Iran Opens Ratings Talks With Moody's, Fitch Ahead of Debt Salesby
Economy minister says no timetable for new sovereign rating
Fitch withdrew rating for Iran in 2008; Moody's in 2002
Iran is in talks with Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings about restarting sovereign credit ratings for the oil-rich state, Economic Affairs and Finance Minister Ali Tayyeb Nia said.
The government is negotiating with both companies, Tayyeb Nia said in an interview at a conference on Islamic finance in Tehran, without giving a timeline for the talks or a prospective Iranian debt sale on overseas markets.
International sanctions on Iran’s nuclear and missile programs excluded the country from foreign debt and financial markets for much of the past decade. After the bulk of restrictions were lifted following Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, the government is making up for lost time, seeking to win back its oil market share and attract billions of dollars of overseas investment to fund infrastructure projects.
Fitch withdrew its B+ sovereign rating, the fourth-highest junk grade, for Iran in 2008 following the maturity and full repayment of its last sovereign Eurobond that year. Moody’s withdrew its B2 rating on Iran in 2002, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“In March, Fitch confirmed it was in discussions with Iran, but we will not be commenting in further specific detail about the potential for or timing of new ratings at this time,” Fitch Ratings said in an e-mailed response to questions. Moody’s declined to comment.
Iran’s government is also encouraging companies to issue debt at home. Domestic bond sales are expected to double this year, Rouhollah Hosseini Moghaddam, vice president for issues and members at the Tehran Stock Exchange, said in an interview last month. Thirty new offerings with a combined value of $10 billion are expected by March 2017, he said, compared with eight sales worth a total of $5 billion in the last Iranian year.
The oil ministry is looking into an international bond to fund oil and gas projects, state-run National Iranian Oil Company said last week. Doing so would require reviving ties with Fitch, a process that would probably take about eight months, the oil ministry’s Shana news agency cited NIOC’s deputy investment and financing director Ali Kardor as saying.