|Founder(s)||John Knowles Fitch|
|Headquarters||New York City, United States, and London, United Kingdom|
|Key people||Paul Taylor
President & CEO
|Revenue||$732.5 Million (2011) |
|Owner(s)||Hearst Corporation and FIMALAC SA|
Fitch Ratings Inc. is a jointly owned subsidiary of Hearst Corporation and FIMALAC SA. On April 12, 2012, Hearst increased their stake in the Fitch Group to 50%. Previously, Hearst owned a 40% stake in the company, while FIMALAC was the majority owner with 60% stake. Fitch Ratings and Fitch Solutions are part of the Fitch Group.
Fitch Ratings is dual-headquartered in New York, USA, and London, UK. It was one of the three nationally recognized statistical rating organizations (NRSRO) designated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 1975, together with Moody's and Standard & Poor's, and the three are commonly known as the "Big Three credit rating agencies".
The firm was founded by John Knowles Fitch on December 24, 1913 in New York City as the Fitch Publishing Company. It merged with London-based IBCA Limited in December 1997. In 2000 Fitch acquired both Chicago-based Duff & Phelps Credit Rating Co. (April) and Thomson Financial BankWatch (December). Fitch Ratings is the smallest of the "big three" NRSROs, covering a more limited share of the market than S&P and Moody's, though it has grown with acquisitions and frequently positions itself as a "tie-breaker" when the other two agencies have ratings similar, but not equal, in scale.
Long-term credit ratings
Fitch Ratings' long-term credit ratings are assigned on an alphabetic scale from 'AAA' to 'D', first introduced in 1924 and later adopted and licensed by S&P. (Moody's also uses a similar scale, but names the categories differently.) Like S&P, Fitch also uses intermediate +/- modifiers for each category between AA and CCC (e.g., AA+, AA, AA-, A+, A, A-, BBB+, BBB, BBB-, etc.).
- AAA : the best quality companies, reliable and stable
- AA : quality companies, a bit higher risk than AAA
- A : economic situation can affect finance
- BBB : medium class companies, which are satisfactory at the moment
- BB : more prone to changes in the economy
- B : financial situation varies noticeably
- CCC : currently vulnerable and dependent on favorable economic conditions to meet its commitments
- CC : highly vulnerable, very speculative bonds
- C : highly vulnerable, perhaps in bankruptcy or in arrears but still continuing to pay out on obligations
- D : has defaulted on obligations and Fitch believes that it will generally default on most or all obligations
- NR : not publicly rated
Short-term credit ratings
Fitch's short-term ratings indicate the potential level of default within a 12-month period.
- F1+ : best quality grade, indicating exceptionally strong capacity of obligor to meet its financial commitment
- F1 : best quality grade, indicating strong capacity of obligor to meet its financial commitment
- F2 : good quality grade with satisfactory capacity of obligor to meet its financial commitment
- F3 : fair quality grade with adequate capacity of obligor to meet its financial commitment but near term adverse conditions could impact the obligor's commitments
- B : of speculative nature and obligor has minimal capacity to meet its commitment and vulnerability to short term adverse changes in financial and economic conditions
- C : possibility of default is high and the financial commitment of the obligor are dependent upon sustained, favorable business and economic conditions
- D : the obligor is in default as it has failed on its financial commitments.
Launched in 2008, Fitch Solutions offers a range of fixed-income products and professional development services for financial professionals. The firm also distributes Fitch Ratings' proprietary credit ratings, research, financial data, and analytical tools.
Credit rating agencies such as Fitch Ratings have been subject to criticism in the wake of large losses in the collateralized debt obligation (CDO) market that occurred despite being assigned top ratings by the CRAs. For instance, losses on $340.7 million worth of collateralized debt obligations (CDO) issued by Credit Suisse Group added up to about $125 million, despite being rated AAA by Fitch. However, differently from the other agencies, Fitch has been warning the market on the constant proportion debt obligations (CPDO) with an early and pre-crisis report highlighting the dangers of CPDO's.
- Group, Fitch. "2011 Fiscal". FIMALAC. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
- "FIMALAC : Sales of 10% of Fitch Group to Hearst". Reuters. 12 April 2012.
- Tomlinson, Richard; Evans, David (2007-06-01), "CDOs mask huge subprime losses, abetted by credit rating agencies", International Herald Tribune
- Linden, Alexandre; Neugebauer, Matthias; Schiavetta, John; Zelter, Jill; Hardee, Rachel (2007-04-18), First Generation CPDO: Case Study on Performance and Ratings