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Moody’s further downgrades Bermuda; Outlook negative amid debt, weak economic trends

Moody's Investors Services has just downgraded Bermuda's rating by another notch as it reiterated its concerns about Government's mounting debt and lack of an economic recovery.

Moody's lowered Bermuda to Aa3, three notches below the top triple-A level, and said the outlook is negative, reflecting uncertainty about Government's debt trajectory over the medium term.

The move ends a review for a potential cut that began April 3 when Moody’s put Bermuda on a downgrade watch. The ratings agency said then that the review was prompted by the Island’s steep rise in government debt and its ongoing recession since the global financial crisis.

That review came about a week after Standard & Poor's Ratings Services lowered its outlook on Bermuda to negative from stable, citing its prolonged economic downturn and weakened financial performance. S&P had Bermuda at double-A-minus, also three notches below the top rating.

Moody's expects Bermuda's weaker economic trends will continue through this year, with moderate growth returning next year. Moody's also expects a long-term decline in the tourism industry and says less dynamic growth in the insurance sector may limit future growth.

The outlook could return to stable if the economy begins to grow and the government can contain its rising debt. However, a further potential downgrade could be prompted by continued economic weakening or a lack of significant government spending policy measures.

In response to Moody’s rating action, the Ministry of Finance today said it recognised that continuing government deficits and weak economic growth could put Bermuda’s sovereign rating at risk of a downgrade by one notch.

“We note however, that in so doing, Moody’s affirmed that our rating is supported by very high per capita income, strong institutions, and our still moderate level of government debt in relation to similarly rated sovereigns,” the Ministry of Finance said in a statement.

While the ratings adjustment was not positive, the Ministry of Finance also noted that the adjusted rating remains in the top tier of the ratings matrix.

“At Aa3, our sovereign bond rating is only three notches below the highest rating of Aaa,” the statement read.

“Moody’s continues to endorse the Island’s institutional strength and the Island’s very high per capita income. Government remains optimistic about future prospects for growth and will continue to press ahead with our Jobs and Economic Turnaround Plan which involves providing balance between responsible economic growth and disciplined financial management.”

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Published May 16, 2013 at 1:00 pm (Updated May 16, 2013 at 1:57 pm)

Moody’s further downgrades Bermuda; Outlook negative amid debt, weak economic trends

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