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Rating Action:

MOODY'S ASSIGNS RATING OF A3/P-2/C TO BANQUE SYZ & CO. S.A. AND AN ISSUER RATING OF A3 TO FINANCIÈRE SYZ & CO. S.A.

26 Jul 2006
MOODY'S ASSIGNS RATING OF A3/P-2/C TO BANQUE SYZ & CO. S.A. AND AN ISSUER RATING OF A3 TO FINANCIÈRE SYZ & CO. S.A.

First time ratings; all ratings have stable outlooks

London, 26 July 2006 -- Moody's Investors Service has assigned long-and-short term deposit ratings of A3/P-2 and a bank financial strength rating (BFSR) of C to Banque Syz & Co. S.A. (Banque Syz). At the same time Moody's has assigned an issuer rating of A3 to Financiere Syz & Co, S.A. (Financiere Syz), the holding company for the bank and for its sister companies specialised in asset management. The outlook for all these ratings is stable.

According to Moody's the BFSR of C assigned to Banque Syz reflects the positive trend in and robustness of the bank's financial fundamentals. Specifically, it takes into account very limited overall risk appetite, improving operating efficiency and growing profitability, strong asset quality and very solid earnings retention and regulatory capitalisation. Moody's takes note of the recently developed nature of the franchise of the 1996-established Banque Syz, in contrast to other Swiss private banks, and its need to continue investing in building this franchise. However, the ratings agency recognised that the bank had distinguished itself early on from longer established competitors through a more clear focus on private banking (as opposed to a broader range of activities involving brokerage and institutional clients), on absolute investment performance and open product architecture involving alternative asset managers. This has resulted in a strong business culture which now extends well beyond the personal franchises established by the founders, successful development and in impressive earnings dynamics.

At the same time, the ratings agency indicated that the BFSR of C is constrained by a number of factors. Firstly these include the business risks typically associated with private banking, especially as regards reputation and operational risks - in particular the rating takes into account the limited ability of a bank with modest capitalisation to deal with a major "risk event". Secondly, the ratings agency opined that modest-capitalisation banks may find it challenging to operate in the increasingly scale-sensitive private banking market, with growing competition in on- and off-shore segments. Thirdly, Banque Syz itself and sister companies 3A (alternative investments) and Oyster (investment funds) are sensitive to capital markets and investment performance generally. Finally the rating incorporates the risks incumbent in the importance of the three founders' (and core shareholders') contribution to the bank's and group's commercial and financial success.

The ratings agency went on to point out that Banque Syz's long term deposit rating of A3 and short term deposit rating P-2 reflect the assigned BFSR or stand-alone financial strength and do not incorporate any likely support in the event of distress from a regulated or other institutional or corporate shareholder or any other possible institutional or systemic support.

In assigning the same rating level of A3 for the parent holding company as for Banque Syz, Moody's said that the rating of Financiere Syz in relation to the bank took note of the holding company's ability to service debt from cash flows other than the dividend flows from the bank, as well as the fact that the holding company has no indebtedness, is subject to the same regulatory oversight as the bank and has significantly higher capitalisation. Financiere Syz directly owns 3A (alternative investments) and Oyster (investment funds) and has not relied on dividends from the bank in the past. Moody's indicated that in its view, these directly held subsidiaries provide a meaningful degree of diversification of cash flows and assets; in 2005 these units outside Banque Syz's scope of consolidation accounted for over half of pre-provision and net earnings, and around two fifths of assets under management and shareholders' funds

The stable outlook for Banque Syz's rating reflects Moody's expectation that the bank will build up a durable, broadly based franchise that it will continue to show improvements in earnings and market share in the growing private banking business. The stable outlook on the rating of Financiere Syz, in relation to that of Banque Syz, is predicated on the expectation that the holding company will continue to benefit from diversified cash flows and have zero or negligible indebtedness.

Moody's indicated that developments which could move Banque Syz's rating up would include strong and sustainable improvements in financial performance, a more firmly entrenched client franchise, marked increases in assets under management or a decreasing reliance on the three core shareholders' contribution. Conversely, developments which could move the bank's and Financiere Syz's ratings down would include any substantial outflow of client funds/erosion of franchise value, margin pressure, weaker efficiency, markedly more aggressive risk taking as well as concerns about operational risk or investment performance at sister companies 3A and Oyster. Developments which could lead to Financiere Syz's rating being negatively notched in relation to the ratings of the bank would be the incidence of holding company double leverage / significant parent company indebtedness and a diminished diversification of cash flows either through the impairment of the dividend payment ability of 3A and Oyster or the dividends of the bank becoming the dominant source of cash flow for the holding company.

Banque Syz, based in Geneva, Switzerland, reported consolidated total assets of CHF407 million, shareholders' equity of CHF70 million and client assets under management of CHF9451 million as at 31 December 2005. For the financial year 2005, it reported net profit of CHF22 million. Financiere Syz owns 100% of the bank's share capital.

Financiere Syz, based in Zug, Switzerland, reported consolidated total assets of CHF594 million, shareholders' equity of CHF124 million and consolidated client assets under management of CHF15401 million as at 31 December 2005. For the financial year 2005, it reported proforma net profit of CHF49 million.

London
Antonio Carballo
Managing Director
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

London
James Hyde
Vice President - Senior Analyst
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

No Related Data.
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