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Rating Action:

Moody's assigns A2/P-1/C ratings to Caixa d'Estalvis del Penedes (Spain)

24 May 2007
Moody's assigns A2/P-1/C ratings to Caixa d'Estalvis del Penedes (Spain)

First-time ratings

Madrid, May 24, 2007 -- Moody's Investors Service has today assigned A2 long-term deposit ratings, Prime-1 short-term deposit ratings and a C Bank Financial Strength Rating (BFSR) to Caixa d'Estalvis del Penedes ("Caixa Penedes"). The outlook on all ratings is stable.

According to Moody's, the C BFSR, which translates into a Baseline Credit Assessment of A3, reflects the savings bank's well-established franchise in the prosperous region of Catalonia, good credit fundamentals with strong liquidity, good risk management and improving asset quality, good efficiency and limited market risk appetite, which are partly offset by modest profitability and low capital levels. The rating also takes into consideration the high credit risk concentration in the real estate development industry and in the region of Catalonia as well as by borrower.

In Moody's opinion, the probability of systemic support for Caixa Penedes in the event of a stress situation is moderate due to its more modest market share, when compared to other competitors in the region. The rating agency views the probability of support from the Spanish savings banks group as low: although there is no legally binding support mechanism, no support fund, no common brand or logo across the group and very limited group-wide operational integration, there is some history of past support within the group. The combined support assessments result in a one-notch uplift in Caixa Penedes' long-term deposit ratings to A2 from its Baseline Credit Assessment.

Caixa Penedes is the third-largest savings bank in Catalonia and the 11th largest Spanish savings bank. Following a period of aggressive expansion, it is now focused on increasing the profitability of its large network (629 branches) and customer base (1,300,000), which it plans to achieve by increasing its cross-selling activities and being more commercially pro-active. Moody's believes this poses a major challenge for this institution, which is present in one of the most competitive regions in Spain. The savings bank has limited revenue diversification given that is highly dependent on mortgage products (accounting for 78% of the loan book), presenting significant room for improvement in this area.

Moody's explains that the C BFSR is constrained by: (1) the high credit risk concentration in the real estate development sector (29% of the loan book) and in the largest exposures, (2) the low level of risk-adjusted profitability, which compares unfavourably with the Western European medians for C rated institutions, and (3) the weak capitalisation, although the excess provisioning and recurring revenue stream enhance the bank's economic solvency.

Positive aspects driving the C BFSR include the expected improvement in profitability, efficiency and capital levels, the low market risk appetite, the focus on retail banking and the improvement in terms of funding sources diversification.

Looking ahead, Moody's believes a rating upgrade could potentially be prompted by stronger financial fundamentals -- specifically, an increase in risk-adjusted profitability, with risk-adjusted recurring earning power close to 2.4% and risk-adjusted net income in excess of 1%, together with sustained improvements in efficiency, provided these do not compromise asset quality indicators, as well as by improved core capital levels. A significant reduction in the exposure to the real estate development sector and real estate subsidiaries would also be required for an upgrade.

Conversely, a rating downgrade could be triggered by any deterioration in the financial fundamentals -- specifically, a further decline in capital levels, a less prudent approach to liquidity management and weaker asset quality indicators. A deterioration in Caixa Penedes' franchise value, with an erosion of its franchise in Catalonia, an increased reliance on non-recurring earnings or a weaker risk profile could also have negative rating implications.

The following ratings were assigned to Caixa d'Estalvis del Penedes with a stable outlook:

- Long-term bank deposits: A2

- Short-term bank deposits: Prime-1

- Bank financial strength rating: C

Based in Vilafranca del Penedes, in Catalonia, Spain, Caixa d'Estalvis del Penedes reported total assets of EUR19.877 billion at the end of 2006.

London
Antonio Carballo
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

No Related Data.
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