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Rating Action:

Moody's reviews Clientis AG's A3 long-term ratings for downgrade

24 Apr 2013

C bank financial strength rating also on review

Frankfurt am Main, April 24, 2013 -- Moody's Investors Service has today placed on review for downgrade Clientis AG's standalone bank financial strength rating (BFSR) of C, equivalent to a baseline credit assessment (BCA) of a3, which, in turn, prompted the review of the bank's A3 long-term deposit rating. The bank's Prime-2 short-term deposit rating has been unaffected.

The review on Clientis's ratings was triggered by (1) uncertainties about the longer-term challenges involved with Clientis's business model given the narrow retail business focus of the group in Switzerland and its small size and scale, which constrains its franchise value; (2) continued challenging market conditions for Swiss regional banks characterised by intense competition and continued margin pressure; and (3) the bank's tighter liquidity metrics and its relatively low liquidity buffers if compared to its closest peers.

In Moody's view, these three factors pose uncertainty as to whether Clientis can preserve and develop its franchise as a niche player in the Swiss regional banking market and - at the same time - meet stricter liquidity requirements under the Basel III regulation. Accordingly, the rating agency's review will focus on the bank's management of liquidity within the group and amongst its member banks as well as its ability to increase revenues and/or contain costs without compromising its franchise value.

A full list of affected ratings is listed at the end of this press release.

RATINGS RATIONALE

Moody's believes that the bank's modest profitability by international standards as well as its shrinking franchise - three further banks will leave the group until 1 January 2014 - may stay under pressure. The group's focus on achieving a stronger cohesion among its member banks -- and thus a stronger brand recognition throughout the franchise -- may not suffice to position the Clientis brand as an alternative to its strong competitors, the cantonal and Raiffeisen banks. 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. In Moody's view, any stronger reduction in revenues and profitability in a challenging market environment for regional banking activities may thus necessitate credit-negative franchise adjustments potentially leading to client attrition and franchise impairment.

The rating agency further notes that an additional major source of significant downside risk stems from the rising uncertainties regarding domestic real-estate markets, which have the potential to negatively affect Clientis's capital ratios. Nevertheless we also note that Clientis's Tier 1 ratio (16.5% as of 31 December 2012) makes it possible for the group to absorb the most plausible stress scenarios. Moreover, and despite Clientis's high exposure to the residential mortgage market in the northern regions of Switzerland, Moody's recognises the bank's fairly low exposure to local areas of excessive price inflation.

Moody's believes that Clientis's relatively tighter liquidity metrcis compared to its peers may exert pressure on the bank's ability to adequately access wholesale funding markets in a highly adverse market environment. While the rating agency acknowlegdes the group's proven access to capital markets through covered bonds (Pfandbriefe) and other senior unsecured issuances, the high loan-to-deposit ratio of 123% as of 31 December 2012 renders the bank vulnerable to a more severe deterioration in market conditions for confidence-sensitive funding sources.

The rating agency notes positively that the new intra-group support framework may result in stronger cohesion among member banks, thereby offering opportunities for better exploitation of the Clientis franchise in terms of client penetration, product development and operational efficiencies. During the review, we will also assess to what extent the stronger cohesion will ensure sufficent capital and liquidity control mechanisms allowing Clientis AG to adequately gauge, assess and monitor related risks at a consolidated as well as single entity level.

As a result of all the above, Moody's believes that the current BFSR of C may not be consistent with the challenges outlined above, and could therefore be repositioned in the C- categories with their equivalent BCAs either at the baa1 or baa2 levels. Given our assessment of a low probability of systemic support for a small franchise like Clientis (with national market shares of around 1%), there is currently no rating uplift incorporated into the bank's A3 rating. As such, the long-term ratings are expected to be downgraded in line with the BCA at the conclusion of the review period.

WHAT COULD MOVE THE RATING UP/DOWN

There is currently no upward pressure on the rating, as expressed by the review for downgrade.

In addition to the factors described above, a downgrade of Clientis's BFSR could be prompted by (1) a gradual erosion of market shares caused by competitive pressures or further key members exiting the group thereby weighing on Clientis's overall franchise value, loss absorption capacity and efficiency; (2) sustained pressure on the bank's financial metrics on the back of a continued low interest-rate environment; (3) a material deterioration in asset quality beyond levels that are consistent with the bank's risk-absorption capacity, especially if this would be based on a marked slowdown in the Swiss real estate market; and/or (4) an increase in the bank's risk appetite, especially if Clientis grew its balance sheet more aggressively without properly addressing the group's funding challenges.

RATINGS AFFECTED

Clientis AG:

The following ratings are placed on review for downgrade:

- C/a3 bank financial strength rating

- A3 long-term bank deposit ratings

RATING METHODOLOGY

The principal methodology used in this rating was Moody's Consolidated Global Bank Rating Methodology published in June 2012. 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.

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 reviews Clientis AG's A3 long-term ratings for downgrade
No Related Data.
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