Europe May Face More Ratings Cuts, Greek Default, Standard & Poor's Says

By Anchalee Worrachate - Mar 8, 2011 11:03 AM PT
BLOOMBERG

Some countries in the euro region may have their credit ratings cut further while a Greece debt default is a “possibility,” said Moritz Kraemer, managing director of European sovereign ratings at Standard & Poor’s.

Asked if the worst was over for the region’s sovereign credit-rating outlook, Kraemer said: “I wish I could say yes, but the answer is no.”

“We still have a number of countries with a negative outlook or CreditWatch negative, indicating their credit ratings may be going down further,” Kraemer said in an interview in London. “Trigger points for that could be slippage in fiscal consolidation and structural reforms, but also decisions that will be taken at the European level later this month.”

S&P said on March 1 it kept Portugal’s A-long-term, A2 short-term and Greece’s BB+ long-term ratings on CreditWatch with a negative outlook. It cited Portugal’s “high external financing need and limited funding sources.” Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Greece’s government bond ratings yesterday to B1 from Ba1 , and assigned a negative outlook to the rating.

While the Portuguese government “has progressed its fiscal stabilization and economic reforms in recent months,” the nation “could find itself forced to approach” the European Union’s rescue fund and the International Monetary Fund, S&P said in the March 1 statement. The ratings company said in a separate report on the same day that it’s closely monitoring Greece’s progress in following through on its fiscal reforms.

S&P placed Portugal on CreditWatch negative on Nov. 30 and Greece on Dec. 2.

Kraemer said a debt default by the Greece’s government is “a possibility” and that investors may recover between 30 percent and 50 percent of the total value if that happens.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anchalee Worrachate in London at aworrachate@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Tilles at dtilles@bloomberg.net

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