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Rating Action:

Moody's changes outlook on Ireland's sovereign rating to positive, affirms Baa1 rating

11 Sep 2015

London, 11 September 2015 -- Moody's Investors Service ("Moody's") has today changed the outlook on Ireland's long-term government bond ratings to positive from stable and affirmed the Baa1/Prime-2 long-term and short-term government bond ratings.

Moody's decision to assign a positive outlook to Ireland's Baa1 rating reflects the marked improvement in the country's credit fundamentals over the past year, including a stronger economic recovery, faster fiscal consolidation and a substantial decline in the government's debt burden.

However, Moody's notes that, despite this positive trend, Ireland's public debt ratio remains at around 100% of GDP (year-end 2015), which is significantly higher than most single-A rated peers. An upgrade into the A rating category depends crucially on a continuation of prudent fiscal policies and a sustained further reduction in the public debt ratio.

Concurrent with the rating action on the sovereign, Moody's has also changed the outlook on the bond ratings of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) to positive from stable and affirmed its Baa1/P-2 ratings. NAMA's debt obligations are explicitly guaranteed by the Republic of Ireland.

Ireland's local and foreign currency deposit ceilings and the local and foreign currency bond ceilings are unaffected by this rating action and remain at Aa1/P-1.

RATINGS RATIONALE

RATIONALE FOR ASSIGNING A POSITIVE OUTLOOK

Ireland has undergone a material improvement in terms of economic growth and fiscal consolidation over the past year. After a stronger-than-expected real GDP growth rate of 5.2% in 2014 and even faster growth of 7.0% (in seasonally adjusted terms) in the first half of 2015, Moody's raises its growth forecasts to 6% and 4% respectively for 2015 and 2016.

Growth is more balanced than earlier in the recovery, with all demand components contributing positively to growth. Ireland is one of the most open economies in the EU and has substantially improved its price competitiveness over the past several years. Ireland is also the euro area member state that benefits most from the euro depreciation on account of its large share of exports to countries outside the euro area, in particular the US and UK.

Domestically, investment is rising strongly and is essentially self-financed, a much healthier situation than in Ireland's boom period before 2008. While corporate debt remains very high, the sector has continued to reduce its debt load. Similarly, the high household indebtedness has declined from its peak and no longer severely constrains household consumption. Corporate and household deleveraging should support both investment and consumption, which so far have remained below their previous peak levels.

Looking ahead, Ireland's economy has the potential to grow by 3-3.5% on average per annum over the next three to five years, given its openness to trade, competitive export sector with a large multinational presence in high value-added sectors, and favourable demographics with a growing and highly skilled workforce.

The positive growth momentum is reflected in a better fiscal performance than expected a year ago. The budget execution data available so far for this year points to another year of fiscal outperformance, with tax revenues growing faster than budgeted and overall spending targets being maintained.

The combination of strong (nominal and real) economic growth and fiscal performance in turn has led to a more marked reduction in the public debt ratio than previously expected, and should, if sustained, help the government to rebuild the strength of its balance sheet and shock absorption capacity. Moody's now expects the ratio to end the year at just above 100% of GDP, a decline of nearly 20 percentage points of GDP in just two years. We expect the debt ratio to stand at around 90% of GDP by 2018.

These and other improvements have supported a gradual recovery in fiscal resilience. The government's limited funding needs in the coming years and large cash buffers of above 5% of GDP limit the risk of financial contagion for Ireland. The early repayments to the IMF -- Ireland has repaid more than 80% of its IMF loans early -- have also helped to lengthen the average maturity of Ireland's government debt to around 13 years and bring substantial interest savings for the government.

RATIONALE FOR Baa1 RATING

However, notwithstanding the recent positive developments, the very high public debt level and still elevated leverage in the economy as a whole remain key constraints for Ireland's rating. Moody's forecasts a reduction in the public debt by another 10 percentage points of GDP between 2015 and 2018, but even under these positive assumptions, Ireland's debt ratio would be significantly higher than the median of A-rated sovereigns of 40% of GDP (2014). At the same time as having much higher debt levels than A-rated peers, the Irish economy is also more volatile than many peers in the A rating category -- on account of its openness to trade and the large multinational sector operating in the country; this leaves the sovereign more vulnerable than others to any potential shocks.

Accordingly, the recent improvements in key credit metrics will need to continue and be sustained for Ireland's credit profile to be consistent with a rating in the A rating category. Much will rest on the fiscal authorities' success in improving their fiscal position, both on a nominal and a structural basis. While the Irish government's fiscal track record over the past few years has been strong, the rating agency notes that the government intends to materially loosen the fiscal stance in the upcoming budget for 2016, targeting a reduction in the structural budget deficit of only 0.3% of GDP. Next year's general elections, to be held by April 2016 at the latest, introduce a further element of uncertainty over the longer-term outlook for the country's public finances.

WHAT COULD MOVE THE RATING UP/DOWN

A continuation of the rapid reduction in the public debt ratio would likely cause Moody's to upgrade the rating over the next 12 to 18 months. Evidence of the authorities' continued commitment to a strong pace of fiscal consolidation would also be positive for the rating.

The outlook on the rating would be returned to stable and downward pressure on the rating would emerge if the next government were to pursue a materially different fiscal policy, putting at risk the downward trend in the debt ratio. Moody's will also closely follow developments in the real economy, such as wage and credit growth, to monitor the risks of a return to the ultimately unsustainable growth profile in the years before the global financial crisis.

GDP per capita (PPP basis, US$): 49,195 (2014 Actual) (also known as Per Capita Income)

Real GDP growth (% change): 5.2% (2014 Actual) (also known as GDP Growth)

Inflation Rate (CPI, % change Dec/Dec): -0.3% (2014 Actual)

Gen. Gov. Financial Balance/GDP: -4% (2014 Actual) (also known as Fiscal Balance)

Current Account Balance/GDP: 3.6% (2014 Actual) (also known as External Balance)

External debt/GDP: [not available]

Level of economic development: High level of economic resilience

Default history: No default events (on bonds or loans) have been recorded since 1983.

On 08 September 2015, a rating committee was called to discuss the rating of the Ireland, Government of. The main points raised during the discussion were: The issuer's economic fundamentals, including its economic strength, have materially increased. The issuer's fiscal or financial strength, including its debt profile, has materially improved.

The principal methodology used in these ratings was Sovereign Bond Ratings published in September 2013. Please see the Credit Policy page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

The weighting of all rating factors is described in the methodology used in this rating action, if applicable.

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.

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.

Kathrin Muehlbronner
Senior Vice President
Sovereign Risk Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
One Canada Square
Canary Wharf
London E14 5FA
United Kingdom
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Yves Lemay
MD-Banking & Sovereign
Sovereign Risk Group
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Releasing Office:
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
One Canada Square
Canary Wharf
London E14 5FA
United Kingdom
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Moody's changes outlook on Ireland's sovereign rating to positive, affirms Baa1 rating
No Related Data.
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