LONDON, March 26 (Reuters) - The plunge in oil prices took a number of high-profile sovereign rating scalps on Thursday, including Nigeria, Mexico, Angola, Ecuador and Oman, although the architects of the slump, Saudi Arabia and Russia, were both spared.
The moves by S&P Global consisted mainly of one-notch downgrades, but it was the sheer number of cuts that caught the eye.
Nigeria was pushed deeper into ‘junk’ territory to B-, Mexico was lowered to BBB leaving it just two cuts from junk, Colombia is now just one step away, while Angola and Ecuador were both chopped into the CCC default danger zone.
“We have lowered the ratings or assigned a negative outlook on some sovereigns because of their heightened risk to manage the fiscal and external shock resulting from lower (oil) prices in addition to the blow to economic growth as a result of the pandemic,” S&P said in a summary of its moves.
Oil prices have plunged more that 60% this year as the combination of an oil market turf war between Saudi Arabia and Russia and the global coronavirus spread have caused a perfect storm.
It has left them at around $26 a barrel which is $15-$20 below the fiscal breakeven points - the oil price countries need to balance their budgets - of even the most efficient producers and $80-$100 under what some countries need. For interactive graphic click tmsnrt.rs/2QOoYnL
S&P also slashed its Brent oil prices assumptions for the year to $30 a barrel as part of its move. It warned last month that a drop to an average of $40 could leave the Middle East region’s average sovereign rating just one notch above ‘junk’ by 2040.
Having been downgraded a number of times in recent years Saudi Arabia’s A- stable rating was spared this time. Russia, along with Kazakhstan, retained its investment grade BBB- stable score, while Qatar stayed at AA- stable.
Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by Stephen Coates