I have written about rating agencies before, in not too positive terms, being hopelessly slow and conflicted.
Standard & Poor's has added further to this impression by downgrading Noble Group's rating to junk only now:
"S&P lowered Noble Group’s rating to BB+ from BBB- and placed it on watch for further possible downgrade, the ratings company said in a statement on Thursday, following a similar move by Moody’s Investors Service in late December. Noble’s dollar bonds due in 2020 dropped to a record low of 54.78 cents on the dollar, according to prices compiled by Bloomberg."
Iceberg Research, the company that started to roll the ball in this case almost one full year ago, wrote this about the downgrade:
S&P has downgraded Noble Group to junk today, following a similar move by Moody’s.
The downgrade validates one of our main arguments against Noble: this company has never been investment grade. In fact, the question is why did it take so long when it was clear that Noble has been bleeding cash for years, and after we showed that profitability was supported by dubious mark-to-market?
The decision will have an important impact on Noble’s liquidity and the perception of its creditors. This further complicates the refinancing of its debt. Noble’s annual results will soon be audited and we doubt that this time, EY will take more legal risks when they sign off on the accounts.
The financial manipulations were conducted to artificially preserve the investment grade rating. The accounting illusion is now over. With a share price down 71% since our first report, and strong doubts over the balance sheet, Noble is facing an even more acute crisis. The group is slowly moving toward bankruptcy.
Most of our arguments on Noble’s accounting have already become facts. This management has completely lost credibility. It is urgent for Noble’s stakeholders to replace Mr. Elman and Mr. Alireza before the company sinks with them.