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Rating Action:

Moody's places ratings of Bank of Ireland on review for downgrade

18 Nov 2008
Moody's places ratings of Bank of Ireland on review for downgrade

London, 18 November 2008 -- Moody's Investors Service has today placed on review for possible downgrade the B- bank financial strength rating ("BFSR") and Aa2 long-term senior debt and deposit ratings of Bank of Ireland (BoI). The bank's Aa3-rated subordinated debt and A1-rated preferred stock have also been placed on review for possible downgrade as has the backed preferred stock of the bank's subsidiaries, also rated A1. The short term debt and deposit ratings were affirmed at Prime-1. The backed-Aaa rating, assigned to senior debt maturing prior to September 29 2010, which is covered by the recently established Irish government guarantee is unaffected by this action.

The Aa3 long-term bank deposit rating of ICS Building Society, BoI's Irish mortgage lending subsidiary, has also been placed on review for possible downgrade. ICS is specifically focussed on the provision of mortgage and savings and investment products, and is managed as part of the Bank of Ireland's retail business in Ireland.

Ross Abercromby, Vice President/Senior Analyst and the lead analyst for this bank at Moody's said that "the rapid deterioration in the economic environment in Ireland and in the UK is leading to a faster than initially anticipated deterioration in asset quality in both countries and this will lead to BoI, with its large exposure in both economies, having to substantially increase its level of provisioning. This will be especially evident in the construction and property sector. We also note that the bank, in line with the other institutions covered by the Irish government guarantee, needs to deliver a new business plan to the Financial Regulator in the coming weeks and the outcome of this will also be an important part of this rating review."

Moody's said that the review will focus on:

(i) the impact of both the deterioration in the economic environment and the substantial falls in property valuations on the bank's asset quality

(ii) the impact on the bank's profitability of the substantially higher provisioning requirement, in addition to the estimated EUR115 million per annum cost of the government guarantee;

(iii) the capital base of the bank and management plans to increase it in the current challenging environment

(iv) the outcome of the ongoing discussions with the regulator over the bank's business plan

At end-September 2008 the bank had a core Tier 1 ratio of 6.3% and a Tier 1 capital ratio of 8.7% and the bank has said that strengthening its capital ratios is a priority. As part of this the bank will not pay a dividend until conditions improve and Moody's notes that the bank has suggested options including non-core asset disposals to further improve these ratios. This will be a key factor in the review as will the discussions with the Financial Regulator over a revised business plan. Mr. Abercromby noted that Moody's would not expect to conclude the review process until it has further details of this plan.

Despite the bank's high loan to deposit ratio (159% at end-September 2008) BoI has continued to fund itself successfully through the difficult period of the last year and the recently announced guarantee on deposits, senior debt, covered bonds and dated subordinated debt from the Irish government should enable the bank to lengthen its maturity profile which Moody's would view positively. The rating agency also noted that the bank has publicly said that this ratio is now 145% as a result of strong deposit inflows since the guarantee was announced.

The B- BFSR, which translates into a baseline credit assessment of A1, currently assigned to BoI reflects the group's strong market position in Ireland where it is one of the two predominant institutions, as well as its established presence in the UK, where it offers a range of retail and business banking services. The institution has a growing international presence, particularly in Corporate Banking. The strength of the group's domestic franchise is reflected by its diversified product focus, encompassing retail, wholesale and life businesses as well as its strong market shares especially in current accounts, business banking, mortgages, life assurance and retail deposits. The rating also takes account of the bank's hitherto good asset quality, solid earnings profile and diversified funding profile.

The current Aa2 long-term bank deposit and debt ratings reflect two notches of uplift from the bank's BFSR of B-. Were the BFSR to be downgraded then the bank would likely continue to benefit from two-notches of uplift in line with Moody's assessment of a very high probability of systemic support for the bank in accordance with the medium system support guideline for Ireland.

The following ratings were placed on review for possible downgrade:

Bank of Ireland:

Long-term bank deposits: Aa2

Senior unsecured debt: Aa2

Subordinated debt: Aa3

Junior subordinated debt: Aa3

Preference stock: A1

Bank of Ireland Capital Funding I, LP:

Backed preferred stock: A1

Bank of Ireland Capital Funding II, LP:

Backed preferred stock: A1

Bank of Ireland Capital Funding III, LP:

Backed preferred stock: A1

Bank of Ireland Capital Funding IV, LP:

Backed preferred stock: A1

Bank of Ireland UK Holdings Plc:

Backed preferred stock: A1

Bank of Ireland, Connecticut Branch:

LT Deposit Note/CD Program: Aa2

ICS Building Society:

Long-term bank deposits: Aa3

The following ratings were affirmed:

Bank of Ireland:

Short-term bank deposits: Prime-1

Short-term debt: Prime-1

Backed senior unsecured debt: Aaa

Backed subordinated debt: Aaa

Bank of Ireland, Connecticut Branch:

Backed LT Deposit Note/CD Program: Aaa

ICS Building Society:

Short-term bank deposits: Prime-1

Bank Financial Strength Rating: C

The last rating action on BoI was in September 2008 when the rating outlook was changed to negative from stable.

Headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, Bank of Ireland reported consolidated assets of EUR204 billion at end-September 2008.

London
Johannes Wassenberg
Managing Director
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

London
Ross Abercromby
Vice President - Senior Analyst
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

No Related Data.
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