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Rating Action:

Moody's changes Argentina's outlook to negative from stable; affirms B2 ratings

12 Jul 2019

New York, July 12, 2019 -- Moody's Investors Service ("Moody's") has today changed the outlook for the Government of Argentina to negative from stable. Concurrently, Moody's has affirmed the B2 foreign-currency and local-currency long-term issuer and senior unsecured ratings. The senior unsecured ratings for shelf registrations were also affirmed at (P)B2.

At the same time Argentina's short-term rating was affirmed at Not Prime (NP). The senior unsecured ratings for unrestructured debt were affirmed at Ca and the unrestructured senior unsecured shelf affirmed at (P)Ca.

Moody's decision to change the outlook to negative for Argentina's B2 ratings reflects:

1. Increased uncertainty regarding the continued implementation of policies that, by addressing Argentina's fundamental imbalances, restore reliable access to international capital markets and contain the risk of further damaging currency shocks.

2. And, relatedly, the rising risk that policy uncertainty itself leads to a material, sustained shift in sentiment that increases financing pressures and erodes buffers.

The B2 rating affirmation reflects Moody's central expectation that Argentina's core credit metrics will not worsen materially still further over the coming period. The rating level balances a rising debt burden and a history of economic volatility with comparatively high economic development and support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Argentina's long-term foreign-currency bond ceiling remains unchanged at B1 and the foreign-currency deposit ceiling unchanged at B3. The local-currency country ceilings for bonds and bank deposits remain unchanged at Ba2. The short-term foreign-currency bank deposit ceiling and the short-term foreign-currency bond ceiling remain unchanged at Not Prime (NP).

RATINGS RATIONALE

RATIONALE FOR CHANGING THE OUTLOOK TO NEGATIVE FROM STABLE

INCREASED UNCERTAINTY REGARDING CONTINUED IMPLEMENTATION OF POLICIES THAT WILL RESTORE RELIABLE ACCESS TO INTERNATIONAL CAPITAL MARKETS AND REDUCE THE RISK OF FURTHER CURRENCY SHOCKS

The structural reform program initiated by President Macri's government, and the accelerated fiscal consolidation efforts that sit at its core, have played a crucial role in restoring a modicum of credit stability after last year's severe currency shocks. They have done so both by reassuring investors as to the government's medium-term objectives; and by allowing the government to reach a three year, $57 billion Stand By Arrangement (SBA) with the IMF, which has been a key liquidity support. The government aims to end 2020 with a 1% of GDP primary surplus, which it expects will support a return to the international capital markets in 2020 or 2021. In the meantime, IMF lending will provide over 60% of Argentina's medium and long-term funding in 2019. And even though the importance of IMF funding will fall in 2020 and 2021, strong relations with the IMF will remain vital if financial and exchange rate stability is to be sustained over the next few years.

However, the government's ability to continue to implement its desired policies and to sustain its commitment to reform over the medium term is increasingly uncertain. Rising domestic discontent at the near-term impact of government policies on growth and living standards is raising the prospect of a different, and potentially credit negative, policy path in the period following the national elections in October. Argentina has a long history of policy changes following changes in government. The main opposition candidates have raised questions about commitments made as part of the IMF program. They have not ruled out seeking to renegotiate some or all of the SBA conditions and pursuing alternative fiscal strategies and monetary policies that could complicate the country's relationship with the IMF.

But whatever the result of the upcoming elections, shifts in the domestic political environment suggest that the future path of policy is increasingly uncertain. The risk is rising of changes or potentially reversals to a fiscal consolidation program that Moody's currently estimates will reduce the government's primary balance to a 0.5% of GDP deficit in 2019 from a 4.2% of GDP deficit in 2016. A significant reversal of these targets could threaten the continuation of the SBA program and close the door on international market funding. That funding will be needed to meet the government's financing requirements from 2021 onwards. The absence of it would put significant pressure on the liquidity position of the government and increase the possibility of a debt restructuring in the next two or three years.

RISING RISK THAT POLICY UNCERTAINTY ITSELF LEADS TO A SUSTAINED SHIFT IN SENTIMENT THAT INCREASES FINANCING PRESSURES AND ERODES BUFFERS

Recent months have illustrated Argentina's vulnerability to vicious cycles of worsening investor sentiment, exchange rate depreciation, rising inflation expectations, rising interest rates, falling growth, rising debt and falling debt affordability. Since April of last year Argentina has gone through several exchange rate shocks, which have left most credit metrics significantly weaker than when the country's rating was upgraded to B2 in 2017. Government debt will reach 76% of GDP this year, up from 50% in 2017. Over the same time period interest payments have jumped to 17% of revenues from 11%. Both debt and interest payments are now higher than the median for B2 and B3-rated sovereigns. The exchange rate shocks have also pushed inflation close to 60% over the last twelve months and will result in two consecutive years of falling economic output.

Moody's decision to affirm the B2 rating reflects its central expectation that core metrics will not materially worsen still further. However, the negative outlook reflects balance of risk to the downside and the country's vulnerability to unpredictable shifts in sentiment. In the last two months, exchange rate pressures have eased and sovereign spreads have fallen. But volatility remains high, and much rests on the administration's policy credibility after many years of highly idiosyncratic policymaking. Concerns on the part of investors and consumers, before or after the elections, about the likely emergence and consequences of a credit negative policy shift could lead to a fresh vicious cycle triggered by a new round of currency devaluations which would further worsen already weak credit metrics. Another sudden and sharp devaluation would push inflation still higher, ending the nascent economic recovery and delaying still further the recovery from recession, and rapidly worsen the debt burden and debt affordability.

RATIONALE FOR AFFIRMING THE RATINGS AT B2

The affirmation of the B2 rating reflects Moody's central expectation that Argentina's core metrics will not materially worsen still further and that support from the IMF will sustain the issuer until it is able to regain affordable access to international capital markets. Notwithstanding the rise in the government's debt and interest burdens, the sovereign benefits from its strong commitment to consolidation under its IMF program to date. This should, provided policy continuity persists, see domestic and external imbalances continue to adjust, with IMF financing shielding the government from external refinancing risks through 2019. As confidence returns, so should growth, allowing Argentina to build on fundamental strengths including a large, highly developed and comparatively wealthy economy.

WHAT COULD CHANGE THE RATING UP

Although a rating upgrade is unlikely in the near future, a return to a stable outlook could result if it becomes clear that fiscal consolidation, central bank independence, and continued support from the IMF will be sustained in the coming years.

WHAT COULD CHANGE THE RATING DOWN

The rating would likely be downgraded were Moody's to observe a further material worsening in Argentina's fiscal strength and a heightened exposure to domestic or external financing shocks, or were it to conclude that the risk of such an outcome had materially risen. Such a conclusion would likely be driven by revised assumptions around the future path of government economic and fiscal policy, particularly if supported by a worsening in relations with the IMF and by a further erosion in financial buffers.

GDP per capita (PPP basis, US$): 20,537 (2018 Actual) (also known as Per Capita Income)

Real GDP growth (% change): -2.5% (2018 Actual) (also known as GDP Growth)

Inflation Rate (CPI, % change Dec/Dec): 47.6% (2018 Actual)

Gen. Gov. Financial Balance/GDP: -5.2% (2018 Actual) (also known as Fiscal Balance)

Current Account Balance/GDP: -5.4% (2018 Actual) (also known as External Balance)

External debt/GDP: 53.5% (2018 Actual)

Level of economic development: Low level of economic resilience

Default history: At least one default event (on bonds and/or loans) has been recorded since 1983.

On 09 July 2019, a rating committee was called to discuss the rating of the Argentina, Government of. The main points raised during the discussion were: The issuer's economic fundamentals, including its economic strength, have materially decreased. The issuer's institutional strength/framework, have materially decreased. The issuer's fiscal or financial strength, including its debt profile, has materially decreased. The systemic risk in which the issuer operates has materially increased. The issuer has become increasingly susceptible to event risks.

The principal methodology used in these ratings was Sovereign Bond Ratings published in November 2018. Please see the Rating Methodologies page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

The weighting of all rating factors is described in the methodology used in this credit rating action, if applicable.

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

For ratings issued on a program, series or category/class of debt, this announcement provides certain 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 certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the credit rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular credit rating action for securities that derive their credit ratings from the support provider's credit rating. For provisional ratings, this announcement provides certain 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.

For any affected securities or rated entities receiving direct credit support from the primary entity(ies) of this credit rating action, and whose ratings may change as a result of this credit rating action, the associated regulatory disclosures will be those of the guarantor entity. Exceptions to this approach exist for the following disclosures, if applicable to jurisdiction: Ancillary Services, Disclosure to rated entity, Disclosure from rated entity.

Regulatory disclosures contained in this press release apply to the credit rating and, if applicable, the related rating outlook or rating review.

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.

Please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on www.moodys.com for additional regulatory disclosures for each credit rating.

Gabriel Torres
VP - Senior Credit Officer
Sovereign Risk Group
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376
Client Service: 1 212 553 1653

Yves Lemay
MD - Sovereign Risk
Sovereign Risk Group
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
Client Service: 44 20 7772 5454

Releasing Office:
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376
Client Service: 1 212 553 1653

No Related Data.
© 2019 Moody’s Corporation, Moody’s Investors Service, Inc., Moody’s Analytics, Inc. and/or their licensors and affiliates (collectively, “MOODY’S”). All rights reserved.

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