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Announcement:

Moody's: Outlook for French Banks Changed to Stable from Negative

 The document has been translated in other languages

Global Credit Research - 22 Sep 2010

Paris, September 22, 2010 -- Moody's Investors Service has changed the outlook for the French banking system to stable from negative, expressing the rating agency's expectations for the fundamental credit conditions for French banks over the next 12 to 18 months. According to Moody's new Banking System Outlook on France, the structural characteristics of the country's banks have contributed to their resilience during the crisis by helping them absorb losses and withstand related shocks. Moody's decision to change the outlook on French banks reflects its view that these factors provide a sound foundation for a more stable performance in the future.

"Although not entirely without weaknesses, French banks have benefited from a favourable business mix and relatively healthy retail and commercial banking franchises," explains Nick Hill, a Paris-based Moody's Vice President -- Senior Credit Officer and lead analyst for French banks. These attributes have particularly allowed France's retail-focused cooperative groups, which control more than two-thirds of the domestic market, to absorb losses from investment banking and structured credit exposure. The rating agency also believes that recent external capital increases, combined with balance-sheet de-risking and downsizing, should offer additional stabilization by reducing asset quality risks and steadying income. Moreover, although some banks have significant exposures to emerging markets, Moody's notes that these exposures are manageable as the bulk of their activities are inside the Eurozone.

Following the rating agency's stress tests, which were conducted on the balance sheets of most Moody's-rated banks in H2 2009, the rating agency concluded that French banks were able to withstand losses associated with a worse-than-expected economic scenario. "With an aggregate loan allowance of EUR64 billion at year-end 2009, French banks have already provisioned above the level of losses that Moody's expects them to incur, and their current capital buffers are able to withstand further deterioration," says Mr. Hill. Although exposures to challenged European sovereigns -- like Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland -- are substantial, Moody's believes these to be manageable and notes that EU stress tests seem to corroborate its conclusions.

However, Moody's is not saying that the French system is entirely immune to a potential pronounced double-dip recession or a systemic crisis, neither of which are currently being forecast by Moody's. Similar to many other markets, the French banking system is affected by weak economic growth, high unemployment and more challenging wholesale-funding market conditions. "However, French banks benefit from the policies of a proactive government, the country's social safety net and consumer protection rules that have contributed to French households being among the least indebted in Europe," says Mr. Hill. The banks' foreign exposures are substantial -- especially among the large banking groups -- but for the most part they have avoided the worst excesses of the bubble and the subsequent fallout.

There are several additional factors that further support Moody's view that French banks can withstand future challenges and uncertainties. Firstly, Moody's views France as a "high support" country, implying that government support would be forthcoming in the event of need. Secondly, while the state has undoubtedly played a role in reshaping the banking landscape, French banks have generally avoided EU-imposed restructuring. Lastly, the capital injections provided by the French government in the aftermath of Lehman Brothers' insolvency have largely been repaid.

Moody's new report entitled "Banking System Outlook: France," is now available on www.moodys.com.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS ONLY: For more information please contact New York Press Information +1-212-553-0376; EMEA Press Information in London +44-20-7772-5456; Juan Pablo Soriano in Madrid +34-91-310-1454; Alex Cataldo in Milan +39-02-914-81-100; Eric de Bodard in Paris +331-5330-1020; Daniel Kolter in Frankfurt +49-69-707-30-700; Mardig Haladjian in Limassol +357-25-586-586; Alex Sazhin in Moscow +7 495 228 60 60; Petr Vins in Prague +4202 2422 2929; Tokyo Press Information +813-5408-4110; Hilary Parkes in Toronto +1-416-214-1635; Hong Kong Press Information +852-3758-1350; Hector Lim in Sydney +612 9270 8102; Luiz Tess in São Paulo +5511-3043-7300; Alberto Jones Tamayo in Mexico City +5255-1253-5700; Daniel Rúas in Buenos Aires +54 11-4816-2332 ext. 105; Leon Classen in Johannesburg +27-11-217-5470; Jehad el-Nakla in Dubai +971 4 237 9536; or visit our web site at www.moodys.com

Frankfurt am Main
Carola Schuler
MD - Banking
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Deutschland GmbH
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Paris
Nicholas Hill
VP - Senior Credit Officer
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's France SAS
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Moody's France SAS
96 Boulevard Haussmann
Paris 75008
France

Moody's: Outlook for French Banks Changed to Stable from Negative
No Related Data.
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