China and Russia to launch new credit rating agency in 2015

Reuters/How Hwee Yong
​The new Universal Credit Rating Group (UCRG) is being set up to rival the existing agencies Moody's, S&P and Fitch, and its first rating will be issued this year.

The setting up of UCRG is in its final stages, ready to challenge the ‘Big Three’ that currently dominate the industry, the Managing Director of RusRating Aleksandr Ovchinnikov told Sputnik News Agency on Tuesday.

"In our opinion, the first ratings [will] appear … during the current year," Ovchinnikov said, adding that accreditation with the local regulator is already underway.

The news comes on the heels of Fitch’s decision to follow S&P in downgrading Russia’s sovereign credit rating to BBB-, a step above junk level and on par with India and Turkey.

READ MORE: Fitch downgrades Russia’s credit rating to 1 notch above junk level

The new agency will be based in Hong Kong, and provide a check on the ‘Big Three’, which some analysts say don’t provide an accurate reading of economic situations.

Many securities and bonds in the US that had triple-A ratings in 2008 and were considered ‘safe’, turned out to be a bubble, revealed by the subprime mortgage crisis.

READ MORE: China, Russia and the US set up a rival to big three ratings firms

"When the issue of creating an agency alternative to the ‘Big Three’ [Standard & Poor's, Moody's, and Fitch Group] was raised, we in fact offered [a] project that was ready to be launched and was supported by the governments of Russia and China," Ovchinnikov said.

Developed economies are often given a free credit rating pass, whereas developing economies are assigned more risky ratings, the RusRating analyst said.

READ MORE: Fitch downgrade will have 'limited' effect on Russia

UCRG was officially created in June 2013 by China’s Dagon, Russia’s RusRating and America's Egan-Jones Ratings. Each member will hold an equal share in the venture, with an initial investment of $9 million.