Moody’s latest downgrade of Nigeria and how it affects you

Muhammadu Buhari, President, Federal Republic of Nigeria

Rating Agency, Moody, downgraded Nigeria the Government long-term issuer and senior unsecured debt rating to B2 from B1. The rating outlook remains stable.

This follows a similar rating downgrade to B1 from BA3 back in November 2016. Unlike in 2016, when Moody attributed the downgrade to the government’s dwindling oil revenues. The current downgrade is due to the government’s inability to grow non-oil revenue.

Reason for the downgrades

Moody’s provided the following reasons for its downgrade.

  1. The authorities’ efforts to address the key structural weakness exposed by the oil price shock by broadening the non-oil revenue base have so far proven largely unsuccessful.

What it means: The government reported recently that non-oil revenues for the first half of the year was N1.2 trillion or 54% lower than the N2.7 trillion budgeted for 2017

  1. As a consequence, while debt levels remain contained and notwithstanding recent cyclical improvements, the government’s balance sheet remains structurally exposed to further economic or financial shocks, with interest payments very high relative to revenues and deficits elevated despite cuts in capital spending.

What it means: They acknowledge that despite a modest improvement in the economy, the government is still not strong enough. As such, with interest rates for government debts as high as 38% of revenues, the government has little room to maneuver should things go south again.  

The stable outlook reflects the fact that the likelihood of a shock occurring that would further impair Nigeria’s economic and fiscal strength remains low, with external vulnerabilities having receded supported by the rebound in oil production, the current account projected to remain in surplus, and reserves boosted through external borrowings and increased foreign capital inflows. Medium-term growth prospects are also credit supportive.

What it means: Despite a cut in Nigeria’s credit rating, Moody’s still said the economy outlook was stable. Their reason was because oil prices seem to be rebounding evident by the increase in forex reserves, resumption of foreign investments into the country and a stable exchange rate.

How does this affect you

The impact on an average Nigerian is somewhat minimal. By downgrading Nigeria’s rating, the government may need to pay a slightly higher interest rates whenever it seeks to borrow from foreign investors. It however does not dissuade foreign investors from investing in Nigeria. It just means foreign investors will ask for more premium on their expected returns since Moody’s is saying that the government is in a far weaker position than it was last year.

If there is anything to worry about, it is the likely impact of a shock in the system. For example, if the threat by the Niger Delta Militants is actualized, then things could really go from bad to worse for the government. If this occurs, then everyone is in trouble.