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13:51
UKRAINE OUTLOOK REVISED TO POSITIVE ON BUDGETARY AND FINANCIAL REFORM PROGRESS; RATINGS AFFIRMED

Kyiv, July 31 (Interfax-Ukraine) - Standard & Poor's Ratings Services on July 31, 2009 revised its outlook on Ukraine from negative to positive.

"We affirmed the 'CCC+/C' long- and short-term foreign currency sovereign credit ratings, the 'B-/C' long-term and short-term local currency ratings, and the 'uaBBB' Ukraine national scale ratings," S&P said in a statement.

According to S&P, the outlook revision reflects recent progress made by Ukraine on implementing structural budgetary and financial sector reforms in compliance with the $16 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) Stand-By Arrangement. This led to the disbursement of the third lending tranche of $3.2 billion earlier this week.

"The IMF's highly flexible approach to both the disbursement schedule and the component of budgetary support compared with the original program is testimony to the weight of IMF shareholder support for Ukraine," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Franklin Gill.

With more than 60% of the IMF loan already disbursed, the Ukraine government has been able to fund capital injections into the financial system worth more than 5% of GDP, while increasing its 2009 budgetary deficit target from 0% to 6% of GDP.

Strong and coordinated banking measures have helped to improve depositor confidence. To meet IMF deadlines, the government has passed several prior actions by decree rather than by submitting them to parliament.

Nevertheless, political and economic risks persist ahead of the January 2010 presidential elections. The future capital needs of the financial system will continue to be highly sensitive to economic performance, including the trajectory of the exchange rate, which has remained stable for most of 2009 due to the introduction of various capital controls, scheduled to be unwound over the medium term.

The timing and extent of any economic recovery will depend first and foremost on the external environment, Ukraine's terms of trade, and the commitment of the government to implementing the remainder of the IMF program. The possibility that debt owed by state-owned oil and gas company Naftogaz will be restructured does not directly reflect on the creditworthiness of Ukraine because the government has not issued any explicit guarantees on Naftogaz's liabilities.

"The positive outlook reflects improved economic prospects for Ukraine, primarily due to the level and flexibility of bilateral and multilateral support for the country," said Gill. "The predictability of policymaking continues to be poor due to Ukraine's weak institutions, and the high turnover rate among key decision-makers."

Follow-through on the implementation of the remainder of the IMF program could lay the foundations for more sustainable growth and budgetary performance and lead to an upgrade of the foreign currency rating on Ukraine. On the other hand, back-tracking on the program could cause a further loss of confidence among depositors and investors in the economy and the exchange rate regime, leading to downward pressure on the rating.

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