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S&P: Investment-grade ratings grow rapidly in China, neighbors

S&P Global Ratings said the tally of corporations it rated in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan increased by 91, or 25%, in 2016 from the previous year, with most rated issuers having an investment grade.

The rating agency said the majority of new issuers were rated in the BBB category. Investment-grade ratings grew 20%, indicating improved credit quality.

According to S&P, 76% of its rated issuers in Greater China are rated investment grade, compared with 54% globally, 47% in the U.S., and 61% in Europe.

"This distinction is particularly important as China faces increasing questions on the sustainability of its credit-heavy economic growth, geopolitical risks, and potentially over-leveraged state-owned enterprises," said Diane Vazza, head of S&P Global Fixed Income Research.

About 80% of issuers with a BBB rating in Greater China do not experience rating changes within a year, S&P said, while 92% of Greater China issuers rated A at the beginning of 2016 still had the same rating at year-end.

In 2016, there were 44 downgrades and just nine upgrades in Greater China, according to S&P. No companies that were rated at the start of the year defaulted over the course of 2016, yielding investment-grade and speculative-grade default rates of zero.

S&P Global Market Intelligence and S&P Global Ratings are owned by S&P Global Inc.