S&P not adjusting its China review schedule

Government-led stimulus has been a key driver of China's economic growth in recent years. But that has been accompanied by credit growth that has created a mountain of debt which Beijing has vowed to lower - now at nearly 300 per cent of gross domest
Government-led stimulus has been a key driver of China's economic growth in recent years. But that has been accompanied by credit growth that has created a mountain of debt which Beijing has vowed to lower - now at nearly 300 per cent of gross domestic product.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIJING • Standard & Poor's is likely to follow its regular ratings review schedule for China, and does not see any basis at this point for an out-of-schedule committee meeting, a senior director at the ratings agency said yesterday.

Last week, Moody's Investors Service cut its sovereign ratings on China by a notch, putting them on a par with those of Fitch Ratings.

That put S&P one step above the two agencies, holding an AA- rating with a negative outlook that it has maintained since March last year.

"I don't think there has been anything that could justify the calling of an out-of-schedule committee at this point in time, so we are likely to follow our regular review pattern," said S&P's Asia-Pacific senior director of sovereign ratings Tan Kim Eng in a phone interview.

Mr Tan declined to say when the next regular review would be.

Moody's cut China's sovereign ratings to A1, saying it expects the financial strength of the world's second-largest economy to erode in coming years as growth slows and debt continues to mount.

Fitch last Friday maintained its A+ rating on China, citing its "strong macroeconomic track record", though the agency also noted an accompanying build-up of imbalances and vulnerabilities.

  • CHINA'S RATINGS
     

    S&P: AA-

    Moody's: A1 (cut one notch last week)

    Fitch: A+ (maintain)

But nobody is expecting any form of financial instability anytime in the near future, Mr Tan told Reuters.

"Despite the (Moody's) downgrade, all the major agencies have really high ratings on China, whether it's A+ or AA-, they are both high ratings," he said.

Government-led stimulus has been a key driver of China's economic growth in recent years. But that has been accompanied by credit growth that has created a mountain of debt - now at nearly 300 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

"The key concerns that people have are longer term," Mr Tan said. "Because if trends carry on as they do, from what we have seen in the past few years, then at some point in time, the risk of instability will rise to a level that will probably justify a further downgrade in the ratings."

S&P last changed its rating on China in late 2010, when the rating was upgraded by one notch.

China has vowed to lower debt levels by rolling out steps such as debt-to-equity swaps, reforming state-owned enterprises and reducing excess industrial capacity.

In recent months, regulators have issued a flurry of measures to clamp down on the shadow banking sector while the central bank has gingerly raised short-term interest rates.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2017, with the headline 'S&P not adjusting its China review schedule'. Print Edition | Subscribe