South Africa no-confidence vote outcome means status quo for rating: S&P Global

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[August 09, 2017]  By Marc Jones

LONDON (Reuters) - South African President Jacob Zuma's survival in a parliamentary no-confidence vote will not impact the country's downgrade-threatened credit rating, the S&P Global agency said on Wednesday.

Zuma survived a no-confidence motion against him in on Tuesday by winning 198 votes to the opposition's 177 votes as African National Congress lawmakers rallied to his support, though some members did vote against him.

"Failure of no-confidence vote means status quo remains," S&P's primary analyst for South Africa Gardner Rusike told Reuters.

"The situation remains within our base-case scenario which is desirable (for maintaining the current BB+ rating with a negative outlook)."

Rusike said, however, that political risks remain elevated, carrying risks for the South African economy.

The sizable number of ANC parliament members voting with the opposition, was "unexpected" and showed divisions within the party, Rusike said. That could impact the December 2017 ANC elective conference and perhaps even national elections in 2019.

Rusike also said a proposed near $1 billion bailout of South Africa's national airline, South Africa Airways [SAA.UL], was unlikely to cause a further rating downgrade.

"This bailout (South African Airways) is taken into account at the level of moderate contingent liabilities," he said.

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Voting stations are set up during the motion of no confidence against South African president Jacob Zuma in parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, August 8, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Wessels/Pool

A key issue, especially for South Africa's local currency debt rating, is the recent talk about nationalizing the country's respected central bank.

Local South African debt still carries an investment grade rank and loss of this could see more than $10 billion flee the country's rand-denominated debt markets

"We do believe that South Africa has a deep domestic debt market and we also believe the central bank is independent and has credibility to implement monetary policy - as well the government's fiscal flexibility."

"If either of these factors were to weaken, that is what could potentially result in equalizing the foreign currency rating and the local currency rating," Rusike said.

"We do believe that it may not be implemented either in the near term or the medium-term."

(Reporting by Marc Jones; editing by Sujata Rao)

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