Fitch downgraded Mexican state oil company Pemex’s credit rating by two notches, which triggered investor jitters and a drop in the peso (Julio Cesar AGUILAR)
Mexico City (AFP) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador lashed out at ratings agency Fitch Wednesday after it downgraded state oil company Pemex’s credit rating by two notches, which triggered investor jitters and a drop in the peso.
Without citing Fitch by name, the leftist leader called the firm “hypocritical,” alleging that it and other ratings agencies had turned a blind eye to decades of corruption surrounding Pemex — the reason for its current financial troubles, he said.
“These firms allowed the pillaging (of Pemex)… and they never said anything, they remained complicitly silent,” he said at his daily news conference.
Fitch downgraded the troubled oil company’s main rating to BBB- from BBB+ on Tuesday, with a negative outlook.
It delivered a harsh assessment of the company’s finances, badly weakened by the government’s tendency to treat Pemex as its cash cow.
“Pemex’s deteriorating (credit profile) is primarily the result of excessive distributions to the government. The company contributions to Mexico have averaged approximately 10 percent of government revenues” in the past year, it said.
“As a result, the company’s balance sheet has steadily weakened.”
Pemex’s debt currently totals more than $100 billion.
The peso fell after the news. It was trading down by nearly one percent against the dollar Wednesday morning.
Lopez Obrador, an energy nationalist, talks of restoring Pemex to its glory days in the last century, when Mexico was a top oil producer.
The company’s production has plummeted for years, from a peak of 3.4 million barrels per day in 2004 to half that in December 2018.
Lopez Obrador’s predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto, sought to fix that with a sweeping energy reform that reopened the oil sector to private companies, ending Pemex’s 76-year monopoly.
But Lopez Obrador, who took office in December, said that only made things worse.
He has vowed to increase Pemex’s production to 2.4 million barrels a day by the end of his term, in 2024.
But Fitch said the new government’s plans to rescue the company, including a series of tax benefits announced Monday, did not go far enough.
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