New Century Financial Corp., Irvine, Calif., has been assigned a long-term counterparty credit rating of BB-minus by Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, according to New Century.The specialty mortgage company also received an unsecured debt rating of B-plus. "These ratings reflect the significant improvement that the company has made over the last several years in increasing its capital base, cash flow, and liquidity," said Robert K. Cole, New Century's chairman and chief executive officer. He predicted that recent "strategic initiatives" to strengthen the company's balance sheet and diversify its revenues will lead to ratings upgrades. "Investment-grade status is certainly the financial recognition we seek to achieve," he said. S&P's lowest investment-grade rating is BBB-minus. The company can be found online at http://www.ncen.com.

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