Short-Term Issuer Credit Ratings’ Category Definitions


An obligor rated ‘A-1’ has strong capacity to meet its financial commitments. It is rated in the highest category by the rating agency. Within this category, certain obligors are designated with a plus sign (+). This indicates that the obligor’s capacity to meet its financial commitments is extremely strong.


An obligor rated ‘A-2’ has satisfactory capacity to meet its financial commitments. However, it is somewhat more susceptible to the adverse effects of changes in circumstances and economic conditions than obligors in the highest rating category.


An obligor rated ‘A-3’ has adequate capacity to meet its financial obligations. However, adverse economic conditions or changing circumstances are more likely to lead to a weakened capacity of the obligor to meet its financial commitments.


An obligor rated ‘B’ is regarded as vulnerable and has significant speculative characteristics. The obligor currently has the capacity to meet its financial commitments; however, it faces major ongoing uncertainties which could lead to the obligor’s inadequate capacity to meet its financial commitments.


An obligor rated ‘C’ is currently vulnerable to nonpayment that would result in a ‘SD’ or ‘D’ issuer rating, and is dependent upon favorable business, financial, and economic conditions for it to meet its financial commitments.


An obligor rated ‘R’ is under regulatory supervision owing to its financial condition. During the pendency of the regulatory supervision the regulators may have the power to favor one class of obligations over others or pay some obligations and not others.

SD and D

An obligor rated ‘SD’ (selective default) or ‘D’ has failed to pay one or more of its financial obligations (rated or unrated), excluding hybrid instruments classified as regulatory capital or in nonpayment according to terms, when it came due. An obligor is considered in default unless the rating agency believes that such payments will be made within any stated grace period. However, any stated grace period longer than five business days will be treated as five business days. A ‘D’ rating is assigned when the rating agency believes that the default will be a general default and that the obligor will fail to pay all or substantially all of its obligations as they come due. An ‘SD’ rating is assigned when the rating agency believes that the obligor has selectively defaulted on a specific issue or class of obligations, excluding hybrid instruments classified as regulatory capital, but it will continue to meet its payment obligations on other issues or classes of obligations in a timely manner. An obligor’s rating is lowered to ‘D’ or ‘SD’ if it is conducting a distressed exchange offer.


An issuer designated ‘NR’ is not rated by the rating agency who assigned this symbol, but there might be other rating agencies which come up with a rating.

Why are there no legally binding definitions of rating symbols here? Depending on the subject of the rating and the scope of application, different legal framework conditions apply, which also differ in states of different legal systems. Rating scales are the subject of a development that has lasted for more than a century. Rating agencies continue to develop their scales due to new insights, improved analytical techniques and growing or changing market requirements. Therefore, in each individual case, the evidence of a rating is to be examined as to which statement should be made with a rating. Depending on the time, subject and other conditions, rating symbols are to be interpreted differently. Therefore, we recommend detailed advice. Why are rating agencies not mentioned here by name? It is the responsibility of each rating agency to provide its definitions of rating symbols and, if necessary, to update them. It happens that different rating agencies use the same rating symbols, sometimes with comparable but sometimes with different meanings. The definitions offered by rating agencies need to be questioned because in rare cases the wording of the definitions is ambiguous and promises, for example, a certainty of judgment that we at RATING EVIDENCE can not confirm empirically.