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Announcement:

Moody's affirms Estonia's A1 government bond rating and stable outlook

Global Credit Research - 25 Jul 2012

London, 25 July 2012 -- Moody's Investors Service has today affirmed Estonia's A1 government bond rating and stable outlook, based on the following key drivers:

(1) The government's high financial strength and demonstrated ability to implement conservative budgetary policies under challenging macroeconomic conditions.

(2) The government's strong balance sheet, as indicated by its very low levels of indebtedness, and sizeable fiscal reserves, which cushion the impact of external shocks on government finances.

(3) Despite the intensification of the euro area crisis which will result in a slowdown of growth, Estonia's susceptibility to external shocks is considered to be low. This is supported by negligible macroeconomic imbalances and a relatively healthy banking system.

For additional information on Sovereign ratings, please refer to the webpage containing Moody's related announcements http://www.moodys.com/eusovereign

RATINGS RATIONALE

The main driver of Moody's decision to affirm Estonia's government bond rating is the government's high financial strength, which is supported by its demonstrated ability to implement conservative budgetary policies. For example, during the sharp 14.3% economic contraction in 2009, the government did not deviate from strict adherence to the Maastricht Treaty criteria.

In 2011, Estonia's budget balance exceeded expectations by posting a surplus of 1% of GDP, which was in contrast to the targeted deficit of 1.6% of GDP. The economy also grew by 7.6% (the highest growth in the euro area) contributing to the budget outperformance. Moody's expects lower growth in 2012 of 1.7% because of subdued external demand. While slower growth will have an impact on fiscal outcomes, the government also intends to increase expenditures on energy related investments and resume its contribution to the second-pillar social security fund. These actions will result in a budget deficit of 2.6% of GDP, however, Moody's believes that the government's demonstrated policy responsiveness and its commitment to conservative fiscal policies will compel a reversal of the budget deficit and the resumption of fiscal reserve accumulation.

The second driver of today's affirmation is Estonia's strong government balance sheet, as evidenced by its low levels of indebtedness, which sets it apart from its A-rated and other euro area peers. Estonia's gross debt stood at 6% of GDP in 2011 and is expected to increase to 8.8% of GDP in 2012 due to a 2.7% of GDP addition of debt attributed to its contribution to the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF). The country also benefits from fiscal reserves, which currently stand at approximately 10% of GDP. Moody's expects these reserves to decline to around 8% of GDP at year-end 2012, as they will be used to finance the 2012 budget deficit. But even at this lower level, the reserves provide an adequate cushion to absorb unexpected shocks. Moody's recognises that, during the next two years, Estonia's debt to GDP will continue to increase due to EFSF and European Stability Mechanism (ESM) obligations. However, the rating agency views the resultant credit metrics as still being consistent with a A1 rating.

The third driver is Estonia's low susceptibility to external shocks. While Moody's expects that Estonia's economic growth will slow in 2012 due to a decline in external demand, this risk is balanced by the negligible domestic imbalances in the economy. Notably, the current account, which averaged 12% of GDP deficits between 2002 and 2008, has moved into a surplus for the past three years, posting a surplus of 2.1% of GDP in 2011 and is expected to be in surplus this year as well. The foreign-owned banking system is in relatively good health, with little exposure to the euro area, and the rating agency expects parental support for Estonian subsidiaries to continue. Moody's also notes that the economy benefits from its strong links to Nordic (primarily Finland and Sweden) and Baltic countries, which are a source of investment and growth. Moreover, the government has no outstanding bonds and does not need to access financial markets for refinancing needs. These factors combined strengthen the country's ability to absorb shocks.

WHAT COULD CHANGE THE RATING - UP

Moody's would consider an upgrade if Estonia were able to demonstrate a long-term track record of steady growth and an improvement in economic strength by diversifying and strengthening its economic base to further mitigate vulnerabilities to external shocks.

WHAT COULD CHANGE THE RATING - DOWN

Moody's would consider a downgrade if an intensification of the euro area crisis affected the government's contingent liabilities and resulted in a rapid build-up of debt. Moreover, any flagging commitment on the part of foreign bank owners could also raise the government's contingent liabilities emanating from the Estonian banking system.

The principal methodology used in this rating was Sovereign Bond Ratings published in September 2008. Please see the Credit Policy page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

For ratings issued on a program, series or category/class of debt, this announcement provides relevant regulatory disclosures in relation to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series or category/class of debt or pursuant to a program for which the ratings are derived exclusively from existing ratings in accordance with Moody's rating practices. For ratings issued on a support provider, this announcement provides relevant regulatory disclosures in relation to the rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular rating action for securities that derive their credit ratings from the support provider's credit rating. For provisional ratings, this announcement provides relevant regulatory disclosures in relation to the provisional rating assigned, and in relation to a definitive rating that may be assigned subsequent to the final issuance of the debt, in each case where the transaction structure and terms have not changed prior to the assignment of the definitive rating in a manner that would have affected the rating. For further information please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page for the respective issuer on www.moodys.com.

Moody's considers the quality of information available on the rated entity, obligation or credit satisfactory for the purposes of issuing a rating.

Moody's adopts all necessary measures so that the information it uses in assigning a rating is of sufficient quality and from sources Moody's considers to be reliable including, when appropriate, independent third-party sources. However, Moody's is not an auditor and cannot in every instance independently verify or validate information received in the rating process.

Please see Moody's Rating Symbols and Definitions on the Rating Process page on www.moodys.com for further information on the meaning of each rating category and the definition of default and recovery.

Please see ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on www.moodys.com for the last rating action and the rating history. The date on which some ratings were first released goes back to a time before Moody's ratings were fully digitized and accurate data may not be available. Consequently, Moody's provides a date that it believes is the most reliable and accurate based on the information that is available to it. Please see the ratings disclosure page on our website www.moodys.com for further information.

Please see www.moodys.com for any updates on changes to the lead rating analyst and to the Moody's legal entity that has issued the rating.

Alpona?Banerji
Asst Vice President - Analyst
Sovereign Risk Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
One Canada Square
Canary Wharf
London E14 5FA
United Kingdom
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Bart Oosterveld
MD - Sovereign Risk
Sovereign Risk Group
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Releasing Office:
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
One Canada Square
Canary Wharf
London E14 5FA
United Kingdom
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Moody's affirms Estonia's A1 government bond rating and stable outlook
No Related Data.

 

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