The European Commission’s decision to repeal the equivalence status for Singapore Credit Rating Agencies does not impact the operations of Credit Rating Agencies in Singapore. As confirmed by the European Commission, Credit Rating Agencies in Singapore will continue to be able to access the European Union market through the endorsement regime which they currently operate under. Under this regime, ratings issued by Credit Rating Agencies in Singapore are endorsed by their related entities in the European Union, and can continue to be recognised and used for regulatory purposes in the European Union.
There are two existing regimes for Credit Rating Agencies outside of European Union to have their ratings recognised and used for regulatory purposes in the EU, namely certification through the equivalence regime or endorsement. While Singapore’s regulatory regime for CRAs no longer has equivalence status, Singapore continues to be on the list of countries that the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has deemed as meeting the legal and supervisory framework for the endorsement regime.
Credit Rating Agencies play numerous roles in the financial system of Singapore. For example, direct insurer who apply for a licence need to report about credit raitngs. Since applicants need a licence to carry on life and/or general insurance business in Singapore, they have to meet admission criteria. The Monetary Authority of Singapore assesses applications for direct life and general insurance licences using a number of criteria, among them past and present credit ratings by international rating agencies, including Standard and Poor’s, A.M Best, Moody’s and Fitch.
Since June 30, 2017 the Monetary Authority of Singapore provides a Singapore-dollar Credit Rating Grant to encourage issuers in the Singapore-dollar bond market to issue rated bonds. The Singapore-dollar Credit Rating Grant covers the cost of issuer, programme and issue ratings from Fitch Group, Moody’s, and Standard & Poor (S&P). For each qualifying issuer, the SGD Credit Rating Grant can cover credit rating expenses from multiple issuances subject to the funding cap.
Although investors today generally have access to publicly available information such as company financial statements and offering documents when they consider their bond investments, the Monetary Authority of Singapore believes that greater availability of credit ratings in the domestic bond market will help to further improve market transparency, by providing timely and independent assessments of the credit worthiness of issuers throughout the life of a bond.
Credit ratings can also benefit bond issuers. Many regular issuers in the Singapore-dollar bond market are currently unrated and rely mainly on the same pool of domestic investors. Credit ratings will allow these issuers to attract a broader and more diverse investor base, including international institutional investors. The Singapore-dollar Credit Rating Grant is open to both foreign and domestic issuers.