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Rating Action:

Moody's confirms Banco Popular's long-term deposit and senior unsecured programme ratings at Baa3/(P)Baa3; outlook positive

02 Nov 2017

Standalone BCA upgraded to caa1

Madrid, November 02, 2017 -- Moody's Investors Service today confirmed Banco Popular Espanol, S.A.'s (Banco Popular) long-term deposit ratings at Baa3, and its supported entities' long-term senior unsecured debt ratings at Baa3. The outlook on these ratings was changed to positive from Ratings under Review. At the same time, the rating agency upgraded (1) the bank's standalone baseline credit assessment (BCA) to caa1 from ca; and (2) its adjusted BCA to ba3 from b1.

"Today's rating action reflects Banco Popular's enhanced credit profile, namely its improved asset risk metrics, following the sale of 51% of its real-estate business as well its improved capital levels after the €6.9 billion capital increase from its parent Banco Santander," said Maria Vinuela, Assistant Vice President at Moody's. "We also believe that the resolution of the bank and its subsequent acquisition by Banco Santander has helped to restore customers' confidence and improve its weakened liquidity position ahead of the resolution."

In confirming the senior debt and deposit ratings of Banco Popular and its supported entities, where applicable, Moody's is also incorporating a very high probability of support from Banco Santander, S.A. (Spain) (Banco Santander), as well as the rating agency's expectation that the eventual legal integration of the bank into Banco Santander will take longer than initially anticipated. At the same time, the positive outlook reflects the potential for Banco Popular's risk profile to improve and ratings to converge with those of its parent as the anticipated integration of Banco Popular's business and operations will progress over time.

As part of today's rating action, Moody's also confirmed: (1) Banco Popular's Counterparty Risk (CR) Assessment of Baa3(cr)/Prime-3(cr); and (2) its short-term deposit ratings of Prime-3.

Today's rating action closes the review for upgrade initiated on 8 June 2017 for the long- and short-term programme and deposit ratings of Banco Popular which continued following the upgrade of those ratings on 27 September 2017.

A full list of affected ratings can be found at the end of this press release.

RATINGS RATIONALE

RATIONALE FOR THE UPGRADE OF THE STANDALONE BCA

Today's upgrade of Banco Popular's standalone BCA to caa1 from ca reflects Banco Popular's improved financial profile following its resolution earlier this year. In particular, Moody's has considered the bank's enhanced risk-absorption capacity when measured against its asset risk profile, as well as the improved liquidity profile as a result of the acquisition by Banco Santander.

Banco Popular's stock of non-performing assets (NPAs, defined as non-performing loans plus real estate assets) stood at a high 32% at end-March 2017 (latest available data), up from 30% a year earlier. On 8 August 2017, Banco Santander announced that it will sell 51% of Banco Popular's real estate business to the Blackstone Group, including a portfolio of around €30 billion of problematic real estate assets. The sale will materially reduce its NPA ratio to around 10%. Banco Santander expects to close this sale in the first quarter of 2018. However, we note that the reduction in Banco Popular's risk exposure will be less significant than what the consolidated NPA ratio will suggest, given that the bank will hold a 49% of these assets through a newly created company.

Moody's also notes that Banco Popular's coverage of non-performing assets (NPAs) significantly increased after the acquisition by Banco Santander to a pro-forma 67% at end-March 2017 (latest available data), up from 45% prior to the acquisition.

On 28 July 2017, Banco Santander also increased capital at Banco Popular by €6.9 billion, which brought the bank's capital ratios back in compliance with regulatory capital requirements. This capital increase, together with an €750 million subordinated loan granted by Banco Santander (which qualifies as Tier 2 capital), have resulted in a pro-forma phased-in individual Common Equity Tier 1 (CET1) ratio of 12.9% and a total capital ratio 14.5% (consolidated capital ratios have not been publicly disclosed).

Nonetheless, Moody's notes that Banco Popular's risk-absorption capacity is still weak when measured against its asset risk profile. This is evidenced by the ratio of problematic exposures as a percentage of loss-absorbing balance sheet cushions (shareholder's equity, loan loss reserves and real estate reserves), which is still significantly higher than that of its domestic peers. The sale of 51% of the real estate business will materially reduce this ratio.

Deposit funding has traditionally been Popular's main funding source. However, the bank's liquidity position deteriorated as continued negative news flow on the immediate future of the bank undermined customers' and investors' confidence. The bank's deposit base started to contract in late 2016, and the decrease accelerated in the weeks leading up to its resolution on 7 June 2017. Since the resolution of the bank and subsequent acquisition by Banco Santander, Banco Popular has been able to gradually restore its deposit base, although it is still far below the levels observed at the peak in mid-2016.

RATIONALE FOR THE UPGRADE OF THE ADJUSTED BCA

The bank's adjusted BCA has been upgraded to ba3 from b1 following the upgrade of its standalone BCA to caa1 and based on Moody's assessment of a very high probability of affiliate support coming from Banco Santander. These unchanged support assumptions now result in a compression of affiliate uplift to four notches from six notches previously, whereby the lower uplift is a result of the higher positioning of the BCA of the supported entity relative to its parent, Banco Santander.

Moody's considers that Banco Popular's senior creditors could benefit from Banco Santander's affiliate support following the acquisition, therefore mitigating the risks emerging from the bank's weak standalone credit profile. The current affiliate support assumption also reflects Moody's expectations that the eventual legal integration of Banco Popular into Banco Santander will take more time than initially anticipated.

RATIONALE FOR THE CONFIRMATION OF THE LONG-TERM DEBT AND DEPOSIT RATINGS

The confirmation of Banco Popular's long-term deposit ratings and its supported entities' senior unsecured debt ratings at Baa3 reflects (1) the upgrade of the bank's adjusted BCA to ba3; (2) the result of the rating agency's Advanced Loss-Given Failure (LGF) analysis of Banco Santander; and (3) Moody's assessment of moderate probability of government support for Banco Santander and by extension to its domestic subsidiary Banco Popular, which now results in no uplift for both the deposit and the senior debt ratings, from one notch of uplift previously.

As a domestic subsidiary of Banco Santander, Moody's applies the Advanced LGF analysis of its parent Banco Santander to Banco Popular. This translates into an extremely low loss given-failure for Banco Popular's deposits and senior unsecured debt, and into a Preliminary Rating Assessment (PRA) of baa3 or three notches above the bank's adjusted BCA of ba3.

RATIONALE FOR THE POSITIVE OUTLOOK

The positive outlook on Banco Popular's long-term deposit and its supported entities' senior debt ratings primarily reflects the potential for the bank's risk profile to improve and ratings to converge with those of its parent over time as the integration of Banco Popular's business and operations into the group progresses, which Moody's now expects to occur in the medium-term.

RATIONALE FOR THE CONFIRMATION OF THE CR ASSESSMENT

As part of today's rating actions, Moody's also confirmed the long and short-term CR Assessment of Banco Popular at Baa3(cr)/Prime-3(cr), three notches above the adjusted BCA of ba3.

The CR Assessment is driven by the bank's ba3 adjusted BCA, three notches of uplift from the cushion against default provided by subordinated instruments of Banco Santander to the senior obligations represented by the CR Assessment and a moderate likelihood of systemic support, which now results in no uplift for the CR Assessment.

WHAT COULD CHANGE THE RATING UP/DOWN

Banco Popular's ratings could be upgraded if the bank's risk profile and therefore its BCA continues improving as the integration of Banco Popular's business and operations into the group progresses.

A downgrade of Banco Popular's ratings is currently unlikely given the positive outlook. However, downward pressure could be exerted on Banco Popular's ratings if the integration of the bank into Banco Santander fails and as a result Banco Popular's credit profile weakens such that Moody's current assumptions of commitment and strategic objectives of Banco Santander in relation to its subsidiary could be challenged.

Furthermore, Banco Popular's deposit and its supported entities' senior debt ratings could change as a result of an upgrade/downgrade of the standalone BCA of Banco Santander and/or as a result of changes in the Advanced LGF analysis of its parent.

LIST OF AFFECTED RATINGS

Issuer: Banco Popular Espanol, S.A.

..Upgrades:

....Adjusted Baseline Credit Assessment, upgraded to ba3 from b1

....Baseline Credit Assessment, upgraded to caa1 from ca

..Confirmations:

....Long-term Counterparty Risk Assessment, confirmed at Baa3(cr)

....Short-term Counterparty Risk Assessment, confirmed at P-3(cr)

....Long-term Bank Deposits, confirmed at Baa3, outlook changed to Positive from Rating under Review

....Short-term Bank Deposits, confirmed at P-3

....Senior Unsecured Medium-Term Note Program, confirmed at (P)Baa3

....Other Short Term, confirmed at (P)P-3

....Commercial Paper, confirmed at P-3

..Outlook Action:

....Outlook changed to Positive from Rating under Review

Issuer: BPE Finance International Limited

..Confirmations:

....Backed Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture, confirmed at Baa3, outlook changed to Positive from Rating under Review

..Outlook Action:

....Outlook changed to Positive from Rating under Review

Issuer: BPE Financiaciones, S.A.

..Confirmations:

....Backed Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture, confirmed at Baa3, outlook changed to Positive from Rating under Review

....Backed Senior Unsecured Medium-Term Note Program, confirmed at (P)Baa3

..Outlook Action:

....Outlook changed to Positive from Rating under Review

PRINCIPAL METHODOLOGY

The principal methodology used in these ratings was Banks published in September 2017. Please see the Rating Methodologies 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 credit rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular credit 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 credit rating action, and whose ratings may change as a result of this credit 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.

Maria Vinuela
Asst Vice President - Analyst
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service Espana, S.A.
Calle Principe de Vergara, 131, 6 Planta
Madrid 28002
Spain
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
Client Service: 44 20 7772 5454

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

Releasing Office:
Moody's Investors Service Espana, S.A.
Calle Principe de Vergara, 131, 6 Planta
Madrid 28002
Spain
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
Client Service: 44 20 7772 5454

No Related Data.
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