Ecuador Upgraded to B at Fitch on Forecast for Faster Growth

Ecuador’s credit rating was increased one step by Fitch Ratings on the outlook for faster economic growth amid increasing financial stability.

Fitch raised the long-term foreign debt rating to B, five levels below investment grade, from B-, the company said today in a statement. The outlook for the rating, the highest Fitch has ever assigned to the Andean country, is stable.

“Ecuador’s upgrade reflects the country’s continued healthy growth performance, monetary and financial stability underpinned by dollarization and a steady easing of external and fiscal financing risks,” Fitch said in the report. The country is also benefiting from favorable oil prices and the availability of financing from China and multilateral lenders.

The South American country, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, has relied on windfall oil profits, loans from China and funding from the nation’s public pension system to help finance spending since defaulting on $3.2 billion of international bonds in 2008 and 2009.

The B rating puts Ecuador in line with Ghana, Lebanon and the Dominican Republic and is the Andean nation’s third rating upgrade by Fitch since 2009 when the country exited default by buying back more than 90 percent of bonds it had stopped paying. The rating is still the third-lowest among 17 Central and South American countries covered by Fitch.

The yield on Ecuador’s dollar bonds due in 2015 fell four basis points, or 0.04 percentage point, to 7.11 percent at 4:20 p.m. in New York, Bloomberg data show. Bond yields have dropped 167 basis points this year, compared with a 132 basis point average increase for emerging-market sovereign bonds tracked by JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s EMBIG index.

China Loans

Ecuador obtained a $1.2 billion, four-year loan from China in August and expects an additional $400 million in credit in both 2014 and 2015, according to the Finance Ministry. President Rafael Correa has signed loan agreements worth about $10.8 billion from the Asian nation since the default five years ago.

In return for the cash infusion, Ecuador has since pledged about half its monthly crude production to pay down its debt, granted China mining concessions to explore for copper and offered Chinese state-controlled companies concessions to drill for oil in the country’s Amazon. Correa has used the funds to help triple public spending since he took office in 2007.

Public outlays, forecast by the Finance Ministry to increase 7.8 percent this year, are likely to continue driving growth, Fitch said. Gross domestic product could rise 3.8 percent this year and 4.2 percent in each of the following two years the rating company said.

The Finance Ministry expects the economy to expand 4.05 percent this year. Ecuador is rated by Moody’s Investors Service at Caa1 and B by Standard & Poor’s.

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