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Finance companies disappointed with Rapid Ratings' departure

After four years trying to build up a business out of providing finance companies with both quantitative and qualitative credit ratings, Rapid Ratings has decided to pull out of that segment of the market.

Thursday, February 9th 2006, 8:59PM

by Jenny Ruth

Rapid Ratings New Zealand director Ron Keene says there were a number of reasons for ceasing to provide the service including the small number of finance companies prepared to pay to be rated and an even smaller number who were prepared to publish their ratings.

Rapid Ratings charged $25,000 per rating and Keene says his company spent a minimum of 125 hours analysing each company including non-public data and interviews with all the key executives and would produce comprehensive reports of between 70 and 100 pages.

Keene says about 14 companies had been rated over the four years.

A big problem for Rapid Ratings is that New Zealand lacks a strong ratings culture, he says. "You need the investors and financial planners providing a strong push on finance companies to be rated in order to attract investment."

But New Zealand investors seem interested only in chasing the highest interest rates available rather than being interested in how safe their investments are, he says.

Strategic Finance was the first company to be rated and after its fourth rating maintained its B1 investment grade rating, the highest awarded.

"We're a little disappointed" at Rapid Ratings' withdrawal, Strategic chief executive Kerry Finnigan says. Having a rating helped investors differentiate between finance companies. "It gave investors the confidence that all our internal processes and procedures and compliance was second to none."

Strategic's current rating expires in November, in the meantime the company will look at being rated by another ratings agency, probably either S&P or Fitch Ratings.

St Laurence Mortgages has a B3 rating which expires in October. "We were quite disappointed with their decision," says chief executive Paul Chapman.

"We got on the ratings train reasonably early. We saw it as a strategic move for the company." St Laurence will also consider an alternative rating, he says.

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