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Rating Action:

Moody's assigns new ratings to Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Ltd

07 Apr 2008
Moody's assigns new ratings to Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Ltd

Sydney, April 07, 2008 -- Moody's Investors Service has assigned A2 / Prime-1 deposit and debt ratings to Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Limited, and a bank financial strength rating (BFSR) of C. The outlook for all the ratings is stable.

"The ratings reflect the new bank's diversified business profile and stable retail franchise, which includes an important retail deposit base," says Marina Ip, a Moody's Analyst, "However, it is constrained by an increased exposure to the wholesale markets through its consolidated entity Adelaide Bank."

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Limited is the result of the merger on 30 November 2007 between two regional banks -- Bendigo Bank Limited and Adelaide Bank Limited.

The merger was effected through a scheme of arrangement, whereby Adelaide Bank shares were exchanged for Bendigo Bank shares. However, Adelaide Bank will remain a wholly owned subsidiary of Bendigo Bank until a "transfer of business" is completed. As such, the two banks remain separate trading entities with their own Authorized Deposit-Taking Institution (ADI) banking licences.

"Compared with their stand-alone pre-merger characteristics, the combined Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Limited demonstrates greater geographic and product diversification," says Ip.

"However, challenges are also evident, including that of managing a substantially higher level of wholesale funding on Bendigo Bank's historically retail-funded balance sheet due to the consolidation of Adelaide's debt stock," says Ip.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Limited's long-term global local currency (GLC) deposit and debt ratings of A2 are based on the moderate probability of systemic support, in case of need. This results in a 1-notch lift above the A3 baseline credit assessment, which encapsulates the bank's stand-alone credit profile. The short-term GLC deposit rating is Prime-1, and is also lifted one notch by systemic support considerations above its baseline credit assessment of Prime-2.

"In terms of the positives, the maintenance of separate brands will help with customer retention, while the new entity will now also possess a slightly larger branch network, helping it further source retail deposits," says Ip.

The new bank's strong retail division -- inherited from Bendigo Bank -- will focus on attracting retail deposits, which are particularly valuable in the current period of wholesale market turmoil. Its retail strategy will be driven through its expanded branch network.

As a newly combined regional bank, it should also benefit from its larger size in competing against its peers. Moreover, the merger is expected to bring cost efficiencies in the medium term, with the chance for cross-selling opportunities to an enlarged customer base.

"Moreover, Adelaide's main wholesale business lines will face slower growth due to rising funding costs, while margin lending volumes are likely to be affected by the dramatically falling share market of recent months," says Ip.

"An additional factor is the rapid relative decline in the importance of its residential mortgage manufacturing business due to margin pressures."

Moody's has also downgraded to C- from C the BFSR of Adelaide Bank -- as indicated, still a separate entity -- and which translates into a baseline credit assessment of Baa1 / Prime-2. The outlook is stable.

The BFSR was downgraded to reflect the still separate credit profiles of Adelaide Bank and its parent: the two banks have not merged into one trading entity with a single ADI banking licence within the timeframe Moody's initially envisaged.

Adelaide's long-term global local currency (GLC) deposit rating remains unchanged at A2 and is based on the very high level of support from its parent Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Limited and the low probability of systemic support (Moody's joint default analysis categorization), in case of need, which results in a 2-notch lift from the Baa1 baseline credit assessment. The short-term GLC deposit rating is Prime-1, which is a one-notch lift from the baseline credit assessment of Prime-2.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Limited, is headquartered in Bendigo, Victoria, and is the result of a merger between two of Australia's regional banks -- Bendigo and Adelaide. It reported assets of AUD 49.4 billion (approximately USD 43.2 billion) at 31 December 2007.

Sydney
Marina Ip
Analyst
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service Pty Ltd
JOURNALISTS: (612) 9270-8102
SUBSCRIBERS: (612) 9270-8100

Sydney
Patrick Winsbury
Senior Vice President
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service Pty Ltd
JOURNALISTS: (612) 9270-8102
SUBSCRIBERS: (612) 9270-8100

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