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Announcement:

Moody's: Portugal's weakening sovereign fundamentals challenge banks' debt/deposit ratings

08 Mar 2010

Banks' financial strength ratings already incorporate an anticipated weakening

Madrid, March 08, 2010 -- The recent weakening in Portugal's sovereign credit fundamentals, which is reflected in the negative outlook on the Aa2 government debt rating, and the challenges ahead for the domestic economy raise questions about the potential impact these developments may have on the credit profiles of Portuguese banks, Moody's Investors Service says in a new Special Comment. However, Moody's bank financial strength ratings (BFSRs) for Portuguese institutions already incorporate its anticipation of a further deterioration in their financial fundamentals in light of the expected low trend growth rate of the Portuguese economy and the potential negative impact of fiscal consolidation on households and corporates.

By contrast, Moody's cautions that the debt and deposit ratings of Portuguese banks could come under downward pressure because these ratings take into account not only the banks' intrinsic creditworthiness but also their potential external sources of support, including support from the Portuguese government.

"Although the macroeconomic environment in Portugal had remained relatively stable overall at the time of the most recent rating actions in 2009, we were of the view that the more subdued macroeconomic outlook would weigh on banks' asset quality and recurring profitability and challenge their funding structures. Therefore, we had incorporated such an economic deterioration into our assessment of banks' standalone credit profile" explains Olga Cerqueira, a Moody's Assistant Vice President/Analyst and author of the report. The weighted average BFSR of Portuguese banks is now C- versus C+ at the beginning of 2008.

As a result, Portuguese banks' current BFSRs incorporate an anticipated deterioration in their financial fundamentals. In addition, the negative outlook on most of these BFSRs indicates that there could be downward pressure on these ratings if loss assumptions were to increase significantly above Moody's current expectations or if the banks' risk absorption capacity were to deteriorate beyond Moody's expectations in its base case scenario. This would allow a further deterioration in bank's asset quality and ensuing provisioning requirements of up to EUR 4.5 billion on top of the system's Q3/09 provisions of EUR 7.5 billion.

Moody's considers that both the ability and willingness of the Portuguese government to support the country's banking system remain very strong but they may be decreasing, albeit marginally: "We believe that government support for the Portuguese banking system could decline for two reasons. Firstly, its ability to support could be weakened as a result of the erosion in the government's credit fundamentals. Secondly, its willingness to support might decline as governments across Europe phase out extraordinary support, the risk of a systemic banking crisis becomes more remote and the government considers a more restricted range of policy options to preserve its fiscal health, access to financial markets and enhance market discipline," Ms Cerqueira cautions.

As a result, the debt and deposit ratings of Portuguese banks are at risk not only from a potential downgrade of the sovereign rating but also from an assessment of the government's decreasing ability and, potentially, willingness to support the country's banking system.

Moody's Special Comment -- entitled "Impact of Weakening Sovereign Fundamentals on Portuguese Banks' Ratings" -- can be found at www.moodys.com in the Special Reports sub-directory under the Research & Ratings tab.

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

Madrid
Olga Cerqueira
Analyst
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service Espana, S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Moody's: Portugal's weakening sovereign fundamentals challenge banks' debt/deposit ratings
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