Industry News

Countrywide’s fate could hinge on rating agencies

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Countrywide Financial Corp. is warning investors that its strategy to weather the disruption in secondary mortgage markets -- by funding loans through its banking subsidiary -- could be jeopardized if the company's credit ratings are downgraded to junk status. Countrywide last month reported $1.2 billion in third-quarter losses, as rising delinquencies and foreclosures made investors reluctant to finance the company's debt or buy securities backed by its loans (see Inman News story). The three major ratings agencies -- Moody's Investors Service, Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings -- have already downgraded Countrywide's debt ratings to just above junk status. Further downgrades could leave Countrywide unable to borrow money in corporate debt markets and hamper its ability to use its bank subsidiary to fund loans, the company warned. "To retain access to the public debt markets it is critical for us to maintain investment-grade credit ratings," the company said Fri...