US bond ratings firm Kroll makes plans to build Dublin base

Kroll to create more than 100 jobs here over next three years as it develops European operation

The International Financial Services Centre in Dublin’s docklands. Kroll wants its new Irish office to help companies here secure access to capital markets. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

The International Financial Services Centre in Dublin’s docklands. Kroll wants its new Irish office to help companies here secure access to capital markets. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

 

US-based Kroll Bond Rating Agency (KBRA), which recently established its European headquarters in Dublin, has set its sights on usurping the dominance of the world’s top three ratings firms in the coverage of Irish government and corporate debt in the coming years.

Speaking to The Irish Times, the head of the European unit Mauricio Noe, said: “We are the only rating agency [based] in Ireland and I would like to become a real force for helping Irish entities – the sovereign, corporates, banks and funds – get greater access to capital markets.”

KBRA, which set up in 2010, hired Mr Noe, a veteran of law firm Freshfields and banking groups ABN Amro and Deutsche Bank, last year to build its presence in Europe and seek regulatory approval. Last month, the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) registered the firm as a regulated credit rating agency.

Job creation

The New York-based company said in September that it plans to create more than 100 jobs in Dublin, its first overseas office, over the next three years as it develops the European operation. It currently has seven staff in Ireland.

While Mr Noe said that the KBRA’s decision to set up its EU hub in Ireland was influenced by the outcome of the Brexit vote, it wasn’t the overriding factor.

“The response from our clients in continental Europe has been very good, because there had been some scepticism,” about Ireland’s relationship with the EU following the UK referendum, he said.

“However, the Brexit negotiations have shown how the Irish government conducted itself around Brexit has been admirable and this has ingratiated Ireland to the other countries of the EU.”

Mr Noe said that KBRA aims to publish sovereign ratings for Ireland and a number of other EU countries over the next 12-18 months as it builds up its business. The main ratings firms – Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch – stripped Ireland of its once-prized triple-A rating during the crisis, with Moody’s downgrading it to “junk status” in 2011.

All three have subsequently raised their view of Ireland’s creditworthiness to a single-A grade as the State exited an international bailout programme in 2013 and the economy rebounded.