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Rating Action:

Moody's reviews two Benelux-based banks' ratings for possible downgrade

22 Oct 2009

Changes outlooks on two other Benelux-based banks

Paris, October 22, 2009 -- Moody's Investors Service today took the following rating actions on Benelux-based banks:

- Review for possible downgrade for SNS Bank's and Friesland Bank's C BFSRs and A2 long-term ratings;

- Affirmation of Fortis Bank (Nederland)'s A1/C ratings with outlook changed to negative from positive previously;

- Affirmation of Rabobank Nederland's Aaa/B+ ratings with outlook changed to negative from stable;

- Affirmation of Banque et Caisse d'Epargne de l'Etat's Aaa/C+ and NIBC's Baa2/C- ratings with outlooks unchanged;

Short-term ratings of the above mentioned banks were affirmed.

These rating actions are taken in the context of Moody's recalibration exercise on Benelux assets, the completion of which did not result in rating actions on other Benelux-based banks, including some already placed under review for possible downgrade. A full list of today's rating actions taken can be found below.

Today's rating actions were prompted by Moody's expectation that some Benelux-based banks will experience increasing deterioration in asset quality over the coming quarters. This will likely lead to greater credit-related write-downs than previously anticipated in the ratings, thereby exerting adverse pressure on banks' profitability and capitalisation. Please refer to two Special Comments published today entitled "Moody's Approach to Estimating Dutch Banks' Credit Losses" and "Moody's Approach to Estimating Credit Losses for Banks in Belgium and Luxembourg" for further details.

The anticipated deterioration in banks' financial strength reflects Moody's expectation that the banking systems of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands will remain under pressure in the short-to-medium term given the continuation of the worst economic downturn in decades, as reflected in the negative outlooks that the systems have carried since July 2009 (please refer to the Banking System Outlooks on Belgium-Luxembourg and the Netherlands published on 6 July 2009).

MoodysEconomy.com expects the Dutch economy to contract on an annual basis this year for the first time in over 20 years, before it starts to expand again next year, but GDP will likely remain below the long-term average until 2012. For Belgium and Luxembourg, MoodysEconomy.com expects the real GDP of both countries to decrease by approximately 3% in 2009 and to be slightly positive in 2010. Simultaneously, MoodysEconomy.com forecasts the unemployment rate in Belgium to rise by 1.1% in 2009 to 8.1% at the end of the year and to 9.3% at the end of 2010, while in Luxembourg it is expected to rise by 1% in 2009 to 5.9% at the end of the year and to 7.0% at the end of 2010.

Moody's has already taken several individual rating actions since the start of this year. They reflected the rating agency's concerns about the banks' exposures to structured credit assets, exposures to CEE and the CIS, and deteriorating asset quality indicators of their domestic operations. For the latter exposures, the estimates of expected losses used by Moody's at the time have since then been fine-tuned, as described in the two Special Comments (A list of rating actions taken earlier in the financial crisis is available in the appendices to each report). These rating actions also reflected its expectation of pressure on the intrinsic financial strength of some Benelux financial institutions in the deteriorating macro-economic environment.

As a consequence of the rating actions earlier in 2009, the ratings of the majority of Benelux banks have not been affected by the refinement of Moody's methodology. However, the completion of Moody's recalibration exercise on Benelux assets resulted in two ratings being placed on review for possible downgrade where its fine-tuned expectation of losses exceeded its earlier estimates. Moody's expects the downgrades of the senior debt and deposit ratings to be limited and believes that banks in highly rated countries are likely to continue to receive support depending on their level of systemic importance.

The banks with ratings placed on review for possible downgrade today have key credit drivers that are vulnerable to weaker performance in their BFSR categories, under the rating agency's anticipated (baseline) and worse-than-expected (stressed) scenarios. Among the key credit drivers, Moody's focuses in particular on current capital adequacy levels in relation to banks' specific asset composition and their respective anticipated loss levels. The rating agency's expected macroeconomic scenario, as described in the two Special Comments, is used to establish its baseline expectations for a bank's performance, while its worse-than-expected case helps to measure a bank's potential vulnerability in the event of a shift to a more adverse environment.

More specifically, the banks that are most likely to have their BFSRs downgraded are those with lower capital adequacy levels in relation to their exposures to the riskier asset classes, in accordance with Moody's published assumptions in the two Special Comments. These asset classes include, for example, exposures to commercial loans, real estate, construction and shipping.

REVIEWS OF BFSRs

Moody's BFSR reviews will focus on the extent to which factors such as more modest profitability, weaker asset quality and, in particular, lower capital adequacy leave banks more exposed to the ongoing economic downturn, particularly where this may also be combined with exposure to riskier sectors, such as commercial real estate (real estate developers, construction companies, etc.).

Moody's BFSR methodology remains unchanged, although the weight attached to certain rating considerations, particularly capital and future earnings prospects, has been increased to better reflect the effects of the current crisis. This refinement to Moody's approach to rating banks in the current environment is discussed in a Special Comment entitled "Calibrating Bank Ratings in the Context of the Global Financial Crisis", which was published in February 2009.

REVIEWS OF SENIOR DEBT AND DEPOSIT RATINGS

Moody's expects the downgrades of the senior debt and deposit ratings to be limited to one, or at most two notches, and notes that the probability of government support continues to underpin deposit and senior debt ratings for the banks. This is in line with the rating agency's expectation that banks in highly rated countries will receive, or are likely to receive, support depending on their level of systemic importance.

In reviewing the deposit and senior debt ratings, Moody's will consider:

(i) the support currently available to the banks, as well as the probability of support once stability returns to the markets and the banking system;

(ii) the systemic importance of the rated institutions;

(iii) the banks' intrinsic financial strength; and

(iv) other sources of external support, in particular group support for the co-operative credit banks and parental support.

LIST OF RATING ACTIONS: REVIEWS FOR POSSIBLE DOWNGRADE

Friesland Bank N.V.:

- BFSR of C on review for possible downgrade;

- A2 long-term deposit and senior unsecured ratings on review for possible downgrade;

- A3 subordinate ratings on review for possible downgrade;

- Baa1 preferred stock ratings on review for possible downgrade;

- P-1 short-term deposit rating affirmed.

The rating action is triggered by the outcome of Moody's stress-tests on Friesland Bank's assets and by the volatility of the banks' results stemming from its participations in financial institutions. Friesland Bank's loans portfolio mainly comprises Dutch residential mortgages and commercial loans with some exposure to the real estate industry. Moody's therefore expects an increase in the bank's cost of risk. Moody's adds that Friesland Bank's results may also be affected by its investments in financial institutions.

The previous rating action on Friesland Bank N.V. was in April 2007, when Moody's Joint Default Analysis (JDA) and BFSR methodologies were implemented.

SNS Bank N.V.:

- BFSR of C on review for possible downgrade;

- A2 long-term deposit and issuer ratings on review for possible downgrade;

- A3 subordinate ratings on review for possible downgrade;

- Baa1/Baa3 junior subordinate ratings remain on review for possible downgrade;

- P-1 short-term deposit rating affirmed.

The rating action is triggered by the outcome of Moody's stress-tests on SNS Bank's assets and in particular by the potential losses stemming from its property finance activities. While SNS Bank's loan portfolio mainly comprises Dutch residential loans, the bank has some exposure to property finance and notably to international project finance. Although the bank has publicly stated that it would stop investing in new international project finance in the future and reduce this portfolio in a controlled and gradual manner over the coming years. Moody's estimates that significant losses may stem from the existing portfolio.

The previous rating action on SNS Bank N.V. was in September 2009, when Moody's downgraded some perpetual subordinated notes issued by SNS Bank N.V. to Baa3 from A3.

LIST OF RATING ACTIONS: AFFIRMATIONS AND CHANGES OF OUTLOOK ON RATINGS

Fortis Bank (Nederland) N.V.:

- Outlook on C- BFSR changed to negative from positive;

- Outlook on A1 long-term deposit and senior unsecured ratings changed to negative from positive;

- Outlook on A2 subordinate and junior subordinate ratings changed to negative from positive;

- Review for possible downgrade maintained on B2 preferred stock (MCS) rating;

- P-1 short-term deposit rating affirmed.

Fortis Capital Company Limited:

- Outlook on A3 preferred stock ratings changed to negative from positive.

The change of outlook is triggered by the longer than expected completion of Fortis Bank (Nederland)'s merger with the Dutch retail and commercial banking and international private banking businesses of ABN AMRO Bank and by remaining uncertainties on the timing of this merger. Additionally, the outcome of Moody's stress-test on Fortis Bank (Nederland)'s assets shows some pressure on its capitalisation resulting from its substantial exposure to commercial loans.

The previous rating action on Fortis Bank (Nederland) N.V. was in December 2008, when Moody's changed the outlook to positive on the bank's C- BFSR and A1 long-term debt and deposit ratings, while affirming its Prime-1 short-term debt and deposit ratings.

The previous rating action on Fortis Capital Company Limited was on 29th June 2009, when Moody's confirmed the A3 rating of its Non-cumulative Non-voting Class A Series 1 Preference Shares while assigning a positive outlook to the rating, thereby concluding the review initiated on 12 June 2009.

Rabobank Nederland:

- Outlook on B+ BFSR changed to negative from stable;

- Outlook on Aaa long-term deposit and senior unsecured ratings changed to negative from stable;

- Outlook on Aa1 subordinate ratings changed to negative from stable;

- Outlook on Aa2 junior subordinate and preferred stock ratings changed to negative from stable;

- P-1 short-term deposit rating affirmed.

The affirmation of Rabobank's B+ BFSR reflects the bank's strong capital buffers, the outstanding stability and resilience of its financial ratios and credit profile, and the strength of Rabobank's cooperative model in a deteriorating economic environment. Rabobank's superior intrinsic financial strength and Moody's continued expectation of a very high probability of systemic support also led to the affirmation of the bank's Aaa long-term ratings. The negative outlooks on the Aaa/B+ ratings indicate that Rabobank is not immune to its macro-economic environment. In particular Moody's expects some negative pressure stemming from Rabobank's corporate loan portfolio and from some of its subsidiaries or affiliates.

The previous rating action on Rabobank Nederland was an affirmation of all ratings in April 2007, when Moody's Joint Default Analysis (JDA) and BFSR methodologies were implemented.

LIST OF RATING ACTIONS: AFFIRMATIONS OF RATINGS

Banque et Caisse d'Epargne de l'Etat (BCEE):

- BFSR of C+ affirmed with stable outlook;

- Aaa long-term deposit and senior unsecured ratings affirmed with stable outlook;

- Aa1 subordinate and junior subordinate ratings affirmed with stable outlook;

- P-1 short-term deposit rating affirmed.

The affirmation of BCEE's C+ BFSR reflects the bank's strong capital buffers when compared with its low risk profile and the overall resilience of its business model in a deteriorating economic environment. The affirmation of BCEE's Aaa long term and deposit ratings is supported by the bank's above average intrinsic financial strength alongside Moody's continuous assessment of a very high probability of systemic support from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg if needed. The latter is underpinned by the full ownership of the bank by the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (rated Aaa) as well as by BCEE's role and importance within the Luxembourg economy.

The previous rating action on BCEE was in April 2007, when Moody's Joint Default Analysis (JDA) and BFSR methodologies were implemented.

NIBC Bank N.V.:

- BFSR of C- affirmed with negative outlook;

- Baa2 long-term deposit and senior unsecured ratings affirmed with negative outlook;

- Baa3 subordinate and junior subordinate ratings affirmed with negative outlook;

- Ba1 preferred stock ratings affirmed with negative outlook;

- P-2 short-term deposit rating affirmed.

The affirmation of NIBC Bank's ratings with negative outlooks is based on Moody's stress-tests on NIBC Bank's assets and the bank's high loss absorption capacity resulting from its high capitalization levels. However, the negative outlook is maintained due to the bank's risky business profile combined with its low earning capacity.

The previous rating action on NIBC Bank N.V. was in December 2008, when Moody's changed the outlook on bank's BFSR to negative from stable, while downgrading the long-term debt and deposit ratings to Baa2 from Baa1.

Regarding BGL BNP Paribas and Fortis Bank SA/NV please refer to our separate press release on BNP Paribas, published today.

The ratings of other Benelux-based banks are unaffected by the completion of Moody's recalibration exercise.

(Please note that this press release does not deal with possible implications for the covered bond ratings of Benelux banks.)

MOODY'S METHODOLOGIES

The ratings of bank subordinated capital securities are assigned in line with Moody's existing methodology entitled "Guidelines for Rating Bank Junior Securities", dated April 2007. Moody's notes that it released a Request for Comment on 16 June 2009 in which it has requested market feedback on potential changes to its rating methodology for bank subordinated capital. If the revised methodology is implemented as proposed, the rating on bank subordinated capital securities may be negatively affected. Please refer to Moody's Request for Comment, entitled "Moody's Proposed Changes to Bank Subordinated Capital Ratings", for further details regarding the implications of the proposed methodology changes on Moody's ratings.

The principal methodologies used in rating the issuers mentioned in this press release are "Moody's Bank Financial Strength Ratings: Global Methodology", published in February 2007, and "Incorporation of Joint-Default Analysis into Moody's Bank Ratings", published in March 2007, and 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.

Friesland Bank NV, headquartered in Leeuwarden, had total assets of EUR10 billion as of 31 December 2008.

SNS Bank N.V., headquartered in Utrecht, had total assets of EUR76 billion as of 31 December 2008.

Fortis Bank (Nederland) N.V., headquartered in Amsterdam, had total assets of EUR184 billion as of 31 December 2008.

Rabobank Nederland, headquartered in Utrecht, had total assets of EUR612 billion as of 31 December 2008.

Banque et Caisse d'Epargne de l'Etat , headquartered in Luxembourg, had total assets of EUR37 billion as of 31 December 2008.

NIBC Bank N.V., headquartered in the Hague, had total assets of EUR28 billion as of 31 December 2008.

Frankfurt
Carola Schuler
Managing Director
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Deutschland GmbH
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Paris
Stephane Le Priol
VP - Senior Credit Officer
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's France S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Moody's reviews two Benelux-based banks' ratings for possible downgrade
No Related Data.
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