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Upstart credit firm challenges status quo
Last Updated: 2014-06-24 07:07 | China Daily
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Dagong part of effort to achieve 'fairer' ratings, especially in Asia

Global ratings agency Universal Credit Rating Group launched its international advisory council with some high-profile names on Monday, aiming to establish what it said would be a fairer credit rating system to challenge the status quo.

Marking its first anniversary, the Hong Kong-based UCRG announced its advisory council, which is chaired by Domini que de Villepin, former French prime minister, and with members including Kevin Rudd, former Australian PM, Shaukat Aziz, former Pakistani PM, and Igor Ivanov, former Russian foreign minister.

The council released its Action Manifesto for 2015-20, which promotes the coexistence of the "old" and "emerging" credit systems and calls for the "balanced development" of the international credit ratings system.

Currently, three major United States-based ratings agencies - Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC, Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings Inc - dominate the global credit rating market, with a combined share of about 96 percent.

The "big three" were widely criticized for having given their highest ratings to the debt instruments, including subprime mortgages, whose failure helped spark the global financial crisis in 2008.

Discontent with the "big three" was the inspiration for the founding of UCRG, a consortium comprised of Dagong Global Credit Rating Co Ltd of China, Egan-Jones Ratings Co of the United States and RusRating of Russia.

Dagong - the major financial backer of the UCRG - remains far less prominent than its Western competito rs, although it has begun making a splash in international media.

It hit the headlines in August 2011 when it cut its main rating for US sovereign debt from A+ to A, with a negative outlook, after a standoff over Washington's debt ceiling that led to fears of a potential US default.

The Action Manifesto vowed to build a pool of more than 2,000 international credit scholars by 2020.

The new system aims to make risk assessment a significant part of a credit rating.

"It (risk assessment) decides what's risky and what's not. That's to say, it decides where the money should go and where not," de Villepin said at Monday's event.

"To say it even more bluntly, that's a way to redirect money toward projects in the West by under-emphasizing the risks of defaults in Western countries and overemphasizing them in China, in India, in Brazil, in Pakistan," de Villepin said.

The UCRG has called for a "dual rating" system, in which every credit issuer receives two ratings, a local rating that reflects domestic factors and a global rating based on global standards for cross-border investments.

"You see always better with two eyes than with one," he said, adding independence, diversity and credibility are keys to improve the Asian credit system.

Guan Jianzhong, chairman of UCRG and Dagong said: "Forged by credit relationships, the Asian credit system as a regional capital flow system is created to facilitate the transnational formation of creditor-and-debtor relationships.

"Taking the lead in putting in place the dual-rating regime in Asia, and serving the needs of an Asian credit system, mark the start point of its march toward the wider world."

When visiting Brunei in October, Premier Li Keqiang proposed a new Asian credit system, along with an Asian monetary stability system and investment and financing system.

Song Guangchao, an official with the National Development and Reform Commission, disclosed that the Research Center for Asia Credit System Construction was in preparation and would be formally approved at the end of June.

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