NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Fitch Ratings has assigned 'AAA/V1' bond fund ratings to the Goldman Sachs Limited Maturity Obligations Fund (LMOF), managed by Goldman Sachs Asset Management, L.P. (GSAM). The fund will commence trading on Feb. 28, 2014 with initial funding of $10 million of seed capital.
The rating assignment reflects Fitch's review of the fund's investment and credit guidelines, a pro forma portfolio and GSAM's capabilities as investment advisor. The 'AAA' Fund Credit Rating (FCR) indicates the highest underlying credit quality (or lowest vulnerability to default). The assets are expected to maintain a weighted average portfolio rating of 'AAA.' Funds rated 'V1' are considered to have very low sensitivity to market risk. On a relative basis, total returns and/or changes in net asset value are expected to exhibit high stability, showing low relative volatility across a broad range of market scenarios. These funds offer very low risk exposure to interest rates, credit spreads and other risk factors.
KEY RATING DRIVERS
--The fund's investment guidelines mandating overall credit quality, diversification and maturity profile;
--Discussions with portfolio management team about investment strategies along with the composition of indicative portfolios;
--Minimal exposure to interest rate and spread risk;
--The capabilities and resources of GSAM as investment advisor.
The main driver of the FCR is the high credit quality of the expected portfolio, which will be invested largely in short-term securities rated 'F1' or higher. The 'AAA' FCR reflects the vulnerability to losses as a result of defaults, and is based on the actual and prospective weighted average credit quality of the portfolio assets. As such, the portfolio is expected to maintain a weighted average rating of 'AAA', taking into account certain adjustments for the reduced credit risk of high-quality, short-term securities. The prospectus allows for up to 15% in 'F2' exposure; however, the portfolio managers have represented that they do not anticipate actively utilizing this investment bucket. If the fund invests in securities that are rated 'F2' or are unrated, this could likely result in negative rating pressure to the fund's credit rating.
The main drivers of the fund volatility rating are the stability of the portfolio's market risk profile, as reflected by the short-dated nature of the assets as mandated by the prospectus. The 'V1' fund volatility rating reflects the fund's low market risk, available liquidity, and capacity to return stable principal value to meet anticipated cash flow requirements, even in adverse interest rate environments.
CREDIT QUALITY AND DIVERSIFICATION
Based on a pro forma portfolio, the weighted average credit quality of the fund, as measured by Fitch's weighted average rating factor (WARF), was 0.18, which corresponds to an 'AAA' FCR as per Fitch published bond fund criteria.
The fund will seek to generate current income while maintaining an emphasis of preservation of capital and liquidity by investing in a broad range of high quality, U.S. dollar-denominated money market and other fixed income instruments, including U.S. Government Securities, obligations of U.S. banks, corporate notes, commercial paper and other short-term obligations of U.S. companies, states, municipalities and other entities, fixed and floating rate asset backed securities and repurchase agreements. The fund may also invest in U.S. dollar denominated obligations issued or guaranteed by foreign banks, companies and governments. Additionally, the fund may invest up to 10% in highly, rated shorter dated structured finance securities.
The fund is mandated by prospectus to invest at least 85% of its total assets in securities that are rated, at the time of purchase, in the highest short-term credit rating category by at least one NRSRO, 'F1' by Fitch, or, if unrated, determined by the Investment Adviser to be of comparable credit quality at the time of purchase. The remainder will carry a minimum short-term credit rating of 'F2' by Fitch. The fund may also invest up to 10% of its total assets (at the time of purchase) in illiquid securities including, but not limited to, term repurchase agreements.
The fund is also required to maintain portfolio diversification. The fund may not invest more than 5% in any single issuer except that the fund may invest up to 25% of the value of its total assets in the securities of a single issuer for up to three business days (not applicable to cash and certain other investments).
The fund will manage its market risk by maintaining a dollar-weighted average portfolio maturity (WAM) that does not exceed approximately nine months and a dollar-weighted average portfolio life (WAL) that does not exceed approximately one year, in accordance with the fund's prospectus. The fund will invest in securities that have remaining maturities of two years or less at the time of purchase, with limited exceptions where a security has maturity shortening features. Floating rate and variable rate securities must have remaining maturities of three years or less at the time of purchase.
To limit liquidity risk, as per its stated prospectus, the fund will seek to invest at least 10% of its assets in weekly liquid securities. Given the short-dated nature of the portfolio duration, along with the high allocation to 'AAA' securities (which receive a 0.00 spread factor under Fitch's analytical framework for determining fund volatility ratings), the market risk of the portfolio is viewed as consistent with a 'V1' fund volatility rating.
GSAM is an affiliate of Goldman Sachs Group (rated 'A/F1' by Fitch). GSAM manages assets on behalf of institutions and individuals through a variety of equity, fixed income, cash management and alternative investment products. Fitch views GSAM's investment advisory capabilities, resource commitment, operational controls, corporate governance, and compliance procedures as consistent with the rating assigned to the fund.
The ratings may be sensitive to material changes in the credit quality or market risk profiles of the fund. A material decrease in portfolio credit quality could result in the FCR being lowered, while a material increase in portfolio duration could result in fund volatility ratings being lowered.
For example, Fitch utilized stress analysis to test the credit quality of the indicative portfolio against the fund's prospectus for credit quality. If the fund utilizes the flexibility provided in the prospectus to invest in 'F2' or unrated exposure there is an appreciable decline in credit quality. If the fund utilizes the full 15% 'F2' bucket the fund's WARF would likely decline to a level in the 'AA' category.
Fitch expects to receive bi-monthly portfolio holdings information including credit quality, market value and duration of the individual securities, from the fund's administrator to conduct surveillance against ratings guidelines and maintain its bond fund rating.
For additional information about Fitch bond fund ratings guidelines, review the criteria referenced below, which can be found at 'www.fitchratings.com'.
Additional information is available at 'www.fitchratings.com'.
Applicable Criteria and Related Research:
--'Global Bond Fund Rating Criteria' (Aug. 13, 2013).
Applicable Criteria and Related Research:
Global Bond Fund Rating Criteria