VTB makes clean break with Fitch over "lack of professionalism”

By Andrei Skvarsky.

VTB Group, Russia’s second-largest bank, announced on Tuesday that it was severing all its relations with Fitch Ratings because of the rating agency’s “continued lack of professionalism”.

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The move followed Fitch’s lowering VTB’s issuer-default rating one level on January 10, which the bank argued was groundless, claiming the agency had had no access to information that could hypothetically have justified the downgrading.

VTB Bank, the group’s parent company, had a contract with Fitch that expired in 2012, and since then the agency had not had “any access to non-public information that the bank makes available to other ratings agencies, and therefore does not have the data necessary to make qualified assessments of VTB’s creditworthiness”, VTB said in a statement.

“Despite this, Fitch has continued to assign ratings to VTB Bank and its subsidiaries solely on its own initiative and with no interaction between VTB and the agency’s analysts.”

The statement said all of the group’s Russian subsidiaries, including Bank of Moscow, “are terminating their contractual relationships with Fitch Ratings”.

The statement quoted VTB chief executive Herbert Moos as saying the group had “taken the logical step of ceasing all interaction between VTB Group and Fitch Ratings”.

In comments on January 10, VTB said Fitch’s Russian office “focuses primarily on PR stunts and lurid public statements”.

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