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Russia Plans National Ratings Agency to Rival U.S. Firms

A new Russian national ratings agency would challenge the dominance of U.S. agencies like Standard and Poor's.

A new Russian national ratings agency will be launched next year with investment of 3 billion rubles ($52 million), the RBC news agency reported Thursday citing a copy of the project plans.

The move would address longstanding gripes against the three U.S.-based ratings agencies that dominate the global market — Standard & Poor's, Moody's and Fitch — whose downgrades of Russian debt following Moscow's annexation of Crimea last year were seen by many in Russia as politically motivated.

Russia's Central Bank initiated the project "in light of concerns over the quality of existing ratings and the low standing of local players," RBC reported, citing the planning document.

According to the document, the agency would have 21-40 investors including pension funds, insurers, state-owned banks and investment companies. Each investor's share will not exceed 5 percent.

The project envisions revenues of 80 million rubles next year and 600 million rubles in 2020, by which time the venture is expected to be profitable and its shares could be floated on the market.

RBC named the point woman for the project as Yekaterina Trofimova, first vice president of state-controlled Gazprombank. Trofimova declined to comment to the agency.

Standard & Poor's and Moody's downgraded Russian sovereign debt to "junk" status earlier this year, while Fitch left the country one notch above junk. A low sovereign rating has a cascade effect on companies based in Russia, lowering their ratings and raising the cost of borrowing on capital markets.

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