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Rating Action:

Moody's confirms Clientis AG's A3 ratings; outlook negative

14 Jun 2013

BFSR lowered to C- from C; outlook stable

Frankfurt am Main, June 14, 2013 -- Moody's Investors Service has today confirmed Clientis AG's A3 long-term deposit ratings, and at the same time lowered Clientis's standalone bank financial strength rating (BFSR) to C-, equivalent to a baseline credit assessment (BCA) of baa1, from C/a3. The outlook on the long-term deposit ratings is negative, whilst the outlook on the C- BFSR is stable.

The confirmation of the long-term ratings was prompted by Moody's incorporation of one notch of rating uplift from the bank's lower baa1 BCA. The uplift reflects the rating agency's assessment of a low probability of systemic support for Clientis AG, in case of need.

Moody's says that the lowering of Clientis's BFSR reflects (1) Clientis's less balanced liquidity and funding profile compared to peers which may expose the group to disruptions in confidence-sensitive wholesale funding markets; (2) the bank's low profitability compared to similarly rated global peers and; (3) uncertainties regarding Clientis's longer-term franchise development.

These rating actions conclude the review initiated on 24 April 2013. The Prime-2 short-term deposit ratings were unaffected by today's action.

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

RATINGS RATIONALE

--- DEPOSIT RATINGS

The confirmation of the A3 deposit ratings reflects Moody's unchanged assessment of a low probability of systemic support for a small franchise such as Clientis (with national market shares of around 1%). The one notch of uplift from the bank's baa1 BCA now incorporated into the ratings does not reflect a change in Moody's assessment of the probability of systemic support for Clientis AG but instead reflects the greater benefit that support from a Aaa-rated sovereign provides at the bank's lower baseline credit assessment. The rating agency's assessment of a low likelihood of systemic support takes into account the group's strong regional market position through its primarily local franchises as well as its importance as a key stakeholder of the regional banking association (RBA; unrated) which is a loose cooperation of the majority of Swiss regional banks.

--- STANDALONE CREDIT ASSESSMENT

Moody's says that the downgrade of Clientis's standalone credit assessment to C-/baa1 reflects a combination of external and bank-specific factors.

FIRST DRIVER --- LESS BALANCED LIQUIDITY AND FUNDING PROFILE COMPARED TO PEERS

With an elevated loan-to-deposit ratio of 122% as of year-end 2012 and liquid assets accounting for 8% of total assets, the more limited liquidity cushion compared to similarly rated peers renders the bank vulnerable to a more severe and prolonged deterioration in market conditions for confidence-sensitive funding sources under Moody's adverse scenario. The rating agency acknowledges the group's proven access to capital markets through covered bonds (Pfandbriefe) and other longer-term senior unsecured issuances placed with its retail investor base as well as its intention to progressively bolster its liquidity portfolio.

SECOND DRIVER --- ADVERSE OPERATING ENVIRONMENT IS SUPPRESSING PROFITABILITY

In Moody's view, the low interest-rate environment is exerting continued pressure on the bank's below-average profitability and efficiency ratios. In addition, competition remains fierce in Swiss SME and retail banking, exerting downward pressure on margins. However, the group's neutral positioning on the yield curve -- achieved by asset/liability matching and an active hedging strategy -- should help to safeguard those ratios, while Clientis's solid capital position make it possible for the group to well absorb expected losses under Moody's central scenario.

THIRD DRIVER --- UNCERTAINTY REGARDING LONGER-TERM FRANCHISE DEVELOPMENT

The rating agency further notes the uncertainties regarding Clientis's franchise value and the bank's inherent need to establish stronger links between the remaining member banks and the holding company. Clientis's aim is to preserve its small size in a relatively fragmented and highly competitive regional banking market, which Moody's says may pose longer-term challenges to the group's franchise value. In addition, the rating agency also notes that Clientis may be adversely affected by its current narrow range of basic products and its low pricing power.

However, the new intra-group support framework should result in stronger cohesion among member banks. This might offer opportunities for Clientis to better exploit its franchise in terms of client penetration, product development and operational efficiencies given its narrow retail franchise in Switzerland and its smaller size and scale (three further banks will leave the group until 1 January 2014).

Furthermore, Moody's notes that a major source of downside risk may stem from the rising uncertainties within domestic real-estate markets that could negatively affect Clientis's strong capital ratios. However, although Clientis is highly exposed to the residential mortgage markets in northern Switzerland, Moody's recognises the bank's fairly low exposure to local areas of excessive price inflation.

RATIONALE FOR OUTLOOKS

The stable outlook on the C- BFSR reflects Moody's expectation that the bank should remain profitable if interest-rates rise gradually. Clientis uses interest-rate hedges to significantly reduce net interest expenses. The group also has the ability to cover its risk provisioning needs during expected downturns in the credit cycle, and to absorb some degree of unexpected losses without unduly compromising its stability (despite Clientis's high exposure to the domestic residential mortgage markets).

However, Moody's may consider lowering the baa1 by one notch within the C- BFSR category if Clientis does not succeed in improving its liquidity profile and building a further cushion against prolonged disruptions in confidence-sensitive wholesale funding markets. As a result, this may lead to a downgrade of the bank's A3 long-term deposit rating, which therefore carries a negative outlook.

WHAT COULD MOVE THE RATING UP/DOWN

There is currently no upwards rating pressure, as expressed by the negative outlook on Clientis's long-term ratings.

In addition to the factors described above, Clientis's BFSR and deposit ratings could come under downwards rating pressure prompted by (1) gradual market-share erosion caused by competitive pressures or strategic differences within the group; (2) sustained and higher-than-expected pressure on the bank's financial metrics in a continued low interest-rate environment; (3) material asset-quality deterioration beyond levels that are consistent with the bank's risk-absorption capacity, especially if this is based on a marked slowdown in the Swiss real-estate market; and/or (4) an increase in the bank's risk appetite, particularly if Clientis expands its balance sheet more aggressively without addressing the group's funding challenges as well as (5) a re-assessment of systemic support assumptions currently factored into the ratings.

RATINGS AFFECTED

Clientis AG:

The following rating was downgraded:

- BFSR to C- from C

The following ratings were confirmed:

- A3 long-term bank deposit ratings

The principal methodology used in this rating 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.

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.

Michael Rohr
Vice President - Senior Analyst
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 confirms Clientis AG's A3 ratings; outlook negative
No Related Data.
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