михаил Метцель/ТАСС

LONDON, October 25. /TASS/. Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said Friday it affirmed its 'BBB-/A-3' long-and short-term foreign currency sovereign credit ratings and its 'BBB/A-2' long-and short-term local currency sovereign credit ratings on Russia.

The outlook remains negative, S&P said in its statement, adding that it also affirmed the long-term national scale rating on Russia at 'ruAAA'.

“The ratings are supported by the economy's net external asset position and the Russian government's modest net debtor position, which we expect to be maintained in 2014-2017,” the ratings agency said.

It said that in line with its forecast, the economy will “expand by 1% annually in 2014-2017, similar to the previous five years.”

“This muted growth is partly a legacy of the structural economic slowdown that was already taking place before the Ukraine crisis. It also reflects a lack of external financing and lower oil prices,” the agency said.

“We also estimate real GDP per capita growth to average about 1% over 2014-2017, weighted according to our criteria. Ruble depreciation will subdue GDP per capita, which we forecast at $13,400 in 2014,” S&P said.

“Although we view Russian corporates and banks rated by Standard & Poor's as having sufficient foreign currency to meet their funding needs through to end-2015, we believe that less-financially-robust entities outside the rated universe are likely to experience deteriorating financial profiles,” it said.

“We expect the central bank will provide sufficient liquidity support to the economy,” the statement said.

“The negative outlook reflects our view that we could lower our ratings on Russia over the next 18 months if its external and fiscal buffers deteriorate faster than we currently expect - for example, due to any further tightening of sanctions as a result of the conflict in Ukraine,” it said.

“We could revise the outlook to stable if Russia's investment climate and economic growth prospects were to improve,” S&P said.

Meanwhile, Russian presidential economic aide Andrei Belousov said earlier Friday that Standard & Poor’s is unlikely to downgrade Russia’s sovereign rating to a speculative level because this action will undermine the agency’s reputation.

“They will then undermine their reputation because our real position corresponds to the investment-grade rating and all such actions contrary to this grade will affect the reputation of rating agencies themselves, which was already undermined during the crisis,” the presidential aide said.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on Friday fears over a possible downgrade of Russia’s sovereign rating by international rating agency Standard & Poor’s were exaggerated.

Moody's Investors Service announced October 17 it had downgraded the Russian government's debt rating by one notch to Baa2 from Baa1 with a negative outlook.

Moody’s cited Russia’s sluggish growth, a gradual erosion of the country's foreign exchange buffers and Russian borrowers' restricted international market access amid Western sanctions and low oil prices for its rating downgrade.

The Russian Finance Ministry said, however, that Moody’s rating on Russia had been one of the highest among the international rating agencies and “therefore, the reduction will not have any serious influence on borrowings. It is more likely that such influence will be exerted by other factors, such as the oil price fall."

The West led by the United States subjected Russia to sanctions, including visa bans, asset freezes and sectoral restrictions, following Crimea’s incorporation by Russia in mid-March and the start of clashes in Ukraine’s southeast that the West claimed Moscow was involved in despite Russia’s repeated denials.

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