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S&P cuts India's outlook from stable to negative

Last updated on: April 25, 2012 14:55 IST

S&P cuts India's outlook from stable to negative

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Global agency Standard and Poor's on Wednesday lowered India's rating outlook to negative and warned of a downgrade in two years if there is no improvement in the fiscal situation and the political climate continues to worsen.

The lowering of outlook from stable (BBB+) to negative (BBB-) is expected to make external commercial borrowings expensive for Indian Inc.

It may also have implications for the capital market.

"The outlook revision reflects our view of at least a one-in-three likelihood of a downgrade if the external position continues to deteriorate, growth prospects diminish or progress on fiscal reforms remains slow in a weakened political setting" said S & P's credit analyst Takahira Ogawa in a statement.

Terming S&Poor's decision to lower India's credit rating outlook to negative as a 'timely warning', Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, however, said there is no need to panic as the government is committed to economic reforms.

"I am concerned but I don't feel panicky because I am confident that our economy will grow at 7 per cent, around 7 per cent if not plus.

"We will be able to control fiscal deficit and it will be around 5.1 per cent", he told reporters.

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Photographs: Ajay Verma/Reuters

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S&P cuts India's outlook from stable to negative

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BBB- is the lowest investment grade rating.

Commenting on the rating action, Jagannadham Thunuguntla, strategist and head of research at SMC Global Securities, said, "Indian (new) sovereign rating is just one step away from junk bond status. . . Somehow I feel the dream of India growth story is coming to an end".

The negative outlook, the rating agency further said, signals likelihood of the downgrade of India's sovereign within the next 24 months.

The finance minister said that government will take note of the S&P's decision to lower India's rating outlook to BBB- (the lowest investment grade rating) and work for achieving higher economic growth.

"So economic reforms will be on track. The reform process and necessary administrative decisions required to ensure that fiscal deficit is retained at projected level (will be taken).

"We should continue to work for higher GDP. . . We will take note. It is a timely warning", the minister said.

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Image: Folk dancers perform during the Cochin Carnival at Fort Kochi in Kochi.
Photographs: Stringer/Reuters

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S&P cuts India's outlook from stable to negative

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According to S&P's, a  downgrade is likely if the country's economic growth prospects is dim, its external position deteriorates, its political climate worsens, or fiscal reforms slow.

The lowering of rating outlook comes despite Finance Ministry pitching for an upgrade at the recent round of meetings between the officials and representatives of the S&P.

 S&P said India's real gross domestic product per capita growth will likely remain moderately strong at 5.3 per cent in 2012-13, compared with about 6 per cent on average over the prior five years.

"India's favourable demography and the increasing middle-class population will undergird its medium-term growth
prospects, which in turn will support the sovereign ratings," Ogawa said.

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Image: Vijay Mathur/Reuters


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S&P cuts India's outlook from stable to negative

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India's favourable long-term growth prospects and high level of foreign exchange reserves support the ratings, the agency said.

On the other hand, India's large fiscal deficits and debt, as well as its lower middle-income economy,
constrain the ratings, it added.

"High fiscal deficits and a heavy debt burden remain the most significant constraints on the sovereign ratings on India. We expect only modest progress in fiscal and public sector reforms, given the political cycle -- with the next elections to be held by May 2014--and the current political gridlock," S&P said.

Such reforms include reducing fuel and fertiliser subsidies, introducing goods and services tax, and easing of restrictions on foreign ownership of various sectors such as banking, insurance, and retail sectors, it said.

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Image: The Reserve Bank of India.
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters
Tags: India , S&P

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S&P cuts India's outlook from stable to negative

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On the other hand, S&P said the ratings 'could stabilise again if the government implements initiatives to reduce structural fiscal deficits and to improve its investment climate'.

Fiscal measures could include an increase in domestic prices and a more efficient use of fuel and fertiliser
subsidies, or an early implementation of the GST.

Reacting to the rating action, a senior Finance Ministry official said India's growth rate is intact and robust and it
is not going to have any major impact on the country.

"We are not overtly concerned about revision. Other nations make India look good," the official added.


Photographs: Jitendra Prakash/Reuters

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