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Crisil Ltd | Quality Matters - Part 1

Company Overview & Ratings Business

CRISIL Ltd, one of the largest and most reputed CRAs of India which is also an analytical company that mainly provides rating, research and advisory services. The company is largely owned by S&P Global (67.4 % ownership as of May 2020), a US based CRA.

It was the first credit rating agency in India, introduced in 1988 by ICICI and UTI jointly with share capital coming from SBI, LIC and United India Insurance Company. In April 2005, US based credit rating agency S&P acquired the majority shares (51 % back then) of company.

The company has 10 subsidiaries (all 100% owned) as of May 2020, including the newly formed 'CRISIL Ratings' on June 3 2019 after SEBI mandated to segregate the rating and non-rating business for Indian companies.



CRISIL is mainly into the business of (i) Ratings (ii) Research and (iii) Advisory services. For keeping the article short and more accurate, let's group the segments (ii) and (iii) as 'Research and Advisory'.

Revenue Segmentation

Below chart gives an overview of how different product segments contribute to the company's revenues and profits. (i) PRODUCT

The company reported PBT of Rs. 219.54 cr from Ratings in 2019 v/s Rs. 184.17 cr in 2018 marking a growth of 19.21%. For Research and Advisory, the company reported PBT of Rs. 246.41 cr in 2019 vs Rs. 318.35 cr. in 2018 marking a de-growth of -28.42%. The segment wise performance will be discussed later in detail in their respective areas.

NOTE: The company uses calendar year and not business year, i.e. annual reports are released as 'data as of December 20xx' and not March 20xx.

The company doesn't earn all of its income from India. (ii) GEOGRAPHIC -

CRISIL earns revenue in India as well as from North America, Europe and rest of the world. On the left side, this is the chart which represents the % of revenues earned from different geographies.

CRISIL earned roughly 33%~ each from India and North America and 25%~ from Europe for 2018 and 2019. 

Subsidiary Holding structure

CRISIL has total 10 subsidiaries out of which subsidiaries #1, #2 and #3 are Indian subsidiaries whereas the rest are foreign subsidiaries. S&P holds 67.4% in CRISIL and CRISIL further holds 100% stake in all its subsidiaries.

Subsidiary #1, CRISIL Ratings was incorporated recently with the objective to take over the ratings business of the company. Rest all other subsidiaries are engaged in the business of 'Global Research & Analytics (GR&A)' and 'Advisory services'. Main subsidiaries for the company are (i) Crisil Irevna UK Ltd (ii) Crisil Irevan US LLC and (iii) Coalition Development Ltd which contribute 75%~ of the 'Subsidiary profits' or 17%~ of the 'Consolidated profits'.

While S&P assigns ratings to instruments on a global scale, CRISIL assigns ratings on its national scale.

According to company website, since CRISIL only gives rating on national scale. Therefore, while considering foreign subsidiaries of Indian parent companies, CRISIL considers ratings given by let's say S&P and maps it to the scale used by CRISIL.



In India, there are total of 7 CRAs which are allowed to give ratings. The ratings market is actually dominated by 3 of them, (i) CRISIL (ii) ICRA and (iii) CARE who cover 95% of the industry, CRISIL being the market leader (45% market share based on revenues).

CRISIL earned roughly 47%~ of its reported PBT in CY2019 from Ratings. But before getting into the details of the company performance, let's try to understand the business of credit rating agencies.

There are 2 main business models in the credit rating business:

(i) Issuer pay model - The issuer / borrower will pay to get credit rating for the instrument. This business model allows issuer-pay credit rating agencies to make their ratings freely available to the broader market i.e. investors.

(ii) Subscription model - The investors / interested parties will pay CRAs to get a credit rating on a company instrument. The credit rating agency does not make its ratings freely available to the market, so investors pay a subscription fee for access to the ratings.

Both business models have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Currently, we are following issuer pay model in India. Critics argue that the issuer-pays model creates a potential conflict of interest because the agencies are paid by the organisations whose debt they rate. However, the subscription model is also seen to have disadvantages, as it restricts the ratings availability to only paying investors. Issuer-pay CRAs have argued that subscription-models can also be subject to conflicts of interest due to pressures from investors with strong preferences on product ratings.

Rating fees structure

Although CRISIL hasn't disclosed their rating fees structure, we found out that CARE anually charges 0.1% on initial ratings of bonds (subject to minimum flat fee on specific issue size) and 0.03% annually (to be paid quarterly) on the recurring ratings. (These are rough estimates, fees structure varies based on instrument type, their complexity, their issue size etc.) Therefore, there are 2 types of fees charged by CRAs. One being, 'initial fees' in which the instrument / company is getting rated for the first time. The other is 'surveillance fees' which is charged to give revised ratings on quarterly basis. Initial fees is usually higher than surveillance fees. Having a variable fees structure, it makes CRA's revenues directly proportional to the size of issues they rate.

Factors affecting CRA business

Let us start with what all instruments are rated by credit rating agencies. The below list provides some of the main products rated by CRAs:

  1. Bank Loan ratings (BLRs)

  2. Long term debt instruments - Long-term Bonds, NCDs, Preference Shares

  3. Short term debt instruments - Commercial Paper (CP), Short term NCDs and Bonds

  4. SME ratings and Fixed deposit ratings

  5. Others - Structured products etc.

Major source of revenues for CRAs are Bank Loan Ratings (BLRs) and Corporate Bonds (both short and long term). Therefore, the biggest factors affecting the credit rating business is the 'growth and issuance in corporate bond markets' as well as 'growth in bank credit in the economy'. Both these factors are further impacted by several other factors like interest rate movements, general business activity occurring in the economy, demand for credit, rate of investment, maturity of the debt markets etc.

Let's look at how credit growth in India affected CRISIL Ratings revenues in the past -

Here we see that how the general non-credit growth (and NBFC credit growth) is highly correlated with that of Rating revenues for CRISIL. The excess variation reflected by company's revenues are because of operating leverage in play. More credit disbursement in the economy would mean more issuance of debt which further translates to more debt that needs to be rated before getting issued.

During the COVID-19 period, focus will completely shift to risk management and conservatism. It is now becoming evident that investors are not willing to finance debt of companies as they look to park their money in safe haven. This will negatively impact CRISIL as the volume of debt being issued will significantly go down which will result in decline in ratings revenues for CRISIL. But what about the future? Lets take a look -

Future of Indian Bond Market

Since a big pie of the rating revenues for CRAs come through bond markets, lets see what future holds for them: The Indian bond market has just started to develop, thanks to some of the measures taken by RBI. For one, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) will be a game changer. So what exactly is IBC?