LONDON, June 5 (Reuters) - Standard and Poor's will shift its European sovereign rating announcements back to Friday evenings from early in the day after watchdog ESMA laid out new recommendations to unify how decisions are published.
The 'big three' rating firms - S&P, Moody's and Fitch - have taken different approaches to rules brought in this year that force them to publish rating decisions on pre-scheduled dates and outside market trading hours.
S&P has generally announced its decisions before European markets open on Friday mornings but a tweak to the rules by the European Securities and Markets Authority means it will now publish them in the evening.
"ESMA has taken the view in its Q&A that (rating agencies)should only publish their sovereign ratings and related rating outlooks on a Friday after the close of business (in European markets)", S&P said on Thursday.
Over the next few weeks it will "modify its procedures and systems to move from Friday morning to Friday evening publishing", with all sovereign ratings to be published in the evening from this week onwards.
ESMA's tighter rules are also likely to impact Fitch which has been publishing most of its ratings on Friday mornings but should have less impact on Moody's.
ESMA also ruled that Moody's could continue its practice of not making rating announcements on some review dates, which has caused markets confusion on a number of occasions this year.
Under ESMA rules, agencies must conduct reviews at least twice a year but Moody's has put down three review dates in its sovereign calendar, giving itself some room for manoeuvre.
"This non-publication does not constitute a deviation from the sovereign ratings and outlooks calendar and credit rating agencies do not need to publish an explanation of the reasons for non-publication," ESMA said.
(for ESMA Q+A please click http://www.esma.europa.eu/system/files/2014-578_qas_on_cra3.pdf) (Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by Catherine Evans)