Chinese rating agency Dagong gets EU approval

LONDON, June 7 Fri Jun 7, 2013 10:15am EDT

LONDON, June 7 (Reuters) - Dagong has been given the green light to operate in the European Union, the Chinese rating agency's first international push to wrest market share from the "Big Three" that dominate globally.

The EU's European Securities and Markets Authority, which regulates ratings agencies in the 27-nation bloc, said Dagong Europe's registration would take effect from June 13.

Dagong Europe general manager Mauro Alfonso told Reuters the first research would be published by the end of the summer, with the focus on corporate ratings of banks and insurers.

The EU requires authorisation of all ratings agencies under new rules drawn up during the financial crisis.

The Big Three credit rating agencies, Fitch, Moody's, and Standard & Poor's were criticised for giving overly optimistic ratings in the run up to the crisis to products that became untradable.

Approval for Dagong's launch pad into the EU is core to the group's chairman Guan Jianzhong's goal of ending U.S. dominance of ratings.

Dagong's ratings have not been closely followed outside China.

Europe is especially important after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission refused to recognise Dagong's ratings for use in the United States.

Dagong has teamed up with Russian peer RusRating and Egan-Jones of the United States to create the Universal Credit Rating Group to offer an alternative to the Big Three. It will be formally founded in Hong Kong this month, according to Dagong's website.

Dagong has accused the Big Three of "not playing an active role in preventing the financial crisis" and of using the "wrong criteria" for compiling ratings.

Ratings should be a warning to investors, Dagong has said, and was an early downgrader of U.S. debt.

Milan-based Dagong Europe is likely to take time to erode the Big Three's market share in Europe, and has a target of 5 percent within five years.

"We welcome competition and diversity of views on credit risk, but it is investors who will decide on the credibility and usefulness of new ratings," a spokesman for S&P said.

A Moody's spokesman said the market benefits from a diversity of opinions on credit risk. Fitch had no comment.

Mauro said Chinese investors would now have a ratings agency in Europe that analyses companies in a way familiar to them.

"Next week we will publish our methodologies. The main difference with the competition is probably that the Chinese point of view is longer term," he said.

The European unit was set up in 2012 by Dagong of China and Mandarin Capital Partners, a Milan-based Sino-Italian private equity group.