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Rating Action:

Moody's affirms A1/P-1 ratings of Germany's WGZ BANK, changes outlook to stable from negative

15 Apr 2014

Outlook on WGZ BANK Ireland's A3/P-2 ratings also changed to stable from negative

Frankfurt am Main, April 15, 2014 -- Moody's Investors Service has today affirmed WGZ BANK AG Westdeutsche Genossenschafts-Zentralbank's (WGZ BANK) A1 issuer, senior debt and deposit ratings, and changed the outlook on these ratings to stable from negative. These rating actions followed the affirmation of the bank's C- standalone bank financial strength rating (BFSR), and the change of its outlook to stable from negative. The C- standalone BFSR is equivalent to a baa2 baseline credit assessment (BCA, maintained). The Prime-1 short-term ratings of WGZ BANK were also affirmed.

The outlook change to stable on WGZ BANK's standalone BFSR reflects a combination of improving capitalisation, which benefits from the bank's successful EUR292 million capital issuance earlier this month, and the receding risk posed by the group's exposure to some of the weaker sovereigns in the euro area, in particular to Italy (Baa2 stable), Portugal (Ba3 stable) and Spain (Baa2 positive).

Prompted by this rating action, Moody's also affirmed the C- standalone BSFR and A3 deposit rating of WGZ BANK Ireland Plc (WGZ-I) and changed the outlook on both ratings to stable from negative. The Prime-2 short-term ratings were affirmed. As a highly integrated, wholly owned subsidiary, the Irish bank's BFSR -- with its respective outlook -- remains aligned with that of its parent bank.

RATINGS RATIONALE

WGZ BANK AG

-- AFFIRMATION OF THE C- STANDALONE BFSR AND OUTLOOK CHANGE TO STABLE

Moody's affirmation of WGZ BANK's standalone BFSR at C- and change in outlook to stable from negative was triggered by the bank's EUR292 million capital issuance earlier this month, which it successfully placed with its existing shareholders, i.e., fellow-member banks of Germany's mutually supportive co-operative banking sector. With this capital increase, which lifts the Common Equity Tier 1 (CET1) ratio under Basel III above 12%, WGZ BANK (1) significantly improves the group's capital base; (2) ensures a comfortable capital buffer ahead of an asset quality review (AQR) and a stress testing exercise that will be undertaken later in 2014 by the European Central Bank; and (3) provides the basis for a continuation of its core strategy which includes substantial strategic stake-holdings in other institutions of the co-operative banking and insurance sector.

Moody's notes that WGZ BANK's risk profile benefits from the gradual recovery of several higher-risk countries in the euro area to which the bank had exposure amounting to EUR2.8 billion as of December 2013, according to the bank. This factor represents one of the key drivers that led Moody's to assign a negative outlook in June 2012. The modest profitability and substantial volatility of group profits remain rating constraints at the current rating level, as these factors imply limited ability to absorb losses out of earnings. However, this has become a less relevant pressure point for the standalone rating in the context of receding risks of macro-economic shocks in the euro area. The stable macro-outlook for Germany and domestic asset quality further underpins the stable outlook for WGZ BANK's C- standalone BFSR.

-- AFFIRMATION OF THE A1 LONG-TERM RATINGS AND OUTLOOK CHANGE TO STABLE

The affirmation of the bank's long- term issuer, debt and deposit ratings at A1 and the change of outlook on these ratings to stable from negative reflect the corresponding change of outlook on WGZ BANK's standalone BFSR. The A1 long-term ratings continue to benefit from (1) the co-operative banks' support mechanism in Germany (Bundesverband der Deutschen Volksbanken und Raiffeisenbanken, BVR, unrated); and (2) Moody's view that the German co-operative sector will continue to benefit from a high level of systemic support. WGZ BANK's A1 long-term ratings therefore continue to benefit from an overall support uplift of four notches from the bank's baa2 BCA.

WGZ BANK IRELAND

-- AFFIRMATION OF WGZ-I's A3 LONG-TERM RATINGS AND OUTLOOK CHANGE TO STABLE

Moody's affirmation of WGZ-I's A3 deposit rating followed the same actions on the ratings of its German parent bank. WGZ-I is closely integrated into the strategy and operations of WGZ Group, in particular its treasury operations. Given its reliance on and integration in the group, an analysis of WGZ-I as a standalone franchise is not considered appropriate, and thus the Irish bank's BFSR is maintained at the same level as that of WGZ BANK.

WGZ-I benefits from a very high level of readily available support from its parent WGZ BANK, which provides funding to the Irish bank and backs it with a Letter of Comfort. Reflecting the proven parental support and likely support from the co-operative sector, the A3 long-term ratings include two-notches of rating uplift. The Irish bank's ratings do not include any systemic support.

WHAT COULD MOVE THE RATING UP/DOWN

An upgrade of the BFSR would be subject to (1) WGZ BANK maintaining adequate equity buffers under Basel III which will be tested in the upcoming AQR and stress test of the European Central Bank; (2) a reduction in risk concentrations in the bank's bond investments and participations relative to capital; and (3) stronger risk-adjusted and less volatile profitability combined with the maintenance of an adequate risk profile.

Given the high rating uplift conferred through Moody's assumptions for sector and systemic support, a mild strengthening of the BCA is unlikely to lead to upward pressure on WGZ BANK's long-term ratings.

WGZ BANK's C- standalone BFSR could come under downward pressure as a result of (1) unexpected additional capital requirements in the currently changing supervisory environment; (2) a major setback in the recovery of the euro area and related improvement in market confidence, although this risk has receded in recent quarters; or (3) any higher appetite for credit risk, especially if not accompanied by adoption of strict risk-management practices and appropriate risk-adjusted profitability.

Downward pressure could be exerted on WGZ BANK's debt and deposit ratings as a result of (1) any downward revision of the C- standalone BFSR; (2) a marked deterioration in the sector's financial profile with adverse implications for the probability of support from the cross-sector support mechanisms for co-operative banks in Germany; and/or (3) a decrease in the central government's willingness or ability to support the bank in case of need.

PRINCIPAL METHODOLOGY

The principal methodology used in these ratings was Global Banks published in May 2013. Please see the Credit Policy page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

For ratings issued on a program, series or category/class of debt, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series or category/class of debt or pursuant to a program for which the ratings are derived exclusively from existing ratings in accordance with Moody's rating practices. For ratings issued on a support provider, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular rating action for securities that derive their credit ratings from the support provider's credit rating. For provisional ratings, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the provisional rating assigned, and in relation to a definitive rating that may be assigned subsequent to the final issuance of the debt, in each case where the transaction structure and terms have not changed prior to the assignment of the definitive rating in a manner that would have affected the rating. For further information please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page for the respective issuer on www.moodys.com.

For any affected securities or rated entities receiving direct credit support from the primary entity(ies) of this rating action, and whose ratings may change as a result of this rating action, the associated regulatory disclosures will be those of the guarantor entity. Exceptions to this approach exist for the following disclosures, if applicable to jurisdiction: Ancillary Services, Disclosure to rated entity, Disclosure from rated entity.

The senior unsecured debts of rated entity WGZ Bank AG were initiated by Moody's and were not requested by the rated entity.

This rated entity or its agent(s) participated in the rating process. The rated entity or its agent(s) provided Moody's access to the books, records and other relevant internal documents of the rated entity.

Regulatory disclosures contained in this press release apply to the credit rating and, if applicable, the related rating outlook or rating review.

Please see www.moodys.com for any updates on changes to the lead rating analyst and to the Moody's legal entity that has issued the rating.

Please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on www.moodys.com for additional regulatory disclosures for each credit rating.

Katharina Barten
VP - Senior Credit Officer
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Deutschland GmbH
An der Welle 5
Frankfurt am Main 60322
Germany
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Carola Schuler
MD - Banking
Financial Institutions Group
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Releasing Office:
Moody's Deutschland GmbH
An der Welle 5
Frankfurt am Main 60322
Germany
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Moody's affirms A1/P-1 ratings of Germany's WGZ BANK, changes outlook to stable from negative
No Related Data.
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