MOSCOW: Russia’s finance ministry said on Friday that it had hired the US banking major J.P. Morgan as a consultant for helping improve its image with the world’s three main ratings agencies.
The announcement came days after Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak announced that one of the ratings giants was about to review its grade for Russia’s credit.
Storchak never spelled out whether this review intended to raise or lower Russia’s investment outlook.
But the markets are concerned that the revision will be made to the downside, owing to rapidly slowing economic growth and inflation that has outpaced expectations.
Any downgrade would make Russian foreign borrowing more expensive and put a further strain on a budget that is expected to reach a deficit this year.
Russia today has similar investment-grade ratings with Standard and Poor’s (BBB) as well as Moody’s (Baa1 and Fitch (BBB).
But Moscow has set itself the goal of securing the highest ratings possible from the three agencies by 2016 at the latest.
Storchak told the RIA Novosti news agency that “we have agreed with J.P. Morgan for it to be our official partner in relations with the ratings agencies.”
The minister provided no details of what the bank’s work would entail and J.P. Morgan itself issued no immediate comment.
In January, the Russian authorities hired the US investment banking leader Goldman Sachs as its official adviser on its overall economic image.
Russia has been grappling for decades with official corruption and an ineffective legal system, that has been spooking foreign investors and forcing the country’s stocks to be sold at a discount.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin is set on making Moscow into a global financial center that one day will link the Hong Kong markets with those in London and New York City.