PARIS Jan 6 France would not necessarily
suffer financially if its credit rating was lowered from the
current top-notch AAA grade, as U.S. experience shows,
representatives of rating agency Standard & Poor's said in an
interview published on Friday.
S&P announced on Dec. 5 that it was reviewing the ratings of
France and other euro zone countries for possible downgrade and
singled out France as the sole AAA-rated country that might be
dropped two notches as opposed to just one.
In the interview in Le Parisien daily, S&P France president
Carol Sirou and S&P's Europe economist Jean-Michel Six said that
downgrades did not have to translate into higher debt
Six also suggested the financial market impact of any rating
change in France's case might be limited.
"Despite its triple-A, investors are treating France right
now as if it was rated triple-B," he was quoted as having told
the newspaper. BBB is eight notches below AAA and just two
notches above junk.
Six and Sirou declined to comment on the likely outcome of
the rating review, rebuffed criticism of their agency and played
down the impact of a downgrade on the scale they were
"Being downgraded is a bit like moving to 19 from 20 out of
20 in high school," the Paris-based Six said. "It doesn't mean
you are gong to flunk your bac exam," he said, referring to the
exit test students take at the end of secondary schooling.
There was no systematic correlation between rating level and
the interest rates that investors demanded for buying into debt
issues by governments, said Six.
The interest rate the United States had to pay had dropped
despite the fact that S&P had deprived the country of its AAA
rating, and Japan continued to pay low premiums to investors
despite being on a lower AA- rating, said Six.