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16:08
FITCH AFFIRMS KHARKIV AT 'B'/'AA-(UKR)', OUTLOOK NEGATIVE

Kyiv, July 30 (Interfax-Ukraine) - Fitch Ratings has today affirmed the city of Kharkiv's credit ratings at long-term foreign and local currency 'B' with negative outlook, short-term foreign currency 'B', and national long-term 'AA-(ukr)'.

The outlook on the national long-term rating is stable.

"The ratings factor in the city of Kharkiv's worsening economy, lower tax revenue and operating expenditure rigidity. However, they also consider the city's satisfactory but declining budgetary performance, zero direct debt and low indirect risk. The negative outlook reflects that of Ukraine's ratings, as the city's ratings are capped by the sovereign," a statement on the official agency's Web site reads.

Fitch expects the city's operating margin for 2009 to be 5-7%, down from 10.9% at end-2008 and 13.2% at end-2007. Operating revenues in 2009 are likely to weaken, due to the impact on the local economy of the global financial crisis and domestic recession. However, additional tax concessions provided by the central government should compensate in part for the expected weaker operating revenues. The city's budget surplus before debt variation in 2008 shrank to UAH 75.7million from UAH 132.2 million in 2007.

According to Fitch, since the second half of 2008 the city has been free of direct debt, following the repayment in full of its domestic three-year bond. Contingent liabilities are limited to the debt of a few public companies and remain well-monitored, thus keeping the city's indirect risk at a manageable level. The city's expenditure flexibility is significantly constrained by rigid current transfers and public personnel salaries, which amounted to 81% of operating expenditure in 2007-2008. Operating expenditure in 2009 may come under further pressure from increased transfers, should the recession prove deeper-than-expected by the end of 2009.

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