January 17, 2019 / 11:35 AM / a month ago

UPDATE 2-Head of Russia's ACRA ratings agency leaves post

(Adds Trofimova comments, details, background)

By Tatiana Voronova, Elena Fabrichnaya and Katya Golubkova

MOSCOW, Jan 17 (Reuters) - The head of Russia’s ACRA ratings agency, Ekaterina Trofimova, left her post on Jan. 16 following three years at the helm of an organisation created after western sanctions saw Russia downgraded by the top three international agencies.

ACRA was set up in 2015 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and the resulting sanctions. The downgrades of Russia automatically affected the ratings of Russian companies, creating a market for Russian domestic ratings.

The agency has been promoted by the Russian government and central bank, and Russian firms need ACRA ratings to access most state funds.

Trofimova told Reuters said she has fulfilled all the goals set. “I am considering new opportunities but there are no specific plans yet.”

Reuters reported earlier that Trofimova was leaving her post, citing three sources familiar with the decision. ACRA confirmed her departure and said it would focus on its next phase of development.

“The board of directors recognises the positive results reached in the initial phase of ACRA’s development, and Ekaterina’s contribution to the successful organisation of the agency,” ACRA said.

WINNING THE TRUST

Trofimova, 42, is a former S&P director who later became n executive with Gazprombank, Russia’s third largest lender.

Since mid-2017, Russia has relied on its own rating agencies to manage its domestic debt market. ACRA was under pressure to gain a conservative reputation, making it unpopular in some business circles.

In 2017, ACRA gave Otkritie, Russia’s then largest private bank, a BBB- rating, preventing it from raising some funds. The central bank later took over Otkritie after a bailout.

Andrey Kostin, who heads Russia’s second-largest bank, VTB, which is also a shareholder in the agency, has attacked ACRA’s methodology in the past, saying it has rated the bank ‘even lower than Western agencies’.

Last year, ACRA acquired Slovak European Rating Agency (ERA), its first acquisition outside Russia as it aimed to expand abroad. (Reporting by Tatiana Voronova, Elena Fabrichnaya and Katya Golubkova Editing by Christian Lowe, Jon Boyle and Alexandra Hudson)

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