By Abhirup Roy
MUMBAI Investors welcomed policies by Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to tighten disclosure norms for credit ratings agencies as a much needed step to boost transparency and credibility in the country's young corporate debt markets.The new rules announced by SEBI on Tuesday will tighten disclosure norms for credit rating agencies, including by requiring them to provide more details about any rating changes.While the policies will bring India's policies closer to global standards, market participants also had doubts about some aspects of the rules, including a rule mandating that credit companies must continue providing ratings even after the issuer has stopped cooperating.But overall, investors noted that SEBI's rules will help Indian policymakers in their efforts to develop corporate bond markets as a way to provide funding for companies at a time when banks are constrained from lending as they struggle to clean up 9.22 trillion rupees ($138.10 billion) worth of stressed loans.Weak corporate investments have been a key weight on the economy, which grew 7.1 percent in April-June from a year earlier, among the fastest growing in the world but below the 8 percent pace needed to create jobs for its burgeoning workforce.
"The confidence level on a credit rating agency as well as the confidence level on the bond market is certainly going to improve," said Saravana Kumar, chief investment officer of LIC Mutual Fund in Mumbai. SEBI had been widely expected to pass new rules for credit agencies, especially after sudden downgrades last year on auto parts maker Amtek Auto Ltd and Jindal Steel and Power Ltd last year hurt investors.As part of the rules announced on Tuesday, rating agencies will need to now provide more details behind the criteria and process behind ratings changes and review each criteria periodically.
Still, analysts warned ratings agencies were dependent on issuers, which pay for the ratings and are responsible for disclosing information, a relationship that has also raised concerns among other global regulators.Market participants also raised concerns about SEBI's rule that credit agencies must continue to rate an instrument based on the best available information even when companies have stopped cooperating, calling into doubt the value of such a rating and how it would work in practice.
"This is one ticklish issue on which I'm sure the industry raters will seek clarification from SEBI to understand how the nitty-gritties can be done," said Rajesh Mokashi, CEO of CARE Ratings."But the idea is that abrupt suspensions are avoided."($1 = 66.7650 rupees) (Writing by Rafael Nam; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)
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