Does the use of hedge derivatives improve the credit ratings of Brazilian companies?

ABSTRACT The purpose of this study is to identify the factors that may explain the attribution of credit ratings to firms, focusing especially on the impact of derivatives. The gap explored by this research lies in the novelty of analyzing how rating agencies perceive the effects caused by information related to derivatives use by Brazilian publicly-traded companies. In addition, this study shifts the previous findings from stock analysts to rating agencies, reinforcing the discussion about the complexity of derivatives in the credit risk assessment process. This research topic is currently of interest due to the adoption of International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS) 9 (Accounting Pronouncements Committee - CPC - 48), which came into effect in January of 2018. Based on these rules, the main novelty presented in this article was its verification of the effect of the derivatives used by companies in order to hedge their credit ratings, thus helping to fill the empirical gap that exists in the literature from the area. The results found challenge the theory that the use of hedge derivatives is viewed positively by investors. However, although no significant statistical impact was found on the ratings of companies that use derivatives, it was observed that the companies that use derivatives and have the highest notional values were those that received the best ratings from Moody’s. With this we broadened the debate about the complexity of the information linked to derivatives use. In the study, 2,090 ratings attributed to non-financial companies with stocks traded on the Brasil, Bolsa, Balcão [B]³ exchange were examined between 2010 and 2016 by using panel data analysis, which lends robustness to the analysis and findings. Contrary to the central hypothesis of this research, the results presented here show that, in Brazil, companies that use derivative financial instruments for hedging do not receive the best credit ratings from rating agencies. One of the main contributions of this study is the evidence that Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s were unable to consistently incorporate information related to derivatives use, thus broadening the discussion about the complexity of these financial instruments.