Fitch Affirms Romania at 'BBB-'; Outlook Stable

Fri Mar 7, 2014 12:07am EST

LONDON, March 07 (Fitch) Fitch Ratings has affirmed Romania's Long-term foreign currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at 'BBB-' and local currency IDR at 'BBB'. The Outlooks are Stable. The issue ratings on Romania's senior unsecured foreign and local currency bonds have also been affirmed at 'BBB-' and 'BBB', respectively. The Country Ceiling has been affirmed at 'BBB+' and the Short-term foreign currency IDR at 'F3'. KEY RATING DRIVERS The affirmation and Stable Outlook reflect the following key factors: Public finances are broadly under control. The general government deficit (GGD) in ESA95 terms fell to an estimated 2.6% of GDP in 2013, in line with the 'BBB' median, from 3% in 2012. Fitch projects that the GGD will fall slightly in 2014-15, although the forecast is subject to some upside risk given that 2014 is an election year (EU parliamentary in 2Q and presidential in 4Q). Gross general government debt (GGGD) is set to rise to 40% of GDP in 2014-15, in line with the category median, as the government takes advantage of favourable financing terms to increase debt issuance. However, Fitch expects GGGD to gradually fall thereafter. GDP increased faster than expected in 2013, registering real growth of 3.5% on robust industrial and agricultural output. Net foreign trade was the sole driver of growth on the demand side. Strong GDP growth in 4Q13 (1.7% qoq, 5.2% yoy) provides a good starting point for 2014, and Fitch now forecasts growth of 2.8%. The composition of GDP growth is likely to be more balanced in 2014, with domestic demand making a stronger contribution than in 2013 as investment in particular picks up. The government has recently made progress in the sale of stakes in key state-owned enterprises (SOEs), but stronger trend GDP growth awaits fuller implementation of the structural reform agenda. Romania's trend growth remains weaker and more volatile than the 'BBB' median. The Romanian economy has absorbed previously large external imbalances, with the current account deficit (CAD) falling to a post-transition low of 1.1% of GDP in 2013. There are substantial fiscal and external buffers, including government deposits equivalent to 5.7 months of budget and debt financing, international reserves (FXR) worth seven months of current account payments, and resources under the precautionary IMF-EU deal worth EUR4bn (12% of FXR). Nevertheless, disagreements between coalition partners led to the break-up in February of the ruling Social Liberal Union (USL), and tensions between the president and the prime minister have risen recently following a period of relative calm. Fitch expects a new government will soon be in place, but cannot rule out that domestic and external shocks could undermine the resilience shown thus far to Fed tapering-related volatility. Fitch does not consider the banking sector to pose a significant risk of contingent liabilities to the sovereign. The sector is well-capitalised on aggregate (Tier 1 capital adequacy ratio of 13.7% at end-2013) and the loan-to-deposit ratio has fallen to close to 100%. Asset quality is still a concern, with the non-performing loan ratio at 21.9% at end-2013, up from 18.2% at end-2012 and 7.9% at end-2009. Nevertheless, NPLs are almost fully provisioned against taking into account prudential filters imposed by the local regulator. Most governance indicators are in line with the 'BBB' median and EU membership underpins domestic politics and institutions. RATING SENSITIVITIES The Stable Outlook reflects Fitch's assessment that upside and downside risks to the rating are currently balanced. Nonetheless, the following risk factors individually, or collectively, could trigger a positive rating action: - Stronger trend economic growth, as a result for instance of sustained structural reforms to SOEs, healthcare spending and the public administration, in turn leading to greater confidence that Romania is bridging income gaps relative to EU peers. - Faster reduction in external debt ratios than Fitch currently expects. The following risk factors individually, or collectively, could trigger negative rating action: - A significant fiscal loosening that jeopardises the stability of public finances. - A sustained loss of momentum in the implementation of key structural reforms, for instance as a result of political instability. - External macroeconomic or geopolitical shocks that erode significantly Romania's fiscal and external buffers. KEY ASSUMPTIONS Fitch assumes that the government will continue efforts towards attaining its medium-term objective of a structural budget deficit of 1% of GDP. Fitch assumes that the unwinding of extraordinary global monetary stimulus will proceed in a broadly orderly fashion. Fitch assumes the gradual progress in deepening fiscal and financial integration at the eurozone level will continue; key macroeconomic imbalances within the currency union will be slowly unwound; and eurozone governments will tighten fiscal policy over the medium term. It also assumes that the risk of fragmentation of the eurozone remains low. Contact: Primary Analyst Matteo Napolitano Director +44 20 3530 1189 Fitch Ratings Limited 30 North Colonnade London E14 5GN Secondary Analyst Vincent Forest Associate Director +44 20 3530 1080 Committee Chairperson Tony Stringer Managing Director +44 20 3530 1219 Media Relations: Peter Fitzpatrick, London, Tel: +44 20 3530 1103, Email: peter.fitzpatrick@fitchratings.com; Hannah Huntly, London, Tel: +44 20 3530 1153, Email: hannah.huntly@fitchratings.com. Additional information is available on www.fitchratings.com Applicable criteria, 'Sovereign Rating Criteria' dated 13 August 2012 and 'Country Ceilings' dated 09 August 2013, are available at www.fitchratings.com. Applicable Criteria andALL FITCH CREDIT RATINGS ARE SUBJECT TO CERTAIN LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS. PLEASE READ THESE LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS BY FOLLOWING THIS LINK: here. IN ADDITION, RATING DEFINITIONS AND THE TERMS OF USE OF SUCH RATINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON THE AGENCY'S PUBLIC WEBSITE 'WWW.FITCHRATINGS.COM'. PUBLISHED RATINGS, CRITERIA AND METHODOLOGIES ARE AVAILABLE FROM THIS SITE AT ALL TIMES. FITCH'S CODE OF CONDUCT, CONFIDENTIALITY, CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, AFFILIATE FIREWALL, COMPLIANCE AND OTHER RELEVANT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES ARE ALSO AVAILABLE FROM THE 'CODE OF CONDUCT' SECTION OF THIS SITE. FITCH MAY HAVE PROVIDED ANOTHER PERMISSIBLE SERVICE TO THE RATED ENTITY OR ITS RELATED THIRD PARTIES. DETAILS OF THIS SERVICE FOR RATINGS FOR WHICH THE LEAD ANALYST IS BASED IN AN EU-REGISTERED ENTITY CAN BE FOUND ON THE ENTITY SUMMARY PAGE FOR THIS ISSUER ON THE FITCH WEBSITE.

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.