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Announcement:

Moody's: Nicaragua's fast economic growth and debt affordability is offset by its low income per capita, institutional weaknesses and external imbalances

08 Nov 2016

New York, November 08, 2016 -- Nicaragua's economy is one of the fastest growing in Latin America, but the nation is also one of the poorest and smallest of all sovereign issuers rated by Moody's Investors Service. The nation's B2 rating reflects these dynamics, as well as Nicaragua's low scores in World Bank governance indicators and other surveys that measure ease of doing business and perceived corruption levels, says Moody's in a report.

Of the 131 countries that Moody's rates, only 21 have economies that are smaller than Nicaragua's, which had nominal GDP of $12 billion in 2015. Nonetheless, Nicaragua's economy has grown by an average of 5.2% per year over the past five years, above the 4.3% median for B-rated nations.

A high share of foreign currency-denominated government debt (92%) exposes the government's balance sheet to exchange rate risk. Low fiscal deficits coupled with concessional external debt at very favorable terms, however, mitigate rollover and government liquidity risks. The central government debt ratio has remained at around 30% of GDP since 2007 coming well below the 49% median of B-rated countries.

Nicaragua's susceptibility to external shocks stemming from its trade and financing links with Venezuela has been considered a relevant credit weakness. Under the Petrocaribe program, Nicaragua pays for oil imports from Venezuela at full market price, but then receives half the amount back in the form of concessional loans.

However, the vulnerability to shocks emanating from the program have diminished considerably over the last year, says Ariane Ortiz-Bollin, an Analyst at Moody's.

"Because of lower oil prices, Nicaragua has received fewer loans from Petrocaribe," says Ortiz-Bollin. "A large portion of those loans were used to fund energy subsidies, and lower oil prices have meant less spending on subsidies. Social and infrastructure spending that was previously financed with these loans has also been reduced, or incorporated into the government's balance sheet, with only a moderate impact on the fiscal deficit."

Moody's report also assesses the potential impact of the "Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act," which was passed by the US House of Representatives and is now under discussion in the US Senate.

Moody's subscribers can access the report "Government of Nicaragua - B2 stable - Annual Credit Analysis," at

https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1047932

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This publication does not announce a credit rating action. For any credit ratings referenced in this publication, please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on www.moodys.com for the most updated credit rating action information and rating history.

Ariane Ortiz-Bollin
Analyst
Sovereign Risk Group
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
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Mauro Leos
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Sovereign Risk Group
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
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