Did South Africa Ditch Fitch, Or Vice Versa?

By Dana Sanchez Published: September 4, 2015, 2:07 pm
Rating agenciesPhoto: Michael Gottschalk/Getty Images

Fitch Southern Africa has cancelled its registration as a credit rating agency with South Africa’s Financial Services Board effective Friday, the registrar of Credit Rating Agencies announced, according to a report in BusinessDayLive.

South Africa’s Financial Services Board is an independent institution established by statute in the public interest to oversee the South African non-banking financial services industry.

The cancellation follows a request by the Fitch Southern Africa subsidiary that their registration be cancelled.

“The cancellation of the registration means that Fitch Southern Africa, or any other Fitch office or entity, will no longer issue credit ratings for regulatory purposes in South Africa,” the FSB said, according to BusinessDayLive. “Activities related to credit rating services, including marketing and advertising of and canvassing for credit ratings by Fitch Southern Africa are no longer permitted.”

Fitch holds a negative outlook on South Africa’s sovereign rating of BBB, which is two levels above junk, and was due to publish an assessment in December, Bloomberg reported.

The “Big Three” global credit rating agencies—U.S.-based Standard and Poor’s (S&P), Moody’s, and Fitch —have come under intense scrutiny in the wake of the global financial crisis, the Council on Foreign Relations reported.

“Meant to provide investors with reliable information on the risk of various kinds of debt, these agencies have instead been accused of exacerbating the financial crisis and defrauding investors by offering overly favorable evaluations of insolvent financial institutions and approving extremely risky mortgage-related securities,” .

The deregistration has no implication for South Africa’s sovereign rating because that rating is handled by Fitch internationally, Phumza Macanda, a spokeswoman for the National Treasury, said by phone, according to Bloomberg.

To ensure continuity and maintain financial stability, ratings issued by Fitch Southern Africa will be valid for four months, the FSB said.

Ratings issued by Fitch Southern Africa in conjunction with another rating agency will be valid for 14 days after FSB’s website publishes the notice of deregistration, BDLive reported. “Thereafter, Fitch clients will need to seek a rating from another FSB-registered credit rating agency,” the regulator said.

The Big Three global credit rating agencies are monopolies, and the best way to counter their power is for investors to stop giving their ratings so much weight, said Sebastian Mallaby, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Fitch did not comment on the reason for the deregistration in a phone query, according to BDLive.


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