Russia’s indigenous credit ratings firm, Analytical Credit Ratings Agency (ACRA), is up and running, and is set to issue its first ratings by the second half of the year, Bloomberg reported Friday. Ratings are necessary for companies and banks in their day-to-day operations, including for accessing central bank funding and calculating risk.
Russia is said to be pressuring foreign ratings agencies — such as Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor's — since it dismissed credit downgrades which pushed the country below investment grade last year as “politically motivated.”
In the past month, Moody’s and Fitch — two of the “big three” ratings agencies — have said they plan to stop issuing local ratings rather than agree to have their Moscow branches regulated by the Russian government at the cost of breaking international sanctions. Western countries had imposed sanctions on Russia over Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis and its annexation of Crimea.
In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a law regulating the activities of ratings agencies and expedited the creation of ACRA.
Last week, Fitch reportedly said it was continuing a "constructive dialogue" with Russia's central bank but the new law would put its Russia subsidiary in direct conflict with its international regulatory obligations.
According to the ACRA website, the agency is owned by 27 major Russian corporate and financial agencies, with each shareholder given a 3.7 percent stake in a bid to limit the risk of shareholders trying to influence decisions. The agency will be headed by Ekaterina Trofimova, a ratings veteran from S&P who joined Gazprombank as first vice-president in 2011.
ACRA plans to rate up to 70 firms and banks by the end of 2016, Trofimova told Reuters in October last year.
“Cutting off international agencies from national ratings, the state is protecting the local provider,” Ivan Guminov, chief fund manager at Ronin Trust in Moscow told Bloomberg.