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    THIS YEAR, S&P MAY AWARD RUSSIA INVESTMENT GRADE STATUS

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    MOSCOW, January 28, 2004. / RIA Novosti correspondent /. Investment companies' experts believe that the Russian Federation will most probably be awarded investment grade status by the Standard & Poor's (S&P) international agency this year.

    Previously, the S&P agency raised Russia's sovereign credit ratings: on long-term foreign currency obligations from BB to BB+, and on national currency obligations - from BB+/B to BBB-/A-3.

    Thus, Russia's long-term credit rating on foreign currency obligations lags behind the lowest investment grade rating (BBB-) by one notch, while Russia has actually won investment grade rating on obligations in national currency.

    Experts positively assess the news. In their opinion, the S&P agency's decision is only logical and well-grounded, even though it comes a bit too late, after Russia has been awarded investment grade status by the Moody's agency.

    "We have long reached the investment grade level, and the world community has long placed Russia even at a higher than investment grade level," said Alexander Korchagin, head of the Prospekt company's analytical department, in an interview to RIA Novosti Wednesday.

    "Of course, Russia's upgrade is the result of the country's political stability and good macroeconomic indicators," said Alexander Razuvayev, leading analyst with the Megatranstoil company.

    In the opinion of Anatoly Kaplin, analyst with the Aton agency, "Russia's upgrade before the presidential election is inspiring. I expect it to win another notch upgrade after the election." Alexander Korchagin from Prospekt is of the same opinion. "It is expected that the S&P agency may award Russia investment grade rating; there are good chances for this," he said.

    Investment companies' experts believe that the rating agencies will pass their final decision on Russia only after the presidential election, but at the same time they have no doubt that the lineup of political forces will be the same in Russia and the course of economic reforms will be continued.

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