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Announcement:

Moody's revises the Bahamas' outlook to negative

31 Aug 2011

New York, August 31, 2011 -- Moody's has affirmed the Bahamas' A3 government bond ratings but revised its outlook to negative from stable. The negative outlook also applies to all the country ceilings including the ceiling for the off-shore banking sector.

The main triggers for today's action are as follows:

1. The significant run up in government debt levels in recent years;

2. The country's limited growth prospects;

3. The challenges the government is likely to face in raising revenues.

As a result, Moody's expects that the government will have difficulty achieving a meaningful reduction in its debt levels in the near-to-medium term.

RATINGS RATIONALE

The central government of the Bahamas' debt increased by almost 150% over the past decade to nearly 50% of GDP at end-2010. Debt rose steadily between 2000 and 2008, but over 40% of the increase occurred in the past two years alone. As a result, the Bahamas' debt levels, which were at the median for its rating range until 2006, are now nearly 40% higher than the median. Its relatively high wealth levels - the Bahamas' GDP/capita is nearly twice the median for the rating range - enable the Bahamas to support a somewhat higher level of debt at a given rating level relative to other countries, but not 40% higher.

Furthermore, given the Bahamas' historically low growth rates -- its economy has grown a cumulative total of just a little over 6% over the past ten years -- it is unlikely that it will be able to grow out of its debt burden, notwithstanding certain recent developments that may give a lift to the economy over the next few years. The Bahamas' economy is highly dependent on tourism, particularly from the U.S. - the near-term economic prospects of which appear increasingly uncertain. In addition, the off-shore financial sector, the Bahamas' second most important industry, is facing a rising degree of competition.

Consequently, the only way that debt levels will decrease is if the government is able to reverse the fiscal deficits it has generated over the past several years and begin to repay a portion of its debt. With expenditures still quite low despite recent increases, in all likelihood the government will have to rely on tax increases and/or the introduction of new taxes in order to do accomplish this.

While the high degree of political consensus that has historically characterized the country remains one of its most significant credit strengths, Moody's believes that tax increases could nevertheless become politically contentious and difficult to implement.

The negative outlook reflects Moody's expectation that given the country's limited growth prospects, the government will have difficulty achieving a meaningful reduction in currently elevated debt levels in the near-to-medium term unless it is able to significantly increase revenues. While the pace of the increase in the government's debt levels is likely to slow in the coming years, a failure by the government to reverse the recent trend of rising debt would likely result in a downgrade of the Bahamas' rating. In order for the outlook to return to stable, the government would need to demonstrate a credible plan not just for stabilizing debt, but for reducing it to a level more consistent with the current A3 rating.

The principal methodology used in this rating was "Moody's Sovereign Bond Methodology" published in September 2008.

Please see ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on Moodys.com for the last rating action and the rating history.

New York
Aaron Freedman
Vice President - Senior Analyst
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

New York
Bart Oosterveld
MD - Sovereign Risk
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Moody's revises the Bahamas' outlook to negative
No Related Data.
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