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Announcement:

Moody's changes outlook on Azerbaijan's sovereign ratings to positive from stable

08 Mar 2011

London, 08 March 2011 -- Moody's Investors Service has today changed the outlook on Azerbaijan's Ba1 government bond ratings to positive from stable.

This rating action was taken as a result of (i) significant improvements in the government's fiscal and external positions, reflected in the rapid accumulation of financial assets in the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan (SOFAZ) ; and (ii) ongoing government efforts to invest in the non-oil sector.

Concurrently, Moody's has changed the outlook on Azerbaijan's Baa2 foreign and A3 local-currency debt ceilings and its Ba2/Baa1 foreign and local-currency deposit ceilings to positive from stable.

RATINGS RATIONALE

Moody's improved outlook on Azerbaijan's government bond ratings reflects significant improvements in the country's fiscal and external accounts, which have strengthened due to the recovery in oil prices in 2010 and the prudent management of the revenues from those increases. The government registered a fiscal surplus of 14% of GDP in its consolidated budget, while the current account surplus was 30% of GDP in 2010. Most of the surpluses were saved in SOFAZ, whose assets grew by USD8 billion to USD23 billion between the end of 2009 and the end of 2010, in addition to which the Central Bank's foreign reserves increased by USD1.6 billion to USD7 billion.

The government's investments in the non-oil sector are also beginning to yield benefits. Non-oil sector growth increased by 7.9% in 2010, compared with 3.2% in 2009. The government actively supports the private sector with its Enterprise Fund, which invested USD125 million in over 100 companies in 2010. However, the outlook for non-oil growth in Azerbaijan will depend on further progress towards liberalising the economic structure as well as the extent of the government's investment capital.

POTENTIAL TRIGGERS FOR A DOWNGRADE/UPGRADE

Positive pressure would be exerted on Azerbaijan's sovereign bond ratings if the government's attempts to diversify the economy away from the energy sector leads to higher sustained non-oil sector growth. The ratings will also experience upward pressure if the government and the central bank continue to build larger foreign-currency reserves to cushion against any external or political shocks and continue to invest those assets conservatively.

Downward rating pressure on Azerbaijan's sovereign bond ratings might occur if there is significant deterioration in the domestic or regional political environment, or a prolonged period of fiscal deterioration. However, Moody's considers a prolonged period of fiscal deterioration as a low-probability event, given the government's very high financial strength. Similarly, the probability of a domestic political shock is low, because government revenues will likely remain high and social policies redistributive. Geopolitical risks related to the unresolved conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region are another consideration that constrains the ratings.

PREVIOUS RATING ACTION & METHODOLOGY

Moody's most recent rating action on Azerbaijan was implemented on 19 June 2009, when the rating agency changed the outlooks on the country's sovereign bond ratings and on its local and foreign-currency ceilings to stable from positive.

The principal methodology used in rating Azerbaijan was "Moody's Sovereign Bond Methodology", which was published in September 2008 and can be found on www.moodys.com.

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

Information sources used to prepare the credit rating are the following: parties involved in the ratings, public information, and confidential and proprietary Moody's Investors Service information.

Moody's Investors Service considers the quality of information available on the issuer or obligation satisfactory for the purposes of maintaining a credit rating.

Moody's Investors Service may have provided Ancillary or Other Permissible Service(s) to the rated entity or its related third parties within the three years preceding the Credit Rating Action. Please see the ratings disclosure page www.moodys.com/disclosures on our website for further information.

Moody's adopts all necessary measures so that the information it uses in assigning a credit 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 ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on Moodys.com for the last rating action and the rating history.

The date on which some Credit Ratings were first released goes back to a time before Moody's Investors Service's Credit Ratings were fully digitized and accurate data may not be available. Consequently, Moody's Investors Service 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 the Credit Policy page on Moodys.com for the methodologies used in determining ratings, further information on the meaning of each rating category and the definition of default and recovery.

New York
Bart Oosterveld
MD-CCO Pub, Proj and Infra Fin
Sovereign Risk Group
Moody's Investors Service
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

London
Oritseweyimi Omamuli
Vice President - Senior Analyst
Sovereign Risk Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
One Canada Square
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JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Moody's changes outlook on Azerbaijan's sovereign ratings to positive from stable
No Related Data.
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