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Rating Action:

MOODY'S UPGRADES TO B FROM B- THE BANK FINANCIAL STRENGTH RATING OF CAISSE NATIONALE DES CAISSES D'EPARGNE (FRANCE); AFFIRMS Aa2 SENIOR DEBT RATINGS

17 May 2004
MOODY'S UPGRADES TO B FROM B- THE BANK FINANCIAL STRENGTH RATING OF CAISSE NATIONALE DES CAISSES D'EPARGNE (FRANCE); AFFIRMS Aa2 SENIOR DEBT RATINGS

All ratings have a stable outlook.

Paris, May 17, 2004 -- Moody's Investors Service upgraded to B from B- the financial strength rating of Caisse Nationale des Caisses d'Epargne et de Prevoyance (CNCE), the central entity and main refinancing vehicle of the French Savings banks group, concluding a review initiated in December 2003. Moody's also affirmed the bank's debt and deposit ratings (Aa2 senior, Aa3 subordinated, A1 deeply subordinated and Prime-1 for short-term obligations). All ratings have a stable outlook.

Moody's said that the upgrade reflected the French Savings banks' improved earnings power as well as the group's enhanced business franchise and diversification resulting from its recent acquisitions.

Moody's noted that, since their status change in June 1999 into co-operative institutions and the introduction of a more focused management style, the Savings banks have achieved a major strategic and operational overhaul, aimed specifically at the following:

a) Enhancing their strategic focus and business momentum, notably within the regional banks' retail network.

b) Improving efficiency and profitability, notably through significant synergies in IT development and production.

c) Strengthening the group's retail franchise by expanding products and by extending the number of primary banking relationships.

As a result, the group's profitability indicators have displayed a healthy evolution and now compare favorably with similarly franchised French or European institutions.

In addition, Moody's said that the recent acquisitions of CDC Ixis, Entenial and Banque SanPaolo have extended the group's business profile and diversification, allowing the Savings banks to emerge today as one the more significant French banking group. In particular, the ownership transfer of CDC Ixis, a wholesale institution focusing on financial services including capital markets, structured finance, asset management, private equity, custody and financial guarantee, which is expected to take place in 2004, should represent a significant capital and earnings diversification, while Banque SanPaolo is expected to play a pivotal role in the Savings banks expansion in the mid-market segment. Although the group's credit strength remains strongly anchored to its domestic retail franchise, the combination of more diversified activities as well as closer operational and strategic integration should have long-term positive implications on the Savings banks' business franchise and earning power, by leveraging major domestic positions in retail and institutional financial services -- notably in savings collection and management -- and rely on significant financial resources to fund its expansion.

Mitigating these strategic benefits, the rating agency pointed to the challenges of successfully executing the group's expansion strategy, integrating the recently acquired businesses and generating the expected synergies, although the group's greater involvement in potentially more volatile activities (e.g. wholesale banking, SME lending or commercial real estate financing) does not significantly raise its risk profile as the acquired businesses have sound risk management practice and a calibrated risk appetite. Moody's also noted that despite acquisitions, the group should continue to enjoy very strong financial flexibility, thanks to enhanced earnings power and organic capital generation.

Finally, Moody's said that its stable rating outlook on CNCE's Aa2 long-term debt and deposit continues to be underpinned by its key relationship with and partial ownership by Aaa-rated Caisse des Depôts et Consignations (CDC), links that have been recently reaffirmed by the two groups. Nevertheless, while CDC should remain a key strategic shareholder and business partner of the Savings banks, Moody's commented that it now viewed CNCE's credit strength to be well positioned in the Aa rating range on a stand alone basis.

The following rating was upgraded with a stable outlook:

Caisse Nationale des Caisses d'Epargne et de Prevoyance -- bank financial strength rating at B from B-.

The following ratings were affirmed with a stable outlook:

Caisse Nationale des Caisses d'Epargne et de Prevoyance -- senior debt and long-term bank deposit at Aa2, subordinated and junior subordinated debt at Aa3, deeply subordinated debt at A1 and Prime-1 for short-term debt and bank deposit.

Based in Paris, Caisse Nationale des Caisses d'Epargne et de Prevoyance is the central entity and main issuing debt vehicle of the French Savings banks group. At year-end 2003, the group had total assets of EUR381 billion.

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

Paris
Jean-Luc Lepreux
Senior Vice President
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's France S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456 SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

No Related Data.
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