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Announcement:

Moody's says pressure on WestLB's ratings is rising

14 May 2009

Lower stakeholder support in the medium term could trigger downgrades

Frankfurt, May 14, 2009 -- Moody's Investors Service today commented that WestLB's E+ bank financial strength rating (BFSR) and A2 senior unsecured debt and deposit ratings remain under pressure due to the stringent preconditions attached to the European Commission's approval of state aid. WestLB will have to meet these preconditions over the next two to three years, which will likely affect Moody's current assumptions regarding external support. WestLB's E+ BFSR and A2 debt and deposit ratings carry a negative outlook.

E+ BFSR REMAINS UNDER PRESSURE

The most significant of the European Commission's preconditions that could lead to downward pressure on WestLB's E+ BFSR are the required: (i) 50% reduction of the bank's total assets and risk-weighted assets within two years (i.e. by 31 March 2011, based on the volumes as of 31 December 2007), which will thus have to be effected during a period that Moody's expects to be challenging for asset sales, and (ii) divestment of certain profit-contributing subsidiaries, including Westdeutsche Immobilienbank AG (WIB, unrated by Moody's), which is considered part of the group's core business.

At the same time, Moody's notes that certain aspects of the required restructuring may also have positive implications for WestLB's future financial strength, in particular an enforced concentration on certain core competencies and a substantial reduction in the potential volatility stemming from liquid credit portfolios on its trading book, which the bank seeks to transfer into a ring-fenced, special-purpose public sector vehicle (the "Omega" project, targeting a full non-recourse transfer of EUR87 billion in various assets).

Plans for this project, however, have not yet been concluded and more time may still be required before final decisions on its exact terms and conditions can be made, which further extends the ongoing period of low transparency regarding WestLB's future asset and risk profile. Moreover, Moody's notes that, should the Omega project not be implemented successfully, WestLB may have to consider asset sales at unfavourable prices in order to comply with the European Commission's preconditions, or resort to a potentially less favourable "bad bank" solution offered by the German government.

Moody's acknowledges that the Omega project -- as currently planned -- may result in substantial capital relief, without burdening the bank with the requirement of allocating substantial future profits towards covering any fair value losses (or risk provisions) relating to the Omega asset pool. However, as long as the project's terms and conditions remain unclear, the risk profile and future viability of the remaining core bank cannot be sufficiently ascertained and thus continues to weigh heavily on the E+ BFSR.

FUTURE INVESTMENT-GRADE DEBT RATINGS WILL BE MORE DEPENDENT ON WESTLB'S FINANCIAL STRENGTH

WestLB's A2 senior debt and deposit ratings benefit strongly from Moody's assessment of a very high probability of the bank receiving support in the future if needed. The A2 ratings therefore receive a nine-notch uplift from the B2 Baseline Credit Assessment (BCA, mapping directly from the E+ BFSR). This highlights the bank's current dependence on stakeholder support, which is factored into our assumptions of regional and local government support, and cross-sector support.

In connection to this, Moody's notes that the A2 long-term ratings may face heightened pressure in the event of the forthcoming restructuring exercise resulting in WestLB's privatisation, as a "non-discriminatory sale" of the bank is required by the end of 2011 under the agreement with the European Commission. Although the bank may alternatively form part of a Landesbank consolidation, which could potentially underscore the high probability of (public sector) stakeholder support in the long term, the future shareholder background of WestLB may not be known for the next two years, which makes the probability of support beyond 2011 very difficult to assess.

Apart from the near-term developments concerning the bank's asset and risk profile described above, Moody's analysis will therefore focus on the probability of support from current stakeholders beyond 2011 in the context of grandfathered debt on WestLB's balance sheet, which will largely mature only in 2015.

Headquartered in Duesseldorf, Germany, WestLB reported EUR288.1 billion in assets as of the end of 2008 (stable year-on-year) and an annual profit of EUR18 million for the year (after a loss of EUR1.6 billion in 2007).

Frankfurt
Katharina Barten
Vice President - Senior Analyst
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Deutschland GmbH
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

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

Moody's says pressure on WestLB's ratings is rising
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