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Rating Action:

Moody's: ABN AMRO's ratings lowered; on review for downgrade

04 Aug 2009

New York, August 04, 2009 -- Moody's Investors Service lowered the long-term ratings of ABN AMRO Bank (deposits and senior debt to Aa3 from Aa2; bank financial strength rating to C+ from B-), as well as the ratings of its parent holding company ABN AMRO Holding NV (senior to (P)A1 from (P)Aa3), and that of certain subsidiaries. At the same time, the Prime-1 short-term ratings of ABN AMRO Bank NV and ABN AMRO North America Finance Inc. were affirmed. The long-term ratings remain on review for possible downgrade.

The rating action reflects Moody's view that the current ratings are no longer consistent with either the bank's current financial condition or the likely future financial profile of either of the banks resulting from ABN AMRO's pending demerger.

"We believe that ABN AMRO's core earnings profile has weakened over the past year because of lower interest margins in its Dutch banking activities, structured-asset impairments in its wholesale banking operations, and the redirection of a portion of its wholesale business to Royal Bank of Scotland plc (RBS)," said Senior Vice President David Fanger. Although a part of those losses have been offset by one-time gains on the sale of businesses to Banco Santander, Moody's does not expect those gains to benefit ABN AMRO's creditors because they constitute capital still owed to Banco Santander under the Consortium shareholders' agreement. Moody's also believes that this weakened earnings profile is likely to endure for a while because of the challenging economic climate and the bank's exposure to legacy structured assets.

CREDIT PROFILE OF DUTCH STATE-OWNED SUCCESSOR

Later this year ABN AMRO is expected to transfer (through a demerger) its Dutch banking business and private client business to a newly formed bank that will be directly or indirectly wholly owned by the Dutch government. A portion of ABN AMRO's deposits and rated debt will become obligations of the newly formed Dutch bank, which will assume the name ABN AMRO Bank N.V. (ABN AMRO II).

Following the demerger, Moody's believes that ABN AMRO II will continue to face margin pressure, and will also need to absorb overhead costs previously shared with the larger ABN AMRO. In Moody's view, this weaker earnings profile is unlikely to support a Bank Financial Strength Rating higher than C+. Although the bank will benefit from considerable near-term systemic support, the stated intention of the Dutch government is to divest its ownership over the medium term. "In circumstances where a government intends to re-privatize a state-owned bank, Moody's typically limits the degree of ratings uplift due to systemic support," explained Mr. Fanger. "Based on these factors," he adds, "we think that the creditworthiness of the long-term obligations of ABN AMRO that will be assumed by the Dutch State-owned bank no longer exceed a rating level of Aa3."

CREDIT PROFILE OF REMAINING BANK FOLLOWING DEMERGER

Once the demerger is complete, the remainder of ABN AMRO Bank will be renamed The Royal Bank of Scotland N.V. (RBS NV). Those deposits and debt obligations of ABN AMRO not transferred to ABN AMRO II will remain as obligations of RBS NV. As an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of RBS Group plc, RBS NV is expected to be a more narrowly focused bank specializing in wholesale banking and global transaction services. In Moody's view, the narrower franchise and more limited earnings diversification at RBS NV are unlikely to support a Bank Financial Strength Rating higher than C+. Moody's also believes RBS NV will be less systemically important to the Dutch financial system and thus its debt and deposit ratings should benefit less from systemic support. "Although this may be offset to some degree by a high level of parental support from RBS," Mr. Fanger stated, "we do not expect this to lift the ratings above the current Aa3 ratings for deposits and senior unsecured debt at RBS."

CONTINUING REVIEW FOR DOWNGRADE

ABN AMRO's long-term ratings remain on review for possible downgrade pending completion of the demerger. Moody's will review the pro forma financial profile and capital position of each of RBS NV and ABN AMRO II, as well as the ultimate allocation of ABN AMRO's rated debt obligations to each bank. ABN AMRO has published a preliminary list that economically allocates most of its debt to either the businesses remaining with RBS NV or those to be transferred to the new Dutch State-owned bank -- but that list is not final. Moody's has thus not taken any rating actions based upon the preliminary debt allocation list.

"Our rating action reflects Moody's opinion of the highest possible rating that the current unsecured obligations of ABN AMRO are likely to achieve at the conclusion of the pending review," Mr. Fanger said, "regardless of whether they continue as obligations of RBS NV or become those of the new Dutch State-owned bank."

"Upon conclusion of the pending ratings review," the analyst continued, "we think that the senior unsecured debt allocated to RBS NV may be rated lower than Aa3 because we believe it to be less likely to benefit from UK support than its parent RBS, which is currently rated Aa3, with a BFSR of C-." Presently, the parent's senior debt and deposit ratings benefit from a very high level of systemic support from the United Kingdom. In Moody's view, RBS NV, as a non UK-domiciled bank subsidiary of RBS, will be less likely to benefit from the same degree of systemic support. According to Mr. Fanger, the conclusion of the pending ratings review could possibly place the deposit and senior unsecured debt ratings of RBS NV in the single-A range.

Any senior debt obligations that may be assumed by the Dutch State-owned bank are more likely to remain at Aa3. "In our view," Mr. Fanger explained, "the banking business that is being transferred to the Dutch State-owned bank is systemically important to the Dutch financial system, and will remain so even after the government re-privatizes the bank." Moody's noted in its February 2009 report "Calibrating Bank Ratings in the Context of the Global Financial Crisis," that systemically important banks with stronger franchises that are suffering financial weaknesses due to the crisis -- and which Moody's believes are not vulnerable to diminished relevance upon the restoration of normal financial market conditions -- will likely be rated at the lower end of the "Aa" or high "A" range.

TREATMENT OF SUBORDINATED AND JUNIOR DEBT

The rating action included the downgrade of ABN AMRO Bank's subordinated debt to A1 from Aa3, and its Tier 1 non-cumulative capital securities and trust preferred securities to A2 from A1. Those ratings also remain on review for downgrade. Moody's noted that there remains a strong likelihood of further downgrades for ABN AMRO Bank's junior instruments, potentially by multiple notches. In this regard ABN AMRO has already indirectly received capital support from the UK government via a capital infusion earlier this year from RBS Group, which is partially government-owned. In addition, the bank is expected to receive a mandatory convertible note and asset guarantee package from the Dutch government later this year.

"As a result of these capital injections," Mr. Fanger stated, "the governments involved may face pressure from EU authorities to impose a suspension of payments on capital instruments at RBS NV or ABN AMRO II. The review will consider the implications of government support for the bank's junior obligations."

"An additional factor that we are considering," said the analyst, "is the implication of the contingent cross liability under Dutch demerger law, which stipulates what obligations each bank will have with respect to the other bank in the event that either defaults on an obligation that was outstanding at the time of the demerger." To the extent that this cross liability covers the suspension of payments on capital instruments, Mr. Fanger believes that it could provide additional support to the ratings of those instruments.

In June 2009, Moody's published a request for comment proposing a revision to its methodology for rating bank hybrid instruments ("Moody's Proposed Changes to Bank Subordinated Capital Ratings"). "To the extent that the proposed revision to our methodology is adopted," Mr. Fanger noted, "the ratings for ABN AMRO's junior subordinated and trust preferred obligations could decline by several notches."

The last rating action was on December 17, 2008 when the long-term ratings of ABN AMRO Bank and affiliates were put on review for downgrade.

The principal methodologies used in rating this issuer were "Bank Financial Strength Ratings: Global Methodology" (February 2007) and "Incorporation of Joint-Default Analysis into Moody's Bank Ratings: A Refined Methodology" (March 2007), which can be found at www.moodys.com in the Credit Policy & Methodologies directory, in the Ratings Methodologies subdirectory. Other methodologies and factors that may have been considered in the process of rating this issuer can also be found in the Credit Policy & Methodologies directory.

ABN AMRO Holding NV reported consolidated assets of € 600.5 billion and total equity of € 17.4 billion as of March 31, 2009 and is headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

The following ratings were affected:

Downgrades:

..Issuer: ABN AMRO Bank N.V.

....Bank Financial Strength Rating, Downgraded to C+ from B-

....Issuer Rating, Downgraded to Aa3 from Aa2

....Deposit Rating, Downgraded to Aa3 from Aa2

....Senior Unsecured Conv./Exch. Bond/Debenture, Downgraded to Aa3 from Aa2

....Senior Unsecured Medium-Term Note Program, Downgraded to Aa3 from Aa2

....Senior Unsecured Shelf, Downgraded to (P)Aa3 from (P)Aa2

....Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture, Downgraded to a range of (P)Aa3 to Aa3 from a range of (P)Aa2 to Aa2

....Multiple Seniority Medium-Term Note Program, Downgraded to a range of A1 to Aa3 from a range of Aa3 to Aa2

....Multiple Seniority Shelf, Downgraded to a range of (P)A1 to (P)Aa3 from a range of (P)Aa3 to (P)Aa2

....Subordinate Regular Bond/Debenture, Downgraded to A1 from Aa3

....Junior Subordinated Regular Bond/Debenture, Downgraded to a range of A2 to A1 from a range of A1 to Aa3

..Issuer: ABN AMRO Bank N.V. London Branch

....Senior Unsecured Conv./Exch. Bond/Debenture, Downgraded to Aa3 from Aa2

....Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture, Downgraded to Aa3 from Aa2

..Issuer: ABN AMRO Bank N.V., Australian Branch

....Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture, Downgraded to Aa3 from Aa2

..Issuer: ABN AMRO Bank N.V., Chicago Branch

....Subordinate Regular Bond/Debenture, Downgraded to A1 from Aa3

....Senior Unsecured Deposit Rating, Downgraded to Aa3 from Aa2

..Issuer: ABN AMRO Bank N.V., New York Branch

....Multiple Seniority Deposit Program, Downgraded to a range of A1 to Aa3 from a range of Aa3 to Aa2

....Subordinate Deposit Note/Takedown, Downgraded to A1 from Aa3

..Issuer: ABN AMRO Bank N.V., Paris Branch

....Senior Unsecured Deposit Rating, Downgraded to Aa3 from Aa2

..Issuer: ABN AMRO Bank N.V., South Africa Branch

....Senior Unsecured Deposit Rating, Downgraded to Aa1.za from Aaa.za

..Issuer: ABN AMRO Holding N.V.

....Multiple Seniority Shelf, Downgraded to a range of (P)A3 to (P)A1 from a range of (P)A2 to (P)Aa3

..Issuers: ABN AMRO Capital Funding Trust III, V, VI, and VII

....Preferred Stock, Downgraded to A2 from A1

....Preferred Stock Shelf, Downgrade to (P)A2 from (P)A1

..Issuers: ABN AMRO Capital Funding LLC V, VI, and VII

....Preferred Stock Shelf, Downgraded to (P)A2 from (P)A1

Outlook Actions:

..Issuer: ABN AMRO Bank N.V., South Africa Branch

....Outlook, Changed To Rating Under Review From Stable

New York
David Fanger
Managing Director
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

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

Moody's: ABN AMRO's ratings lowered; on review for downgrade
No Related Data.
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