Goldman leads South Africa's rating search: Regime sets out to create investment climate

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THE South African government has appointed Goldman Sachs, the US investment bank, to help it to acquire an international credit rating. The appointment reflects the government's wish to sell its debt in the international capital markets.

South Africa wants its next issue of international debt to be aimed across as many markets as possible. Derek Keys, South Africa's Minister of Finance, said: 'Most institutional investors require ratings as part of their investment criteria, and many investors make their credit decisions solely on the basis of credit ratings.'

Goldman will advise on the issues that rating agencies are most likely to focus on, as well as effective approaches to these issues.

Goldman has advised a number of governments about obtaining a credit rating, including Mexico, Korea, Chile and India.

Carlos Cordeira, a partner at Goldman Sachs' London office, said: 'The issues credit rating agencies consider include political stability, economic projections, budgets, export prospects and existing levels of debt.

'Once a country has a sovereign rating it is very beneficial to the private and other sectors in the country. A rating would facilitate South African companies in getting their own ratings.'

Christopher Huhne, managing director of IBCA Sovereign Ratings, an international credit rating agency, said South Africa was unlikely to obtain an investment- grade rating.

Mr Huhne said the key factor would be the durability of the political settlement, and in particular the level of political violence. 'Another crucial factor will be whether the whole process of growth resumes in South Africa after a period of stagnation.'