Positive forecast: Fitch rating upgrades Ukraine to 'B-': Outlook stable

12:57 Nov. 12, 2016

Fitch rating upgrades Ukraine to 'B-': Outlook stable

Ukrainian economy growth (illustration by DT.ua)

Fitch forecasts Ukrainian economy growth up to 2.5% in 2017 and 3% in 2018, from a projected 1.1% in 2016

Fitch Ratings has upgraded Ukraine's Long-Term Foreign and Local Currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) to 'B-' from 'CCC', the Outlook is Stable, the agency statement reads.

"The issue ratings on Ukraine's long-term senior unsecured foreign- and local-currency bonds are also upgraded to 'B-' from 'CCC', and the sovereign's short-term senior unsecured foreign- and local-currency bonds are upgraded to 'B' from 'C'. The Country Ceiling has been upgraded to 'B-' from 'CCC' and the Short-Term Foreign- and Local-Currency IDRs to 'B' from 'C'," the Fitch report reads.

The upgrade of Ukraine's IDRs reflects the following: high external financing pressures have eased. International reserves have increased by USD2bn over the first 10 months of 2016 to USD15.5bn (around 3.5 months of current external payments), due to bilateral and multilateral support, improvement in some export prices, greater domestic confidence and increased exchange rate flexibility. However, the liquidity ratio remains weak and well below the 'B' median.

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"The IMF disbursed USD1bn after completing the delayed second review of Ukraine's Extended Fund Facility (EFF) in September, and a third USD1bn US-guaranteed Eurobond issue was placed. Further disbursements from the IMF and other international partners depend on progress in structural reform, which is subject to execution risks, and developments in bilateral relations. External debt repayments to multilateral and bilateral creditors are manageable, and external market debt amortisations resume only in 2019. Domestic debt roll-over risk is limited, as 91% of the debt stock is held by the central bank and state-owned banks. Some USD1.5bn in cash in Ukraine's treasury provides the sovereign with space to bridge gaps in external disbursements in the short-term. The current account deficit is expected to widen moderately to 2.5% of GDP in 2016 from 0.2% in 2015 and approach 3% over the forecast period to 2018 However, multilateral and bilateral financing, as well as improving domestic confidence supporting higher net capital inflows, will generate increases in international reserves forecast to average USD2.3bn over 2017-2018. The macroeconomic policy framework has been strengthened through increased exchange rate flexibility and tight monetary policy. Macroeconomic stability has improved, despite the delay in completing the second EFF review, as reflected by rapidly declining inflation, slower currency depreciation and a mild growth recovery. Inflation is forecast to average 14.9% in 2016, down from 48.5% in 2015, but well above the 4.6% 'B' median," rating statement explains.

Fitch's growth forecast for Ukraine predicts acceleration to 2.5% in 2017 and 3% in 2018, from a projected 1.1% in 2016. While investment has supported growth in 2016, it is likely to remain low relative to 'B'-rated peers, highlighting the importance of improving the business environment. Privatisation has yet to gain momentum. The unresolved conflict in eastern Ukraine will continue to weigh on growth performance and expectations.

The banking sector has stabilised, but is weak with low capitalisation levels and non-performing loans of over 50%, and poses a risk to economic stability and constrains economic recovery. Banks continue to improve capitalisation levels after an asset quality review in 2015. State-owned banks may see additional government injections, albeit at a lower level than in previous years.

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Fitch's sovereign rating committee adjusted the output from the SRM to arrive at the final Long-Term Foreign Currency IDR by applying its QO, relative to rated peers, as follows: Macro: +1 notch, to reflect Ukraine's strengthened monetary and exchange rate policy which will likely support improved macroeconomic performance and domestic confidence. Increased exchange rate flexibility allows to the economy to absorb shocks without depleting reserves. The main factors that could, individually or collectively, lead to a negative rating action are: Re-emergence of external financing pressures, loss of confidence and increased macroeconomic instability stemming from delays to disbursements from, or the collapse of, the IMF programme.

"Fitch expects neither resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine nor escalation of the conflict to the point of compromising overall macroeconomic performance. Fitch assumes the status of the outstanding USD3bn debt with Russia does not create risks for Ukraine's sovereign debt service and access to external financing," report summarizes

Read also Ukraine seeks more IMF cash

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