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Junk Status? Oil Nations Face Serious Credit Downgrades

Julianne Geiger

Ratings Agency Fitch warned on Tuesday that a new wave of sovereign rating downgrades could be in the works if the oil slump continues, according to Reuters.

In additional, multi-notch rating cuts may be expected for junk-rated oil and gas firms.

The ratings of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Oman, Nigeria, and Angola, which rely heavily on the price of crude oil and have a fixed exchange rate “are of course particularly vulnerable,” Jan Friederich, Fitch’s top Middle East and Africa sovereign analyst told Reuters.

Even Saudi Arabia, with its sizable sovereign wealth fund, does not offer infinite immunity to the shock of low oil prices.

Oman, too, struggling under a mountain of debt—and a $6.5 billion fiscal deficit—is already holding its hand out for more debt to the tune of $2 billion. Moody’s already cut Oman’s rating a notch last week to Ba2, prior to the oil price war madness. Near the end of February, Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said said that the government would try to reduce public debt. But days later, Oman was looking to add to it instead.

Nigeria, another oil-dependent economy, could find itself the subject of downgrade.

According to Fitch, Angola, Iraq, Suriname, and Gabon are most heavily dependent on commodities.  

The oil price war have sent oil prices falling 25% on Monday, and while prices have rebounded somewhat, Russia and Saudi Arabia have both said they will boost crude oil production, and Saudi Arabia has lowered its official selling price for crude by between $6 and $8 per barrel.

Russian oil companies are meeting with the Russian Energy Ministry on Wednesday, however, to discuss the possibility of returning to the OPEC fold.

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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