German ratings firm Scope seeks ECB recognition

Wed Aug 24, 2016 8:00am EDT
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By Marc Jones

LONDON (Reuters) - German rating firm Scope says it is in talks to become one of the European Central Bank's recognised sovereign credit agencies, though tough requirements mean the process could take at least three years.

Scope would become the first agency based in continental Europe to rate assets included in the ECB's purchase programme, and its acceptance might offer an extra lifeline to some euro zone governments currently struggling to maintain their debt at investment grade.

Scope's chief executive Torsten Hinrichs told Reuters that joining Standard and Poor's, Moody's, Fitch and DBRS as agencies in carrying the ECB stamp of approval was key to its ambitions.

"We are in regular discussions with the ECB, and since we are investing strategically and with a long-term horizon we are confident that we will fulfill their eligibility criteria in due time," Hinrichs said.

Berlin-based Scope, which became an EU-approved agency in 2011, has just acquired German rival Feri EuroRating to give it a sovereign ratings arm.

That acquisition had brought ECB approval a "step closer" Hinrichs said, but acknowledged this was still some way off.

"We are still several years from meeting all the stringent criteria," he said citing particularly the ECB's requirement to have a three-year track record on key ratings.

The wait will make attracting new business from the companies and governments that are its main customers that much harder, and will also be a potential frustration for some euro zone governments, for example in Lisbon.   Continued...

European Union (EU) flags fly in front of the European Central Bank (ECB) headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, December 3, 2015. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/File Photo