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Announcement:

Moody's reports: Stable outlook for Israeli banking system

01 Mar 2010

Limassol, March 01, 2010 -- The fundamental credit outlook for the Israeli banking sector is stable, reflecting expectations of healthy domestic economic growth in 2010, following a shallow contraction in 2008/2009, says Moody's Investors Service in its new Banking System Outlook on Israel. Moody's stable outlook for the Israeli banking system expresses the rating agency's view on the likely future direction of fundamental credit conditions in the sector over the next 12 to 18 months.

Israeli banks' modest direct exposure to the global financial crisis, their sound liquidity profiles and adequate capitalisation meant that financial performance recovered in 2009, despite a moderate increase in provisioning expenses. Some asset quality pressures are likely to persist in 2010, but Moody's expects the overall credit environment and bank financial performance to continue to improve over the year.

"The Israeli economy proved relatively resilient to the global financial crisis and economic slowdown in 2008 and 2009 thanks to the circumstances prevailing in Israel at the time. These included the high-tech composition of Israeli exports, which were less affected by declining global demand, the absence of a property bubble, modest consumer leverage, the government's healthy fiscal position, the Bank of Israel's appropriate monetary policy, and the adequate financial health of the Israeli corporate sector. The relative soundness of the banking sector going into the crisis also protected the economy from further external shocks," says George Chrysaphinis, a Moody's Vice-President/Senior Analyst and author of this report.

Within this context, Israeli banks' 2009 financial performance was primarily characterised by flat asset growth, tighter interest margins, elevated credit costs and below-trend profitability. This followed a sharp deterioration in profitability for some banks in 2008. Increased loan loss provisioning began in the fourth quarter of 2008 for some banks and continued into 2009 for all Moody's-rated banks, reflecting a moderate deterioration in corporate credit.

"On the one hand, the recovering Israeli economy and improving global economic context reduces the risk of a further significant deterioration in asset quality over the next few months and suggests that 2010 provisioning needs are unlikely to exceed 2009 levels. However, Israeli banks' credit risk remains our primary concern over the short-to-medium term and will be our main focus as we consider whether to change the banks' rating outlooks back to stable from negative currently," Mr Chrysaphinis explains.

Moody's considers Israeli banks' capitalisation to be adequate within the context of their relatively conservative risk appetites, whilst liquidity remains strong thanks to solid retail and private banking deposit bases. Profitability is moderate on a through-the-cycle basis, mainly constrained by heavy operating expenses and modest interest margins. The banks' standalone financial strength is supported by their powerful and defensible domestic franchises, characterised by strong positions in retail and corporate segments and broad and sophisticated product ranges.

Finally, during 2010 the Israeli banks are implementing the new guidelines of the Basel II agreement. Moody's acknowledges that the preparations made by the banks for its implementation should lead to more focused and better risk management, improved decision-making and increased transparency and disclosure.

The principal methodologies used in rating Israeli banks are "Bank Financial Strength Ratings: Global Methodology" and "Incorporation of Joint-Default Analysis into Moody's Bank Ratings: A Refined Methodology", which are available on www.moodys.com in the Rating Methodologies sub-directory under the Research & Ratings tab. Other methodologies and factors that may have been considered in the process of rating these issuers can also be found in the Rating Methodologies sub-directory on Moody's website.

* * * * *

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS ONLY: For a copy of this report, please contact EMEA Press Information in London +44-20-7772-5456; New York Press Information +1-212-553-0376; Juan Pablo Soriano in Madrid +34-91-310-1454; Alex Cataldo in Milan +39-02-914-81-100; Eric de Bodard in Paris +331-5330-1076; Detlef Scholz in Frankfurt +49-69-707-30-700; Mardig Haladjian in Limassol +357-25-586-586; Alex Sazhin in Moscow +7495-228-6060; Petr Vins in Prague +4202 2422 2929; Tokyo Press Information +813-5408-4110; Hilary Parkes in Toronto +1-416-214-1635; Hong Kong Press Information +852-2916-1150; Hector Lim in Sydney +612 9270 8102; Luiz Tess in São Paulo +5511-3043-7300; Alberto Jones Tamayo in Mexico City +5255-1253-5700; Daniel Rúas in Buenos Aires +54 11-4816-2332 ext. 105; Craig Jamieson in Johannesburg +27-11-217-5470; Jehad el-Nakla in Dubai +971 4 401 9536; or visit our web site at www.moodys.com

Limassol
Mardig Haladjian
General Manager
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service Cyprus Limited
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Limassol
George Chrysaphinis
Vice President - Senior Analyst
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service Cyprus Limited
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Moody's reports: Stable outlook for Israeli banking system
No Related Data.
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