It is a judgment that Bercy awaits with apprehension. Friday, December 1, early in the evening, the rating agency S&P Global Ratings is expected to announce whether or not it is lowering the financial rating assigned to France. For almost twelve years, France has already left the very exclusive club of countries benefiting from the maximum rating from the three major global agencies. A circle which now only includes a handful of countries: Australia, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden and Singapore.
► AA pour S & P Global Ratings
Before a possible challenge, Standards & Poor’s Global (S&P) gives France the AA ranking. This is the second best possible rating for the American agency, after the prestigious Triple A or AAA. France lost this coveted rating on January 13, 2012. It was then the first time that one of the three main agencies downgraded France by withdrawing the maximum rating it had retained since 1975.
The announcement of this deterioration caused a shock. Especially since it came after Nicolas Sarkozy, then at the Élysée, had described Triple A as a “national treasure”. Despite the deterioration, the head of state defended his record and refused any change in his economic policy. “The courage is that with which, my dear compatriots, you accepted difficult reforms, such as the pension reform. Today we can see what would have happened if we had not implemented this essential reform,” he said.
► « Aa1 » pour Moody’s
In November 2012, France lost its AAA rating from the Moody’s agency. That year, France moved back a notch and found itself Aa1. And to make matters worse, Moody’s then added a “negative outlook” to its rating, suggesting that a further downgrade could well take place.
During the last revision, in October 2023, rumors once again spread of further deterioration. A fear that is ultimately unfounded, the agency having decided to keep France in the Aa1 category, that of countries benefiting from “high quality” debt.
“Despite negative credit pressure, the country retains significant strengths, including the size and health of its economy, as well as a sustainable debt burden despite a continued and gradual erosion of its economic strength and budget,” analyzed Mood’ys.
► “AA-”, two notches below AAA for Fitch
The American agency Fitch was the last to deprive France of its Triple A. A loss occurred in July 2013 which brought France into the “AA +” category, the second best possible rating. Fitch had justified this downgrade by the strong uncertainties weighing on the French economy.
Ten years later, in April 2023, Fitch became the first agency to move France down an additional box, falling to “AA-”. Between the memory of the Yellow Vests and the demonstrations which accompanied the pension reform, the agency estimated that social unrest risked penalizing growth and therefore slowing down the reduction of the deficit.
With its “AA-”, France however remains in the “high quality” category. A ranking that it shares with countries like the United Kingdom, Ireland and Qatar.