NEW YORK — The credit ranging agency Standard and Poor’s has downgraded Azerbaijan’s debt rating by one notch to BB+ in a warning to potential investors that Azerbaijan’s government bonds are considered speculative “junk.”
The ratings agency says it now expects Azerbaijan’s economy to contract during 2016, despite a devaluation of the currency.
The downgrade, which will make it more expensive for the government in Baku to borrow money by issuing bonds, comes as Azerbaijan’s economy continues to suffer from falling global oil prices and as the central bank’s foreign-currency reserves are dwindling.
Standard and Poor’s warned that Azerbaijan depends too much on oil prices, adding that “external risks are increasing, with the central bank’s foreign-currency reserves declining by two-thirds from their mid-2014 peak.”
Azerbaijan’s currency, the manat, has lost half of its value against the U.S. dollar since January 2015 and about one-third of its value since December 2015.
On January 19, parliament approved a central bank plan aimed at propping up the troubled manat.
The country’s economic problems have led to rare protests recently over worsening economic issues, including the price of bread.