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Fitch: Nene departure raises negative questions

Agency questions whether move will lead to loosening of expenditure ceilings.

LONDON – Ratings agency Fitch said on Thursday the surprise departure of South African Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene raised “more negative than positive questions” for the country.

On Wednesday President Jacob Zuma removed Finance Minister Nene and replaced him with David Van Rooyen, a relatively unknown lawmaker and long-time member of the ruling ANC.

“Is that going to lead to any loosening of the expenditure ceilings or not?” asked Jan Friedrich, head of Middle East & Africa, Sovereigns at Fitch, adding his base case was that it would not, but that he would be watching this very closely.

Friedrich confirmed that he saw South Africa as an investment grade.

On December 7, Fitch cut South Africa’s sovereign credit rating by one notch to the lowest investment grade category BBB-, citing the slowing economy and rising debt and assigning a stable outlook to the rating. 

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