Categorized | Nigerian News

Standard & Poor, Moody raise Nigeria’s creditworthiness

By Omoh Gabriel LAGOS — Two international rating agencies, Standard & Poor’s and Moody, yesterday, upgraded Nigeria’s credit rating because of improved financial stability and optimism over reforms to the banking and electricity sectors.

Moody upgraded Nigeria rating assigning local and foreign currency issuer ratings of Ba3 to the government.

Standard and Poor ratings raised its long-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit rating to BB- with a stable outlook. This is three points below investment grade, from B+. This brings its view in line with Fitch’s rating.

The three foremost rating agencies in the world have all now agreed that Nigeria is managing its resources better than before.

The three agencies ranked the creditworthiness of borrowers using a standardized ratings scale which measures expected investor loss in the event of default. Their service rates debt securities in several market segments related to public and commercial securities in the bond market.

These include government, municipal and corporate bonds; managed investments such as money market funds, fixed-income funds and hedge funds; financial institutions including banks and non-bank finance companies; and asset classes in structured finance.

According to Moody, the Ba3 ratings reflect Nigeria’s strong economic resilience and strength, which are underpinned by its vast hydrocarbon wealth, its relatively large size and developed non-energy sector, but offset by significant infrastructure needs; evolving governance structures which form a key challenge for Nigeria’s institutional strength.

Nigeria’s moderate event risk due to the heightened security conditions in the north of the country; Nigeria’s fiscal assets in its excess crude account have risen to about $8.4 billion in October 2012, which provides a reasonable fiscal buffer; Nigeria’s external reserve buffers have also been strengthening on the back of high oil prices and strong exports.

The ratings agencies said the stable outlook assumes that the government will continue to pursue its reforms, thereby helping to support strong economic growth, and that there will be no worsening of political tensions and no significant return of insurgency in the Niger Delta.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said it has raised its long-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings on Nigeria to ‘BB-’ from ‘B+’. It said: “At the same time we affirmed the ‘B’ foreign- and local-currency short-term ratings. We raised the long-term national scale rating to ‘ngAA-’ from ‘ngA+’. We affirmed the short-term national scale rating at ‘ngA-1’. We revised the transfer and convertibility (T&C) assessment to ‘BB-’ from B+. The outlook is stable”.

Giving reasons for the revised rating it said “The upgrade reflects our view that owing to fuel subsidy cuts, conservative budget oil price assumptions, improving fiscal management, and high prices, Nigeria’s fiscal assets in its excess crude account (ECA) have risen to $8.4 billion (from US$2.0 billion at end-2010), which provides a reasonable fiscal buffer.

External buffers have also been rising on the back of high oil prices and strong exports, with foreign reserves standing at just above US$42 billion as of Nov. 1, 2012.

“In addition, some reform momentum continues. In the past year, the government has cut the fuel subsidy by about half, overhauled the country’s electricity sector, and raised electricity tariffs.

GDP growth is also strong: in 2012-2015 we expect real per capita GDP growth to average 4.3% per year, driven by strong non-oil growth. Gross general government debt has slightly increased in recent years to a still-low 20% of GDP at year-end 2011.

We consider Nigeria’s relatively low government debt stock a key rating strength. Fiscal reserves in the ECA and the nascent Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), combined, have increased from about US$2 billion at end-2010 to around US$9.4 billion (US$8.4 billion in the ECA and $1 billion in the NSIA) at end-October 2012, providing a potential fiscal buffer. In our view, the NSIA still needs to be developed and in the short term the ECA will continue to operate as the government’s preferred account.

“Nigeria’s current account balance has consistently been reported as being in surplus although high errors and omissions hamper our analysis of the external accounts. We estimate that liquid external assets exceed external debt by 27% of current account receipts, highlighting a strong position in the external account.

“While Nigeria continues to face significant governance issues, violence in the Niger Delta, which has previously affected oil production, has decreased since the government granted an amnesty to insurgents in 2009.

In addition, increasing deep-water offshore production is making the disruption of oil production, and oil theft, more difficult. Since 2011, violence related to the Boko Haram terrorist group has risen, but not to the extent of undermining the overall stability of the political system.

The creation of the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) and the Central Bank of Nigeria’s actions following the 2009 banking crisis have contained contingent liabilities from the banking sector.

“Our local currency rating is equalized with the foreign currency rating because monetary policy options, which underpin a sovereign’s greater flexibility in its own currency, are constrained by Nigeria’s managed exchange rate regime and relatively less developed domestic bond markets.

Our T&C assessment is equalized with the sovereign foreign currency rating to reflect our opinion that the likelihood of the sovereign restricting access to foreign exchange needed by Nigeria-based non-sovereign issuers for debt service is similar to the likelihood of the sovereign defaulting on its foreign currency obligations.

“The stable outlook assumes that the government will continue to pursue its reforms, thereby helping to support strong economic growth, and that there will be no worsening of political tensions and no significant return of insurgency in the Niger Delta.

We could consider lowering the ratings if fiscal and external balances deteriorate, for example as a consequence of a sharp drop in oil production or prices. Downward pressure could also build if reforms stagnate, growth falters, or political tensions or violence increase substantially.

“We could consider raising the ratings if the authorities consistently improve fiscal performance and significantly enhance foreign currency reserves, if transparency in the oil sector and on the fiscal and external accounts improves, and if institutional capacities strengthen, thereby converging with higher rated peers.

While Nigeria continues to face significant governance issues, violence in the Niger Delta, which has previously affected oil production, has decreased since the government granted an amnesty to insurgents in 2009.

In addition, increasing deep-water offshore production is making the disruption of oil production, and oil theft, more difficult. Since 2011, violence related to the Boko Haram terrorist group has risen, but not to the extent of undermining the overall stability of the political system.

The creation of the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) and the Central Bank of Nigeria’s actions following the 2009 banking crisis have contained contingent liabilities from the banking sector.

Our local currency rating is equalized with the foreign currency rating because monetary policy options, which underpin a sovereign’s greater flexibility in its own currency, are constrained by Nigeria’s managed exchange rate regime and relatively less developed domestic bond markets.

Our T&C assessment is equalized with the sovereign foreign currency rating to reflect our opinion that the likelihood of the sovereign restricting access to foreign exchange needed by Nigeria-based non-sovereign issuers for debt service is similar to the likelihood of the sovereign defaulting on its foreign currency obligations.

Nigeria oil output recovers as floods recede – regulator

Nigeria’s worst floods in 50 years are no longer affecting oil output, an industry regulator said yesterday, although foreign oil majors have not yet said their production is back to normal. West African oil traders told Reuters this week there is ample supply of Nigerian crude in the market and loading programmes show December exports are due to be the highest in six months.

“Production is back to normal and has been for some time, it was only a brief outage,” a spokesman for the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) said by phone. Nigeria is Africa’s largest crude oil exporter and usually pumps between 2-2.5 million barrels per day (bpd). Widespread oil theft and a lack of accurate statistics means output figures fluctuate from month-to-month.

The DPR on Oct. 24 said floods had cut out 500,000 bpd of oil output in the previous weeks, reducing total production to around 2.1 million bpd, but was back to normal by the time of the announcement.

Shell still has a force majeure in place on Bonny Light and Forcados crude oil grades, after oil theft and flooding cut up to 20 percent of Nigeria’s output last month.

The Anglo-Dutch major said on Nov. 1 that floods would hit around 20,000 bpd of its output in the fourth quarter and this could get worse. It hopes to lift the force majeure on the two Nigerian grades by the end of November.

French oil firm Total declared force majeure in mid-October on gas supplies to Nigeria LNG’s liquefaction plant, saying it had stopped oil and gas production on one onshore block, which was losing 90,000 bpd of oil equivalent, in which it has a 40 percent stake. .   It said on Wednesday the force majeure was still in place.

Nigeria usually suffers flash flooding during the wet season, which runs roughly between April-October, but the sheer scale of rains this year has left large parts of southern regions, where the oil industry is, under water.

At least 363 people have been killed due to the floods since the start of July and 2.1 million people have been displaced, according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). NEMA said on Wednesday the oil-producing Niger Delta region was still flooded but water levels were falling and the heaviest rains had passed as Nigeria enters its 6-month long dry season.

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