The objective of this research is to determine the optimal rating philosophy for the rating of SMEs, and to describe the consequences of the chosen philosophy on several related aspects. As to our knowledge, this is the first paper that studies the considerations of financial institutions on what rating philosophy to adopt for specific portfolios. The importance for banks to have a solid risk framework to predict credit risk of their counterparties is well reflected by the quality and the quantity of research on this subject. Moreover, a good risk framework is vital to become compliant with the new Basel II framework. Problem is that financial institutions nearly always neglect the first step in the rating model development process: the determination of the rating philosophy. It is very important for financial institutions to decide whether they want their internal rating systems to grade borrowers according to their current condition (point-in-time), or their expected condition over a cycle and in stress (through-the-cycle), because the rating philosophy influences many aspects such as: credit approval, pricing, credit and portfolio monitoring, the regulatory and internal capital requirements and the competitive position of a bank. This makes the question which rating philosophy to use very important. Moreover, many different modelling techniques exist to determine credit risk, but few attempts have been devoted to credit risk assessment of small commercial loans, although SME exposures are relatively important for European banks. SMEs have specific characteristics that influence the rating philosophy and therefore the development and use of credit risk models. These SME characteristics are taken into account in the analysis to determine the optimal rating philosophy. Keywords: rating philosophy, small business, Basel II, credit rating, banks JEL classification codes: D82, E32, G20, G28, G33
This is part of a case series. In 2000, Tricon Restaurant, the parent company of Pizza Hut, decided to spin off all its non-strategic businesses, including Pizza Belgium. The CEO of Pizza Belgium, Stef Meulemans, was afraid of the consequences of a trade sale to an international player. He therefore attempted to put together a management buy-out. Stef Meulemans could invest 125,000 euros of his own in the transaction. Although he didn't know yet how the deal would be financed or how much equity would be needed, it was quite likely that a financial partner with additional funds would be needed. The fraction of the shares that Stef Meulemans could acquire would depend on the amount of equity required from the private equity investor and his own negotiation and deal structuring skills.
This is part of a case series. At the end of 2004, about four years after the management buy-out (MBO), the private equity investor Buy Out Fund (BOF) started preparing for the exit. Within two to three years, BOF would sell its Pizza Belgium shares. Stef Meulemans knew that he would probably have to sell his shares too. It could not be excluded that the buyer would install his own management team, and he would definitely not be a shareholder anymore. That was why he seriously considered taking the plunge for the second time. A secondary buy-out would be difficult, but he had no other option if he wanted to remain a shareholder of Pizza Belgium. This time five other managers were eager to join the MBO. Stef was willing to invest the proceeds of the sale of his 15% stake. The other managers could invest 50,000 euros each. Stef and the other managers had to make an interesting offer to BOF. Stef knew they would have to attract a new private equity player, but one thing Stef knew for sure: he wanted to be the majority shareholder.
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