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BUSINESS BRIEFS

Slovakia back to investment grade

The Standard & Poor's ratings agency on October 30 raised Slovakia to a rating of A minus, returning the country to investment grade three years after it was dropped in 1998, on the basis of its progress in European Union entry negotiations, revitalisation of the bank sector, stabilisation of the economy, interest rates and inflation.

The investment grade puts Slovakia back on par with regional neighbours the Czech Republic and Hungary, and ahead of Poland. Financial market players were caught off-guard by the move, saying they had expected agencies would wait until September 2002 elections before taking a serious look at the country.

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