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Tuesday June 25th, 2024

Fitch downgrades Sri Lanka DDR bonds to ‘Default’, rupee rating to ‘RD’

ECONOMYNEXT – Fitch Ratings said it has downgraded the rating on several bonds involved in a domestic debt restructuring to default, while the long-term local currency rating was downgraded to ‘Restricted Default’.

“The ratings on its local-currency bonds tendered in the domestic debt exchange have been downgraded to ‘D’ from ‘C’ while its other four local-currency bonds not tendered in the domestic debt exchange have been affirmed at ‘C’,” the rating agency said.

Fitch downgraded Sri Lanka’s foreign currency rating to restricted default when the country defaulted on its sovereign and bilateral creditors last year.

The full statement is reproduced below:

Fitch Downgrades Sri Lanka’s Long-Term Local-Currency IDR to ‘RD’

Thu 14 Sep, 2023 – 2:08 PM ET

Fitch Ratings – Hong Kong – 14 Sep 2023: Fitch Ratings has downgraded Sri Lanka’s Long-Term Local-Currency (LTLFC) Issuer Default Rating (IDR) to ‘RD’ (Restricted Default) from ‘C’.

The ratings on its local-currency bonds tendered in the domestic debt exchange have been downgraded to ‘D’ from ‘C’ while its other four local-currency bonds not tendered in the domestic debt exchange have been affirmed at ‘C’.

The Long-Term Foreign-Currency (LTFC) IDR has been affirmed at ‘RD’, and the ratings on Sri Lanka’s foreign-currency bonds have been affirmed at ‘D’.

All issue ratings have subsequently been withdrawn.

Fitch typically does not assign Outlooks to sovereigns with a rating of ‘CCC+’ or below.

A full list of rating actions is detailed below.

Fitch has withdrawn the issue ratings of Sri Lanka’s foreign and local-currency bonds as these are no longer considered to be relevant to the agency’s coverage.
KEY RATING DRIVERS

Distressed Debt Exchange: The downgrade of Sri Lanka’s LTLC IDR reflects the partial completion of an exchange of Sri Lanka’s T-bonds on 14 September as part of a broader domestic debt optimisation (DDO) launched in July 2023. The DDO also includes conversion of T-bills held by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) into treasury bonds (T-bonds), which has not yet been completed.

In Fitch’s view, the exchange of T-bonds constitutes a distressed debt exchange (DDE) under the agency’s criteria, given that the maturity extension of the tendered bonds represents a material reduction in terms versus the original contractual terms, and given that the exchange is needed to avoid a traditional payment default.

Reduction in Terms: Eligible bonds for which tenders were received and accepted have been exchanged into 12 new instruments of equal size and the same aggregate principal amount, maturing between 2027 and 2038. Accepted tenders reached about 37% of the outstanding principal amount of eligible bonds outstanding as of 28 June 2023. Accepted tenders were predominantly by superannuation funds, which will face higher tax rates on income from T-bonds if they did not meet a participation threshold.

Local-Currency Debt Service Continuing: Fitch believes that Sri Lanka has continued to service the T-bonds throughout the DDO process, and that T-bonds not tendered in the exchange will continue to be serviced as per their original terms, including but not limited to the entirety of the 12 series of T-bonds (out of 61 eligible series) for which no valid tenders were received. Four of these 12 series were rated by Fitch and were affirmed at ‘C’ prior to withdrawal.

Local-Currency Restructuring Incomplete: Under Fitch’s rating criteria, the LTLC IDR will remain in ‘RD’ until the debt exchange is completed in its entirety. Fitch deems the process incomplete, as the exchange of T-bills held by CBSL is still pending. Fitch regards the T-bills as public debt securities, and they are also held by private investors.

Foreign-Currency IDR in Default: The sovereign remains in default on foreign-currency obligations and has initiated a debt restructuring with official and private external creditors. The Ministry of Finance had issued a statement on 12 April 2022 that it had suspended normal debt servicing of several categories of external debt, including bonds issued in international capital markets, foreign currency-denominated loans and credit facilities with commercial banks and institutional lenders.

ESG – Governance: Sri Lanka has an ESG Relevance Score of ‘5’ for Political Stability and Rights as well as for the Rule of Law, Institutional and Regulatory Quality and Control of Corruption. These scores reflect the high weight that the World Bank Governance Indicators (WBGI) have in our proprietary Sovereign Rating Model (SRM). Sri Lanka has a medium WBGI ranking in the 45th percentile, reflecting a recent record of peaceful political transitions, a moderate level of rights for participation in the political process, moderate institutional capacity, established rule of law and a moderate level of corruption.

ESG – Creditor Rights: Sri Lanka has an ESG Relevance Score of ‘5’ for Creditor Rights, as willingness to service and repay debt is highly relevant to the rating and is a key rating driver with a high weight. The affirmation of Sri Lanka’s LTFC IDR at ‘RD’ and downgrade of LTLC IDR to ‘RD’ reflect a default event.

RATING SENSITIVITIES

Factors that Could, Individually or Collectively, Lead to Negative Rating Action/Downgrade

– The Long-Term IDRs are at the lowest level, and cannot be downgraded further

– The Short-Term Local-Currency IDR will be downgraded to ‘RD’ on the completion of the exchange of T-bills

Factors that Could, Individually or Collectively, Lead to Positive Rating Action/Upgrade

– Following completion of the debt exchange with CBSL, Fitch will assign Sri Lanka’s LTLC IDR based on a forward-looking assessment of its willingness and capacity to honour its local-currency debt

– For the LTFC IDR, completion of the foreign-currency commercial debt restructuring that Fitch judges to have normalised relationship with private-sector creditors may result in an upgrade

SOVEREIGN RATING MODEL (SRM) AND QUALITATIVE OVERLAY (QO)

In accordance with the rating criteria for ratings in the ‘CCC’ range and below, Fitch’s sovereign rating committee has not used the SRM and QO to explain the ratings, which are instead guided by the agency’s rating definitions.

Fitch’s SRM is the agency’s proprietary multiple regression rating model that employs 18 variables based on three-year centred averages, including one year of forecasts, to produce a score equivalent to a LTFC IDR. Fitch’s QO is a forward-looking qualitative framework designed to allow for adjustment to the SRM output to assign the LTFC IDR, reflecting factors within our criteria that are not fully quantifiable and/or not fully reflected in the SRM.

COUNTRY CEILING

The Country Ceiling for Sri Lanka is ‘B-‘. For sovereigns rated ‘CCC+’ or below, Fitch assumes a starting point of ‘CCC+’ for determining the Country Ceiling. Fitch’s Country Ceiling Model produced a starting point uplift of zero notches. Fitch’s rating committee applied a +1 notch qualitative adjustment to this, under the balance of payments restrictions pillar, reflecting that the private sector has not been prevented or significantly impeded from converting local currency into foreign currency and transferring the proceeds to non-resident creditors to service debt payments.

Fitch does not assign Country Ceilings below ‘CCC+’, and only assigns a Country Ceiling of ‘CCC+’ in the event that transfer and convertibility risk has materialised and is affecting the vast majority of economic sectors and asset classes.

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Sri Lanka to sign Paris Club debt deals as fresh ISB talks to also start

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will sign agreements on restructured debt with Paris Club creditors Wednesday, Cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardana said as sources said talks with private creditors are also due to start later in the week.

The relevant senior officials and State Minister Shehan Semasinghe has already left the country to sign the agreements, Minister Gunawardana said.

Sri Lanka has held detailed negotiations with bilateral creditors ever since a sovereign default in 2022 and President Ranil Wickremesinghe has personally met leaders of friendly countries to expedite the restructuring, he said.

The finalizing of the restructure was a ‘great victory’ for Sri Lanka he said.

Details will be revealed to parliament by President Wickremesinghe and an address to the nation on Wednesday he said.

Discussion with private bondholders are also taking place separately, he said.

Face to face talks with bond holders are likely to start Thursday, sources said.

Investors in a steering committee representing key bondholders have halted trading and are in a ‘restricted’ period Bloomberg Newswires reported.

Sri Lanka is attempting to restructure 12.5 billion dollars of sovereign bonds and about 1.7 billion dollars of past due interest following the declaration of an external default in 2022.

Private investors are seeking some so-called macro-linked bonds whose final haircut is linked to dollar GDP as well as some standard or ‘plain vanilla’ bonds with an upfront haircut.

The style of bonds have not been used in sovereign restructurings before. In the latest round of talks more plain vanilla bonds may be discussed, sources aware of the thinking of some bond investors said.

The ISB holders have proposed a 28 percent haircut and a 1.8 percent consent fee. The macro-linked bonds would have principle re-stated up to 92 percent of the original depending on the evolution of gross domestic product.

Sri Lanka is restructuring debt using an IMF debt sustainability model applied to middle income countries with market access as opposed to debt sustainability model used in countries like Ghana applicable to low income countries requiring deeper haircuts on both domestic and foreign debt.

Hair cuts may also depend on the maturity of bonds and the coupon interest.

Ghana has higher levels of commercial debt having started to access capital markets from around 2007.

Ghana also has a bad central bank like Sri Lanka and has gone to the International Monetary Fund 18 times.

The country is also operating flexible inflation targeting (inflation targeting without a clean float), which critics say is the latest spurious monetary regime peddled to hapless unstable countries without a doctrinal foundation in sound money.

Having done broad domestic debt restructuring as well as continued currency volatility both interest rates and inflation remains above 20 percent.

Ghana’s central bank has a worse monetary anchor (8 percent inflation plus 2 percent) compared to 5 percent plus two in Sri Lanka and runs into currency trouble despite being an oil producer like Iran, Venezuela and neighboring Nigeria.

Nigeria has an inflation target of 6-9 percent but ends up with around 20 plus inflation and currency trouble.

Sri Lanka has undershot its inflation target since reaching monetary stability in September 2022 and has appreciated the currency, amid deflationary policy giving a strong foundation for economic activity to resume. (Colombo/June26/2024)

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Sri Lanka to seek investors for 200MW BOOT power plant

EONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s cabinet has given approval to seek investors for a 200 MegaWatt independent power plant on a build-own-operate-and-transfer (BOOT) basis, a government statement said.

The internal combustion power plant will be capable of running on natural gas and is part of the Long-Term Generation Expansion of state-run Ceylon Electricity Board.

The investor will get as 20-year power purchase agreement.

Land next to the ‘Sobhadanavi’ combined cycle plant will be made available for the developer.

According to the generation plan, the 200MW IC plant is expected to come on stream by 2026.

In 2026, a 115 MW gas turbine, a CEB owned diesel plants of 68 MW and 72 MW are due to be retired. (Colombo/June25/2026)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes steady at 305.25/35 to US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed fairly flat at 305.25/35 to the US dollar on Tuesday, down from 305.20/30 to the US dollar on Monday, dealers said, while bond yields up.

A bond maturing on 01.06.2026 closed at 10.75/11.05 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2026 closed at 10.65/11.05 percent, up from 10.45/85 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.10.2027 closed at 10.65/11.10 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.03.2028 closed at 11.20/11.50 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2029 closed at 12.10/15 percent, up from 12.05/17 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.12.2031 closed at 12.10/20 percent, up from 12.08/15 percent.
(Colombo/Jun25/2024)

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