Moody’s may look favourably on Zuma staying


On Friday, credit rating agency Moody's Investors Service is set to deliver a ratings review for South Africa, and President Jacob Zuma's saved-by-the-seat-of-his-pants victory in Tuesday's no confidence vote may just be what prevents the agency from further downgrading the country's credit rating.

Some economists view the president's survival as positive, since there has been no political upheaval resulting from an unscheduled change of president, Fin24 reports.

"The fact that there is no political change or upheaval or unscheduled change of a president, all those are positive," George Herman, the chief investment officer at Citadel Investment Services in Cape Town told Fin24.

"I don’t think ratings agencies are in the business of taking a qualitative view on the standard of the president. The survival of the president from a ratings point of view is credit-positive," Herman said.

According to a Bloomberg survey of 11 economists on their expectations from Moody's Friday announcement, only one believed the foreign-currency rating would be changed, and only two out of the 11 forecast the local-currency assessment to be cut to junk.

Moody's cut the local- and foreign-currency assessments to one level above junk two months ago, citing risks to growth and fiscal strenth as a result of the country's political outlook.

The ratings cut followed the announcement that it was putting South Africa on review following the president's March midnight Cabinet reshuffle which saw him fire Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas.

This policy uncertainty and political turmoil was further exacerbated in the last two months by the Public Protector's recommendation that the Reserve Bank's mandate be changed and the new regulations for the mining industry published by the minister of mining.

In addition to this, the country entered a technical recession in the first quarter, one of only two sizeable economies in recession (the other being Venezuela). Other economies are seeing some measure of growth.

There is some hope that Moody's will do what it did in November and issue a research report instead of a ratings action, which is what Peter  Attard Montalto, chief emerging-markets economist at Nomura International in London suggests could happen.

He said the agency could decide to wait for more information from the mid-term budget in October and developments around state-owned companies.

The next reviews from Moody's and Standard & Poor (S&P) are expected on November 24.