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Rating Action:

Moody's downgrades Banco Popular to Ba3 from Ba1, negative outlook assigned

04 Jul 2013

Madrid, July 04, 2013 -- Moody's Investors Service has today downgraded the debt and deposit ratings of Banco Popular Español S.A. (Banco Popular) to Ba3/Not Prime from Ba1/Not Prime, following the lowering of the bank's baseline credit assessment (BCA) to b1 from ba2, which is equivalent to a standalone bank financial strength rating (BFSR) at E+, down from D. All of the bank's ratings now carry a negative outlook.

The downgrade of Banco Popular's ratings reflects the bank's weakened financial profile and the deterioration of asset-quality metrics in most asset classes. In particular, the downgrade reflects the bank's significant exposure to the non-real estate-related corporate sector, the bank's key strategic focus, for which Moody's expects further significant deterioration.

In its rating action, Moody's considered the benefits of the EUR2.5 billion capital increase on Banco Popular's solvency levels and other capital-strengthening measures carried out in 2012 against a backdrop of a recessionary operating environment, which it believes will continue to pressure the bank's profitability and already poor asset-quality indicators.

This rating action concludes the review for downgrade initiated on 24 October 2012 (please see "Moody's concludes rating reviews on majority of Spanish banks after sovereign rating confirmation").

For additional insight about our broader view on the Spanish banking system, please refer to http://www.moodys.com/viewresearchdoc.aspx?docid=PBC_155899 "Credit profiles of many Spanish banks continue to deteriorate given weakness of domestic economy".

RATINGS RATIONALE

--- LOWERING OF STANDALONE CREDIT ASSESMENT

The lowering of Banco Popular's standalone credit assessment by two notches to E+/b1 from D/ba2, reflects the broad asset-quality deterioration across the bank's asset classes as the economy has continued contracting in the first half of 2013, with domestic demand not showing any significant signs of recovery. Moody's therefore anticipates a further decline in asset quality for the remainder of 2013 and during 2014.

Banco Popular's asset-quality deterioration was initially primarily driven by the group's exposure to the real-estate development and construction sectors. However, since 2012 and coinciding with the acquisition of Banco Pastor, the deterioration has accelerated in other asset classes, namely residential mortgages and corporate. At year-end 2012, gross non-performing loans (NPLs) almost doubled numbers reported in 2011 -- almost 30% of which relates to the acquisition of Banco Pastor -- to 11.7% of gross loans (up from 7.2% at end of 2011), compared to the system average of 10.44%. The 10.5% quarter-on-quarter increase in NPLs in the first quarter of 2013 to 13% of gross loans -- versus a system average of 10.47% -- highlights the persistent asset-quality challenges faced by the bank.

In addition to NPLs, Banco Popular has other problematic exposures related to real-estate assets the bank acquired over the last few years. If included, the NPL ratio rises to a very high 19.5%, which exceeds its domestic peers. Furthermore, Moody's notes the high percentage of refinanced loans at the bank (12% of gross loans). The aggregation of refinanced loans (that are not already captured in the non-performing loan ratio) to the overall problem loan ratio (rising to 26.5%) indicates the magnitude of the existing balance-sheet pressures the bank faces before considering any possible further deterioration of the loan book.

Going forward, Moody's expects Popular's asset quality to deteriorate further across asset classes, based on its view that any signs of a modest economic recovery at this stage are only being generated by the export sector, while still weak domestic demand is likely to cause further contraction in domestic growth into 2014 as unemployment remains at very high levels. Banco Popular is particularly exposed to the non-real estate corporate sector, which represented a high 46% of the bank's total loans (defined as unconsolidated private sector domestic loans) at end-December 2012 versus one-third for the system.

In lowering Banco Popular's standalone credit assessment, Moody's has incorporated the benefits of the capital-strengthening measures carried out in 2012 -- that resulted in an increase of the coverage ratio (defined as loan loss reserves/NPLs) to 66% at end of 2012 up from 35% in the previous year -- and that will continue in the current year, albeit to a more limited extent, as well as Banco Popular's sound recurring earnings power Banco Popular displays a level of recurrent profitability (measured as recurrent pre-provision income over risk-weighted assets) which at 2.06% at end of 2012 is higher than the 1.67% average of rated Spanish banks.

Popular's standalone BFSR has a negative outlook to reflect (1) the bank's vulnerability to a further weakening of its credit profile in light of the anticipated modest recovery of the Spanish economy and its higher than average exposure to corporate non-real estate, and (2) the significant downside risks to Moody's macroeconomic forecasts, which could exert further pressure on the ratings if they were to materialise.

--- DOWNGRADE OF THE SENIOR DEBT AND DEPOSIT RATINGS

The two-notch downgrade of Banco Popular's senior debt and deposit ratings reflects the two-notch lowering of the bank's standalone credit assessment.

The negative outlook on the bank's debt and deposit ratings reflects the currently negative outlook on the Spanish government's Baa3 bond rating and the negative outlook on Banco Popular's standalone BFSR.

---DOWNGRADE OF SUBORDINATED DEBT AND HYBRID RATINGS

Moody's has today downgraded the senior subordinated debt ratings of Banco Popular to B2 from Ba3, the junior subordinated ratings to B3(hyb) from B1(hyb) and the preferred shares ratings to Caa1 (hyb) from B3 (hyb), with a negative outlook, in line with the lowering of the bank's BCA.

Banco Popular's preferred shares are now rated three-notches below the bank's standalone BCA, down from the previous four notches to reflect the changed conditions of these instruments approved earlier this year. Under the new terms and conditions, the trigger for dividend deferral has moved from a profit and loss trigger to a balance sheet trigger which, in Moody's view, reduces the probability of a trigger breach.

WHAT COULD MOVE THE RATING UP/DOWN

An upgrade of Banco Popular's standalone BFSR is currently unlikely, given the negative outlook. An improvement of its standalone ratings could be driven by the work out of its asset-quality challenges together with a sustainable recovery in its recurring earnings.

Downward pressure would be exerted on the bank's standalone credit strength if (1) operating conditions worsen beyond Moody's current expectations, i.e., a broader economic recession beyond our current GDP decline forecasts of -1.4% for 2013; (2) the bank's liquidity position deteriorates significantly; and/or (3) its franchise weakens.

The principal methodology used in these ratings 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.

Maria?Cabanyes
Senior Vice President
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
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Johannes?Felix?Wassenberg
MD - Banking
Financial Institutions Group
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 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
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Moody's downgrades Banco Popular to Ba3 from Ba1, negative outlook assigned
No Related Data.
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