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Moody’s cuts Egypt’s rating on ‘unsettled’ political conditions

An Egyptian policeman directs the traffic in front of the Egyptian Central Bank offices in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

NEW YORK: Moody’s Investors Service Thursday downgraded Egypt’s sovereign foreign currency credit rating to Caa1 from B3, citing unsettled political conditions, and said risks of a default have increased.

Egypt’s economy has been in crisis since the 2011 overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, with Islamist President Mohammad Mursi’s cash-strapped government grappling with sliding currency reserves, dwindling tourism, a soaring budget deficit and a wave of often violent street protests.

“More than two years into the Egyptian revolution, the continued unsettled political conditions have significantly weakened Egypt’s economy,” Moody’s said in a statement.

The Egyptian government’s inability to secure financing from the International Monetary Fund has exacerbated a lack of predictability in the Middle East nation’s economy and fiscal policies.

The outlook on the credit is negative, Moody’s said. Egypt is rated one notch higher at B-minus with a negative outlook by Standard & Poor’s while Fitch Ratings has the country two notches higher at B with a negative outlook.

“The sustained deterioration in Egypt’s external payments position and government finances have reached a level at which the country’s vulnerability to economic or political shocks has widened and the risk of default has consequently increased,” Moody’s said.

While the risk of a default has increased, Moody’s cautions that a default is not necessarily imminent.

“At the Caa1 rating level, the historical record shows that the average, cumulative default rate over a one-year horizon is close to 10 percent and over a five-year horizon slightly under 40 percent,” Moody’s said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 22, 2013, on page 5.

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