THE INFORMATIONAL ROLE OF BANK LOAN RATINGS

Authors


  • The authors are grateful to Mukhtar Ali, Roger Arner, Richard Cantor, Mark Flannery (the referee), Brad Jordan, Joe Peek, and Breck Robinson for helpful comments and suggestions.

Abstract

We analyze the relatively new phenomenon of credit ratings on syndicated loans, asking first whether they convey information to the capital markets. Our event studies show that initial loan ratings and upgrades are not informative, but downgrades are. The market anticipates downgrades to some extent, however. We also examine whether public information reflecting borrower default characteristics explains cross-sectional variation in loan ratings and find that ratings are only partially predictable. Our evidence suggests that loan and bond ratings are not determined by the same model. Finally, we estimate a credit spread model incorporating bank loan ratings and other factors reflecting default risk, information asymmetry, and agency problems. We find that ratings are related to loan rates, given the effect of other influences on yields, suggesting that ratings provide information not reflected in financial information. Ratings may capture idiosyncratic information about recovery rates, as each of the agencies claims, or information about default prospects not available to the market.

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