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Rating Action:

MOODY'S REPORTS: DUTCH BANKS' STABLE OUTLOOK REFLECTS MATURE FINANCIAL MARKETS AND ACCEPTABLE AND PREDICTABLE PROFITABILITY

15 Dec 2004
MOODY'S REPORTS: DUTCH BANKS' STABLE OUTLOOK REFLECTS MATURE FINANCIAL MARKETS AND ACCEPTABLE AND PREDICTABLE PROFITABILITY

London, 15 December 2004 -- The overall outlook for rated Dutch banks remains stable, underpinned by the sector's generally adequate and predictable profitability, a robust regulatory environment and a mature and stable financial landscape, Moody's Investors Service says in its new Banking System Outlook report for the Netherlands. Nonetheless, Moody's does not rule out selective rating upgrades or downgrades, which it would expect to be largely driven by possible ownership changes.

"We expect that the three large banks -- ABN AMRO (Aa3/P-1/B), ING Bank (Aa2/P-1/B+) and Rabobank (Aaa/P-1/A) -- will continue to dominate the banking market, although smaller institutions may be able to increase their market shares marginally in particular segments, such as mortgages," says Lynn Exton, a Moody's Senior Vice President and author of the report.

In Moody's view, no regulatory developments or dramatic realignments of product pricing are anticipated that would be likely to undermine the entrenched position of the big three players.

While delinquency and loss levels on Dutch residential mortgages have historically and continue to be low, the recent high loan-to-value lending, the possibility of falls in nominal house prices (which have already been seen in some areas) and the preponderance of interest-only mortgages, or repayment schemes dependent on investment funds, all provide reasons to be cautious about mortgage portfolios. Nevertheless, with unemployment levels appearing to have peaked, we believe that stresses on mortgage portfolios are lessening. However, given the significance of mortgages in the bank's loan portfolios- lending for house purchases accounted for 44% of all private lending stock as of October 2004, Moody's believes that trends in the asset quality of mortgage portfolios require close monitoring.

Although economic conditions in the Netherlands have been difficult since 2001, corporate bankruptcies and unemployment appear to have peaked and the outlook for asset quality is positive. "We believe that, in a low-growth macroeconomic environment, the principal challenge for the banks will be that of growing revenues. However, we recognise the ongoing progress that Dutch institutions have been making in improving their operating efficiency and the quality of their risk management," Ms Exton notes.

The recurring earnings of the big three banks are modest, largely as a result of their high operating costs. In this context, it is the quality rather than the size of their earnings that justifies their high ratings, Moody's explains.

An analysis of the Dutch banking system has to take into account the considerable differences between the respective business profiles of the various banks. For example, ABN AMRO earns most of its money outside the Netherlands, whilst Rabobank is primarily a domestic bank but with material and growing overseas operations, and the smaller banks tend to be wholly focused on Dutch business.

Another key rating consideration, and credit strength, is the mature, liberalised and competitive nature of the Dutch financial markets -- a characteristic that is not expected to suffer any material changes or system shock, in Moody's opinion. In addition, intense local competition makes it difficult for new entrants or smaller players to pursue an aggressive policy that could lead to a long-term negative movement in the inherent profitability of financial products.

* * * * *

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS ONLY: For a copy of this report, please contact London Press Information +44-20-7772-5456; Louisa Pearce-Smith in Paris +33-1-5330-1073; New York Press Information +1-212-553-0376; Juan Pablo Soriano in Madrid +34-91-310-1454; Henry MacNevin in Milan +39-02-5821-5580; Detlef Scholz in Frankfurt +49-69-707-30-700; Adel Satel in Limassol +357-25-586-586; Hector Lim in Sydney +612 9270 8102; Tokyo Press Information +813-5408-4110; Hilary Parkes in Toronto +1-416-214-1635; Hong Kong Press Information +852-2916-1150; Luiz Tess in São Paulo +55-11-3443-7444; Benito Solis in Mexico City +5255-9171-1817; or Reynold Leegerstee in Johannesburg +27-11-217-5471 or visit our web site at www.moodys.com

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

London
Lynn Exton
Senior Vice President
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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