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Thursday September 30, 2010

New rating firm’s model may reshape sector

BEIJING: China is setting up a semi-official credit rating firm that breaks with the mainstream Western pricing model by charging investors rather than issuers to assess creditworthiness.

Chinese officials have been scathing about foreign rating agencies, which they say had an interest during the global financial crisis to assign topnotch ratings to complex structured securities many of which turned out to be junk.

Domestic Chinese agencies are also culpable in the eyes of critics for being too close to the borrowers they rate.

The aim of China Credit Rating Co (CCRC), which will operate as a not-for-profit entity, is to sidestep such conflicts of interest, perceived or real.

CCRC would have more credibility because it would sever the chain of self-interest linking the rating agencies and the issuers that paid them, chairman Feng Guanghua said at a ceremony to mark the establishment of the company.

China has three major ratings agencies that have a combined market share of about 95%. – Reuters

, according to local media reports.

Dagong is the only wholly Chinese-owned firm of the trio. The other two are tie-ups with international partners, with Moody’s and Fitch Ratings holding 49% stakes in each respectively.

Foreign ratings firms are not allowed to directly rate Chinese domestic currency bonds.

Some industry experts said the introduction of a new charging model could have a big impact in China, triggering reforms to the way bonds are priced and to the governance of rating agencies.

“Of course it will force all other rating agencies to rethink their charging model and make changes accordingly,” Gao Zhanjun, an executive director in the fixed-income sales department of CITIC Securities, told Reuters.

Gao said the new model would not replace the old one overnight. “It will be a gradual process, but at least we’re moving in the right direction,” he said.

An analyst at a domestic investment bank was more cautious in the absence of details of the charging model; it was not even clear whether CCRC, as a trade association, would function as a rival to existing rating agencies.

“So many things are still not clear enough,” said the analyst, who asked not to be named. – Reuters

For Another perspective from the China Daily, a partner of Asia News Network, click here

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