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Rating Action:

MOODY'S ASSIGNS RATINGS TO FOUR TUNISIAN BANKS FOR LONG- AND SHORT-TERM DEPOSITS AND BANK FINANCIAL STRENGTH

21 Oct 1996
MOODY'S ASSIGNS RATINGS TO FOUR TUNISIAN BANKS FOR LONG- AND SHORT-TERM DEPOSITS AND BANK FINANCIAL STRENGTH Limassol, 10-21-96 -- Moody's Investors' Service has assigned long- and short-term deposit ratings and bank financial strength ratings (BFSRs) to four Tunisian banks. The deposit ratings refer to foreign currency deposits. This is the first time that Tunisian banks have been rated by Moody's. Moody's has assigned the following ratings:
Banque Internationale Arabe de Tunisie -- Ba1 for long-term deposits, Not Prime for short-term deposits and D for bank financial strength.
Banque Nationale d'Agricole -- Ba1 for long-term deposits, Not Prime for short-term deposits and E for bank financial strength.
Banque du Sud -- Ba1 for long-term deposits, Not Prime for short-term deposits and E for bank financial strength.
Banque de Tunisie -- Ba1 for long-term deposits, Not Prime for short-term deposits and D for bank financial strength.
Moody's deposit ratings are opinions of an institution's overall creditworthiness and take into account factors related to external support in addition to those which are specific to the bank itself. As a result, a bank's deposit ratings are constrained by the sovereign ceiling for bank deposits: no bank may be rated higher than the ceiling for deposits in the country in which it is domiciled. In contrast, bank financial strength ratings (BFSRs) reflect the bank's strength on a stand-alone basis and the likelihood that it may require support from a third party at some point in the future. As such, BFSRs exclude factors related to external support although they do take into account the bank's domestic operating environment. BFSRs are not constrained by the country ceiling and in order to distinguish them from deposit ratings they use different signifiers: a letter scale ranging from "A" (exceptional) to "E" (very weak). A "+" signifier may be appended to ratings below the "A" category.
The deposit ratings for all four banks have been set at the ceiling for Tunisian bank deposits to reflect Moody's confidence that the Tunisian financial authorities would support banks in a stress scenario. Banks which have faced difficulties in recent times (one of which was Banque Internationale Arabe de Tunisie which faced a liquidity crisis) have, without exception, received assistance either directly from the Central Bank of Tunisia (CBT), or from other sources following central bank prompting. This assistance was provided regardless of whether the banks were privately or publicly owned. It is difficult to conceive of circumstances in which this support would not continue to be provided during Tunisia's present phase of economic and financial development.
The BFSRs of all the banks reflect in part the operating environment in Tunisia which has been characterized by significant changes in recent years, including the abandonment of directed credit, the liberalization of interest rates and the introduction of provisioning and capital adequacy standards which are similar to international norms. The banks' operating environment has also been influenced by the broad programme of economic liberalisation being pusured by the Tunisian authorities, and in particular by the policy of "mise … niveau" which aims to promote greater efficiency and market discipline in the corporate sector as part of efforts towards economic convergence with the European Union (although, despite this programme of liberalisation, the public sector continues to occupy a dominant position in the corporate sector). This environment is presenting banks with opportunities to pursue more distinct business strategies and to develop more focused risk-return profiles, but it also involves those risks routinely associated with markets undergoing a period of transition. The CBT occupies a central position within Tunisian financial markets and it plays an important role in assuring the liquidity of the banking system.
The BFSR of "D" assigned to Banque Internationale Arabe de Tunisie (BIAT) reflects in part these operating conditions but also the intrinsic strengths of the bank itself. The level of the bank's capitalisation is improving and provisions against doubtful debts exceed the amount required by the central bank (although they cannot be considered excessive in relation to international norms). The bank has been consistently profitable in recent years and it attaches considerable importance to liquidity after suffering a liquidity crisis in 1993. (Its liquidity ratios are now stronger than many of its peers.) The bank's expense base is high, and this appears to be only partly attributable to ongoing investment in new technology. The bank recognizes the need to reduce its personnel costs and has already begun to apply itself to this task. As the biggest private sector bank in Tunisia, BIAT is well positioned to take advantage of emerging opportunities in Tunisian financial markets.
The BFSR of "E" assigned to Banque Nationale d'Agricole (BNA) reflects in part the banks' operating environment and the financial position of BNA itself. The bank's capitalisation is weak in relation to its non-performing debt portfolio (even if its capital ratio exceeds the level required by the CBT). The bank has a shortfall in provisions and is unable to comply with the central bank's provisioning regulations. The bank's current plan, which has been agreed with the central bank, anticipates the elimination of this shortfall around the end of the decade but success in this regard will be dependent on the bank's ability to generate a sufficient level of earnings in the years ahead. The profitability of the bank is weak and the bank is dependent on the central bank for liquidity. BNA will remain majority state-owned for the foreseeable future and this may limit its ability to take advantage of forthcoming opportunities in Tunisian financial markets, although it will maintain its central role in the provision of credit to the agricultural sector.
The BFSR of "E" assigned to Banque du Sud reflects in part the banks' operating environment but also the financial position of the Banque du Sud itself. The bank's capitalisation is very weak and any improvement will be largely dependent on two capital increases which are planned for this year and next year. Asset quality is weak and Moody's believes that the bank has a significant shortfall in provisions. This shortfall may be eliminated by the end of 1997 as a result of the capital increases and retained earnings. Although the bank has been profitable in recent years, the level of profits being generated is small in relation to the financial challenges which may confront the bank in the years ahead. The bank is majority owned by private shareholders, both Tunisian or foreign, but it has strong ties to the Tunisian state. The bank's business franchise appears weak and this will limit its capacity to take advantage of opportunities which are currently emerging as part of the liberalisation process and the restructuring of the Tunisian economy.
The BFSR of "D" for Banque de Tunisie reflects in part the banks' operating environment but also the intrinsic strengths of the bank itself. Capitalisation is adequate and the bank has been consistently profitable in recent years. Provisions exceed the amounts required by the CBT's regulations and appear appropriate for the level of non-performing loans on the bank's balance sheet. Liquidity is weak but Moody's believes that the Central Bank of Tunisia will continue to guarantee the liquidity of the banking system as a whole over the medium term. As one of the biggest private sector banks in Tunisia, Banque de Tunisie appears well positioned to take advantage of new business opportunities emerging in Tunisian financial markets. Its strategy is clearly focused on a desire to maximize efficiency and profitability, rather than on increasing market share.
All four banks are based in Tunis, the capital city of Tunisia. At the end of 1995, BIAT had assets of $1,610mn; Banque Nationale d'Agricole had assets of $3,046mn; Banque du Sud had assets of $976mn; and Banque de Tunisie had assets of $921mn.
No Related Data.
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