Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam are the Asian countries most at risk of a credit-rating downgrade as the global economy heads into a recession and funds become scarcer, said Standard & Poor’s.
“Pakistan is the weakest, followed by Sri Lanka, then Vietnam,” said Elena Okorotchenko, head of Asian sovereign ratings at S&P. “Pakistan faces severe pressure from the external side, the fiscal side, the monetary side, economic growth and politics. There are five angles in which we analyze a country’s ratings and Pakistan is negative on all counts.”
Foreign investors are exiting Asia’s emerging markets as they seek less-risky returns amid the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. That’s making it more difficult for nations in the region to pay for imports and is shrinking their foreign reserves.
By Patricia Lui, Bloomberg
“No country is immune from the global turmoil,” Okorotchenko said in a Nov. 5 interview in Singapore. “Asia is facing this crisis in a far stronger position than 10 years ago. But even countries with very strong fundamentals are facing fund pull-outs as investors de-leveraging have no regard for fundamentals.”
Pakistan’s credit rating was cut by S&P on Oct. 6 to CCC+, or seven levels below investment grade, on concern it won’t be able to pay its $3 billion debt servicing costs due in the coming year. It approached the International Monetary Fund last month for a bailout package after its foreign reserves shrunk to $3.71 billion on Oct. 25 from $14.2 billion a year ago.
Funding difficulties are the biggest threat to Sri Lanka’s ratings, Okorotchenko said. S&P rates Sri Lanka’s long-term foreign currency debt at B+ with negative outlook.
“Sri Lanka is facing funding concerns with rising short- term commercial debt while expectations of efforts to bring down fiscal deficits have proved incorrect,” she said. “I cannot know at this stage if they will go to the IMF but they will definitely need to think of their funding sources.”