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Did you predict the Ahold scandal?

The danger of accounting irregularities creeping up on them is the one gripe that pretty well all credit analysts have about their jobs at the moment. Post Enron, the idea of unwittingly recommending a company that turns out to have cooked its books is enough to bring on a cold sweat. "How do you predict problems such as Ahold's as an analyst? I think it's a ferociously difficult job," says Catherine Gronquist, director of international credit research at Morgan Stanley. "These demands on them have tested all credit analysts on the buy side and the sell side to practically their breaking point in some cases." This nightmare came true once again when multinational retail group Ahold admitted accounting irregularities. Standard&Poor's immediately downgraded Ahold's bonds to junk  and they traded as low as 70 straight away. At press time, there was speculation that the bonds might fall even further to trade as distressed credits.

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