Moody's downgrades Ireland rating to Aa2

19th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Moody's international ratings agency cut Ireland's sovereign debt rating to Aa2 on Monday, blaming high debt levels, weak economic growth prospects and the huge cost of rescuing banks.

"Moody's Investors Service has today downgraded Ireland's government bond ratings to Aa2 from Aa1," the group said in an official statement, but added that it had switched its outlook to stable from negative.

The agency cited three reasons for the downgrade to Ireland's economy, which was the first eurozone member country to plunge into recession in the first half of 2008, and only just emerged in the first quarter of 2010.

"The main drivers for the downgrade are... the government's gradual but significant loss of financial strength, as reflected by the substantial increase in the debt-to-GDP ratio and weakening debt affordability," it said.

Another key factor was "Ireland's weakened growth prospects as a result of the severe downturn in the financial services and real estate sectors and an ongoing contraction in private sector credit".

In addition, Moody's also blamed the "crystallization of contingent liabilities from the banking system" in the wake of costly state measures to stabilise and rebuild the shattered banking sector.

Ireland has pumped huge sums of money into crisis-hit banks and set up the National Assets Management Agency (NAMA), a state-run "bad bank" that is designed to soak up billions of euros of lenders' toxic assets.

"Overall, the recapitalization measures announced to date could reach almost 25 billion euros -- and Moody's expects that Anglo Irish Bank may need further support," it said.

"In addition, the government created NAMA, a special purpose-vehicle that is acquiring loans from participating banks at a discount in exchange for government-guaranteed securities.

The agency added: "We believe that the uncertainty surrounding final losses would exert additional pressure on the government's financial strength."

© 2010 AFP

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