Fitch to assess PH performance

By Prinz P. Magtulis, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 28 2013 09:14 AM | Updated as of Jan 28 2013 05:14 PM

MANILA, Philippines - An assessment team from Fitch Ratings will be arriving in Manila this quarter, with Philippine officials hoping to impress the credit rater for an investment-grade status.

“They will be arriving this quarter,” said Claro Fernandez, central bank investor relations office chief.

The group will be headed by Andrew Colquhoun and Philip McNicholas of Fitch’s Asia-Pacific Sovereigns which evaluates the Philippines. They are expected to meet with local economic officials, Fernandez said.

Details of the visit are still being finalized.

“It is just an annual assessment. They would like to evaluate us. Of course, we are hoping they would find some good developments worthy of an upgrade,” the official explained.

Fitch rates the country at BB+, one notch below investment grade, with stable outlook. The Aquino administration is targeting to achieve investment grade status this year to lower debt interest payments and attract more foreign investments.

During its last visit to the Philippines last year, Fitch merely maintained the country’s rating and outlook. Its last upgrade of our credit worthiness was in June 2011.

The upgrade made Fitch the first among two other major credit rating agencies to put the Philippines a notch short of investment-grade level. Later on, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services (S&P) and Moody’s Investors Service were able to catch up.

S&P and Moody’s now also put the country one rung below the much-coveted status, with the former even having a “positive” outlook that indicates a possible upgrade this year.

In a report last week, Fitch underscored the government’s improving balance sheet, pointing out that public finances are no longer considered a drag to the Philippines’ credit rating.

Among others, the agency highlighted the general government’s improving debt metrics, including longer maturities, lower borrowing costs and less interest payments. Fitch also said the Aquino administration’s budgeting process has been effective.