Standard & Poor's formally launched trustee rankings in Argentina last week, assigning an Above Standard grade to Banco Patagonia, a prolific participant in the country's fast-growing securitization market. The move comes in the wake of S&P's second trustee ranking in Mexico, a Standard grade for BBVA Bancomer.

"Eventually we're going to extend this product to Brazil," said Maria Tapia, an associate in S&P's emerging market structured group. "There we'll start with the figure of custodian," she added, referring to one of the main roles involved in the receivable investment funds, the tax-friendly vehicles used most often by Brazilian originators.

Moody's Investors Service should be publishing a methodology for trustee quality ratings in Latin America soon, according to a source at the agency. The first ratings, which will come from Mexico and Argentina, are due out in the next few months. An official at Fitch Ratings declined to comment. Neither agency has released a grade on Latin American trustees.

Investors are behind the demand for comparable assessments of trustees in Latin America, sources said.

With a focus on managing financial trusts, Banco Patagonia had participated in 88 structured deals representing more than Ps2 billion ($648 million) in volume as of December 2005. The company administers an array of assets, including consumer and personal loans, credit card receivables, mortgages and auto loans from roughly 26 originators.

An Above Standard grade, "indicates a strong ability to provide trustee services through solid management experience and business profile, sound legal capabilities, and strong procedures, policies, and systems," S&P said in a press release.

(c) 2006 Asset Securitization Report and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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