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Rating Action:

Moody's places Sint Maarten's Baa2 rating under review for downgrade

21 Sep 2017

New York, September 21, 2017 -- Moody's Investors Service has today placed the Baa2 issuer rating of the Government of the Sint Maarten on review for downgrade. The outlook changed to Ratings Under Review from Stable.

The decision to place the ratings on review was prompted by the economic and fiscal impact of Hurricane Irma on Sint Maarten. Sint Maarten is part of the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, the other half being French territory. Prior to 2010 Sint Maarten was part of the Netherlands Antilles. On 10 October 2010, it became a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Hurricane Irma made landfall on Saint Martin on September 6 as a Category 5 hurricane. It is currently estimated the hurricane caused damages to over 90% of the island's buildings, including major damage to the main airport. Preliminary estimates place economic losses at more than 100% of GDP.

Moody's review will focus on evaluating the fiscal costs of reconstruction as well as the expected economic impact of the storm on the island's tourism industry and medium term growth prospects.

Sint Maarten's long-term local-currency bond and bank deposit country ceiling remain unchanged at A2. The long-term foreign-currency bond and bank deposits ceilings remain unchanged at A3 and Baa2, respectively.

RATINGS RATIONALE

RATIONALE FOR INITIATING THE REVIEW FOR DOWNGRADE

FIRST DRIVER -- TO REVIEW THE FISCAL COSTS OF RECONSTRUCTION POST HURRICANE IRMA

The review will focus on assessing the fiscal costs of Sint Maarten's reconstruction. No official estimates are available but press reports indicate losses equivalent to more than 100% of GDP. Despite the very large losses Sint Maarten is comparatively wealthy, with a $28,184 GDP per capita in 2016 compared to $16,000 average for Moody's-rated Caribbean islands (which include Bermuda for analytical purposes). In prior hurricane disasters in the Caribbean wealthier islands faced manageable fiscal costs due to extensive private insurance. Official support from the international community may also limit the government's direct fiscal responsibility and further financial support may also be available from the Netherlands.

The review will seek to quantify the extent of the fiscal impact from Hurricane impact, both on lost government revenues as well as any increase to the government's debt burden. It will also assess the level of external support Sint Maarten is likely to receive, particularly financial support from the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

SECOND DRIVER -- TO ASSESS THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF THE STORM ON THE ISLAND'S TOURISM INDSUTRY

During the review Moody's will also assess the likely impact of the storm on Sint Maarten's tourism industry and medium-term growth prospects. Most Caribbean islands are exposed to natural disasters, and historical evidence indicates that, for some islands, even after reconstruction it can take years for tourism revenues and arrivals to return to pre-crisis levels. A permanent loss of tourist facilities, mainly hotels and other accomodations for tourists, leading to a structural downward shift to tourist arrivals could weigh negatively on the credit.

WHAT COULD CHANGE THE RATING - DOWN

Moody's could downgrade the rating if the review were to conclude that Sint Maarten's government debt metrics would likely rise significantly due to reconstruction efforts. A negative reassessment of future tourism inflows leading to lower economic growth could also lead to a lower rating.

WHAT COULD LEAD TO CONFIRMATION OF THE RATING AT THE CURRENT LEVEL

Moody's would confirm the rating at Baa2 if the review were to conclude that a combination of private insurance and external support limited the fiscal costs of economic reconstruction and if we confirmed that tourism arrivals will likely remain in line with historical levels.

GDP per capita ( US$): 28,184 (also known as Per Capita Income)

Real GDP growth (% change): -0.1% (2016 Actual) (also known as GDP Growth)

Inflation Rate (CPI, % change Dec/Dec): 1% (2016 Actual)

Gen. Gov. Financial Balance/GDP: -0.1% (2016 Actual) (also known as Fiscal Balance)

Current Account Balance/GDP: 2% (2016 Actual) (also known as External Balance)

External debt/GDP: 26.3% (2016 Actual)

Level of economic development: Moderate level of economic resilience

Default history: No default events (on bonds or loans) have been recorded since 1983.

On 19 September 2017, a rating committee was called to discuss the rating of the St. Maarten, Government of. The main points raised during the discussion were: The systemic risk in which the issuer operates has materially increased. The issuer has become more susceptible to event risks.

The principal methodology used in these ratings was Sovereign Bond Ratings published in December 2016. 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

Atsi Sheth
MD - Sovereign Risk
Sovereign Risk Group
JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376
Client Service: 1 212 553 1653

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.
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