Split bond ratings and rating migration
This paper examines the relationships between split ratings and ratings migration. We find that bonds with split ratings are more likely to have future rating changes. A one-notch (more-than-one-notch) split rating increases the probability of rating change within one year of initial issuance by about 3% (6%). Furthermore, we find that about 30% of split rated bonds have their two ratings converge after four years of initial issuance. The rating convergence tapers off after three years, and the rating agency with a higher (lower) initial rating generally maintains a higher (lower) rating in subsequent years if the two ratings do not converge. We also show that rating transition estimation can be improved by taking into consideration split ratings. We find that one-year rating transition matrices are significantly different between non-letter-split rated bonds and letter-split rated bonds, and we show that the difference has an economically significant impact on the pricing of credit spread options and VaR-based risk management models. Overall, our results suggest that split ratings contain important information about subsequent rating changes.
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