Austria's Long-Term Ratings Lowered To 'AA+'; Outlook Negative
|Publication date: 13-Jan-2012 16:49:46 EST|
- We are lowering the long-term sovereign credit rating on the Republic of Austria to 'AA+' from 'AAA'. At the same time, we are affirming Austria's 'A-1+' short-term sovereign credit rating.
- The downgrade reflects our opinion of the impact of deepening political, financial, and monetary problems within the European Economic and Monetary Union (eurozone), with which Austria is closely integrated.
- The outlook on the long-term rating is negative.
FRANKFURT (Standard & Poor's) Jan. 13, 2012--Standard & Poor's Ratings Services today lowered the long-term sovereign credit ratings on the Republic of Austria to 'AA+' from 'AAA'. We removed the ratings from CreditWatch, where they were placed with negative implications on Dec. 5, 2011. At the same time, we affirmed the short-term sovereign credit rating on Austria at 'A-1+'. The outlook on the long-term rating is negative. Our transfer and convertibility (T&C) assessment for Austria, as for all eurozone members, is 'AAA', reflecting Standard & Poor's view that the likelihood of the European Central Bank restricting nonsovereign access to foreign currency needed for debt service is extremely low. This reflects the full and open access to foreign currency that holders of euro currently enjoy and which we expect to remain the case in the foreseeable future. The outcomes from the EU summit on Dec. 9, 2011, and subsequent statements from policymakers lead us to believe that the agreement reached has not produced a breakthrough of sufficient size and scope to fully address the eurozone's financial problems. In our opinion, the political agreement does not supply sufficient additional resources or operational flexibility to bolster European rescue operations, or extend enough support for those eurozone sovereigns subjected to heightened market pressures. We also believe that the agreement is predicated on only a partial recognition of the source of the crisis: that the current financial turmoil stems primarily from fiscal profligacy at the periphery of the eurozone. In our view, however, the financial problems facing the eurozone are as much a consequence of rising external imbalances and divergences in competitiveness between the eurozone's core and the so-called "periphery". As such, we believe that a reform process based on a pillar of fiscal austerity alone risks becoming self-defeating, as domestic demand falls in line with consumers' rising concerns about job security and disposable incomes, eroding national tax revenues. Accordingly, in line with our published sovereign criteria, we have adjusted downward the political score we assign to the Austria (see "Sovereign Government Rating Methodology And Assumptions," published on June 30, 2011). This is a reflection of our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of European policymaking and political institutions (with which Austria is closely integrated) have not been as strong as we believe are called for by the severity of a broadening and deepening financial crisis in the eurozone. The ratings on Austria continue to reflect our view of its stable governance and predictable economic policies, which remain hallmarks of Austrian politics. We view Austria's economy as wealthy, diversified, and highly competitive. We expect the pace of fiscal consolidation will increase, which we believe could reduce fiscal deficits and debt faster than outlined in the government's 2011 budget plan, and perhaps even in its budget for 2012. This is provided the eurozone environment does not deteriorate such that it hampers this goal. Austria, though still a net debtor on its external position, has reported what we consider sound current account surpluses over the last 10 years, gradually improving its debtor position. In our opinion, contingent liabilities are moderate and stem primarily from the banking industry's exposure to Central and Eastern Europe. In our view, Austrian banks' balance sheets could suffer from negative developments in major trading and outward direct investment partners (such as Italy and Hungary). In this instance, the banks could require additional government support. Furthermore, if economic growth is much weaker than we expect, this could undermine the government's attempts to consolidate its budgets, and could also render structural reforms ineffective. The outlook on the long-term rating on Austria is negative, indicating that we believe that there is at least a one-in-three chance that we could lower the rating further in 2012 or 2013. We may lower the rating if we come to believe that:
- The weakening of Austrian banks' balance sheets stemming from negative developments in major trading and outward direct investment partners meant that the Austrian government needed to recapitalize the banks. This could in turn lead to net general government debt rising above 80% of GDP, and could also further increase contingent liabilities; and/or
- Economic growth is much weaker than we currently expect. This could undermine the government's attempts to consolidate its budgets, and could also render structural reforms ineffective. This could lead to an increase in net general government debt beyond 80% of GDP.
The ratings could stabilize at the current level if the risks from the banking sector remained contained, and if Austria were to enter into a more-ambitious consolidation phase by implementing structural reforms, without damaging economic growth prospects and competitiveness. In our view, such consolidation measures would likely enable Austria to structurally balance its accounts and decrease its net general government debt. RELATED CRITERIA AND RESEARCH All articles listed below are available on RatingsDirect on the Global Credit Portal.
- Sovereign Government Rating Methodology And Assumptions, June 30, 2011
- Criteria For Determining Transfer And Convertibility Assessments, May 18, 2009
- Standard & Poor's Puts Ratings On Eurozone Sovereigns On CreditWatch With Negative Implications, Dec. 5, 2011
- Trade Imbalances In The Eurozone Distort Growth For Both Creditors And Debtors, Says Report, Dec. 1, 2011
- Who Will Solve The Debt Crisis?, Nov. 10, 2011
- Standard & Poor's RPM Measures The Eurozone's Great Rebalancing Act, Nov. 21, 2011
TELECONFERENCE INFORMATION Standard & Poor's will hold a teleconference on Saturday Jan. 14, 2012 at 3:00 PM UK time. The teleconference can be accessed live or via replay and by phone or audio internet streaming The call will begin promptly at 3:00 p.m. TELECONFERENCE DETAILS Passcode: 2705831 For security reasons, the passcode will be required to join the call. DIAL IN NUMBERS: Country Toll Numbers Freephone/Toll Free Number AUSTRIA 43-1-92-80-003 0800-677-861 BELGIUM 32-1-150-0312 0800-4-9471 DENMARK 45-7014-0239 8088-2100 ESTONIA 800-011-1121 FINLAND 106-33-149 0800-1-12771 FRANCE 33-1-70-75-25-35 080-563-9909 GERMANY 49-69-2222-3198 0800-101-6627 GREECE 30-80-1-100-0674 00800-12-6609 IRELAND 353-1-247-5274 1800-992-870 ITALY 39-02-3601-0953 800-985-849 LUXEMBOURG 352-27-000-1351 8002-9058 NETHERLANDS 31-20-718-8530 0800-023-4392 PORTUGAL 8008-12439 SLOVAK REPUBLIC 421-2-322-422-16 SPAIN 34-91-414-40-78 800-098-194 UNITED KINGDOM 44-20-7950-6551 0800-279-3590 USA 1-210-795-1143 866-297-1588 TELECONFERENCE REPLAY INFORMATION: Call notes: This call is to be recorded for Instant Replay purposes UK TOLL #: +44-20-7108-6279 UK TOLL FREE #: 0800-376-9027 The instant replay will start at: Jan. 14, 2012 5:30pm UKT The instant replay will end at: Feb-14-2012 11:59pm UKT Passcode for replay: 7498 Restrictions may exist when accessing freephone/toll free numbers using a mobile telephone. AUDIO STREAMING AND AUDIO REPLAY INFORMATION: To join the event: URL: https://e-meetings.verizonbusiness.com Conference number: 1297498 Passcode: 2705831 To access the Audio Replay of this call, all parties can: 1. Go to the URL listed above. 2. Choose Audio Streaming under Join Events. 3. Enter the conference number and passcode. (Note that if this is a recurring event, multiple dates may be listed.) Replays are available for 30 days after the live event.
Complete ratings information is available to subscribers of RatingsDirect on the Global Credit Portal at www.globalcreditportal.com. All ratings affected by this rating action can be found on Standard & Poor's public Web site at www.standardandpoors.com. Use the Ratings search box located in the left column. Alternatively, call one of the following Standard & Poor's numbers: Client Support Europe (44) 20-7176-7176; London Press Office (44) 20-7176-3605; Paris (33) 1-4420-6708; Frankfurt (49) 69-33-999-225; Stockholm (46) 8-440-5914; or Moscow 7 (495) 783-4009.
|Primary Credit Analysts:||Moritz Kraemer, Frankfurt (49) 69-33-99-9249;|
|Frank Gill, London (44) 20-7176-7129;|
|Additional Contact:||Sovereign Ratings;|
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