S&P Cuts Greece Rating to Selective Default

Downgrade is a response to Greek bond buyback, rating agency says.

Greece’s credit grade was reduced to SD, or selective default, by Standard & Poor’s from CCC after the government began buying its bonds back from investors, a statement on the rating company’s website said yesterday.

The nation has offered 10 billion euros ($13.1 billion) to purchase debt issued earlier this year as the bailed-out country attempts to cut a debt load that may threaten future international aid. The rating was lifted to CCC from SD in May after undergoing the largest sovereign restructuring in history earlier this year.

“I don’t think the downgrade will have a big impact,” said Hajime Nagata, who helps oversee the equivalent of $125.1 billion as an investor in Tokyo at Diam Co., a unit of Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co., Japan’s second-biggest life insurer. “They have already restructured.”

Greece began repurchasing bonds maturing from 2023 to 2042 this week, offering a higher-than-planned price to increase demand for the debt-reduction measure.

The buyback “constitutes the launch of what we consider to be a distressed debt restructuring,” S&P said in its statement. “Any potential upgrade to the CCC category rating would reflect, among other factors, our view of the debt relief that is being delivered through the buy back and its contribution to putting the sovereign’s public finances on a sustainable footing.”

The SD designation “includes the completion of a distressed exchange offer, whereby one or more financial obligation is either repurchased for an amount of cash or replaced by other instruments having a total value that is less than par,” according to S&P’s website.

 

Debt Reduction

The purchases have helped buoy the nation’s debt. Greek bonds have returned 72 percent in the past three months, the best performance of 174 sovereign debt indexes tracked by the Federation of Financial Analysts Societies and Bloomberg.

European finance ministers last week eased the terms on emergency aid for Greece to help nurse the debt-stricken country back to health.

Euro-area finance ministers last week announced debt- reduction steps for Greece, including lower bailout loan rates and a recycling of the European Central Bank’s profits on the nation’s bonds back to the Athens treasury.

Ministers from all 27 European Union nations will return to Brussels next week to ratify Greece’s next aid payment, the fifth-straight week they’ll have descended on the Belgian capital.

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