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Moody's sees stable outlook for Northeast Asian sovereigns and banks

24 Jun 2010

Singapore, June 24, 2010 -- Moody's Investors Service hosted its annual 'Global Banking & Sovereign Conference' in Hong Kong today, presenting on key global and regional issues following the global financial crisis.

In particular, the conference focused on the global sovereign landscape; prospects for Northeast Asian sovereigns; key banking lessons from the crisis; a comparison of the banking systems of Southern Europe, Ireland and the UK; and the outlook for Northeast Asian banks.

Setting the global scene, Bart Oosterveld, Team Managing Director and global head of Moody's Sovereign Risk Unit, discussed 'Global Sovereign Risk in a State of Flux'.

He explained why the balance sheets of the governments of most advanced economies have become materially weakened, yet only limited downgrades have happened to date; the implications of living with higher sovereign debt levels; and why the ratings of emerging countries are on the way up, but at a pace slower than capital inflows and market spreads would seem to suggest.

"Institutional strength has been a significant consideration in recent Asia Pacific upgrades, while rating drivers for the advanced economies have focused on the painful adjustment needed to stabilize or reduce debt burdens," Bart explained.

Singapore-based Tom Byrne, Senior Vice President - Regional Credit Officer, Moody's Sovereign Risk Group, then provided Moody's views on 'Asia's Recovery from the Global Crisis', giving the economic outlook for the region, and discussing the performance of Northeast Asian ratings during the crisis and in its aftermath.

"Sovereign credit fundamentals in the region have withstood the global turbulence of the past two years," said Tom Byrne. "There is a robust recovery of economic growth in the region. External positions have withstood the post-Lehman credit panic and are stronger now, reflecting a robust rebound in exports and resulting in record levels of official foreign exchange reserves for most countries in recent months. Moreover, fiscal deficits have been moderate and the build-up in debt for most governments has been modest. We do not expect that Europe's banking and debt problems will derail a gradual normalization of monetary and fiscal policies taken in response to the 2008-09 global financial crisis."

The focus of the conference then turned to the banks with remarks from Greg Bauer, Group Managing Director and Global Head of Financial Institutions for Moody's.

Greg discussed 'Six Banking Lessons from the Global Financial Crisis', and specifically the challenges of assessing risk management and capital adequacy; liquidity and the limits of wholesale funding; and what changes should be expected in relation to government support.

"Bank depositors and senior debt holders have benefited from massive government support throughout this crisis" said Greg. "However, the future capacity and willingness of most governments to provide support will be more limited, arguing for more conservatism in our assumptions of support."

"As such, the fundamental issues that led to structural weaknesses in the global banking system, including excessive reliance on wholesale funding, liquidity mismatches, poor measures of capital adequacy, and risk management failures, require particular focus as we assess the creditworthiness of banks as they emerge from the crisis," said Greg.

The spotlight then moved to Europe, for a comparison of Southern European, Irish and UK banks in a discussion led by London-based Johannes Wassenberg, Team Managing Director, Moody's EMEA Financial Institutions.

Johannes addressed two key rating drivers -- asset bubbles versus sovereign contagion -- as well as the rating implications of the phase-out of extraordinary government support; and the rating outlooks for these banking systems, and in particular which vulnerabilities remain.

"Europe's problems are expected to have limited second order effects on Asia's banks, reducing, but not reversing growth in exports and GDP. Of greater concern, are signs that Europe's problems may renew the credit crunch. Whilst the vast majority of Asian banks are funded by domestic deposits, banks in Australia, New Zealand and Korea rely on the cross-border debt markets to fund a portion of their loans", commented Deborah Schuler, Singapore-based Senior Vice President - Regional Credit Officer, Moody's Asia Pacific Financial Institutions.

Deborah then concluded the day's presentations with a discussion on 'Basel & Bubbles: What Lies Ahead for Asian Banks?'

She addressed how Asia's banks will fare under tighter capital and liquidity requirements, whether asset price bubbles would derail the recovery, and are Moody's rating outlooks for Northeast Asian banks vulnerable or bulletproof?

"With the exception of Mongolia, our Northeast Asian banking system outlooks are stable," Deborah commented. "NPLs appear to have peaked at much lower levels than expected. Having said that, we do expect the Chinese banks will have to set aside additional provisions to cover new NPLs arising from last year's massive growth in lending to local governments. At the same time, these concerns did not prevent us from upgrading the bank financial strength ratings of ICBC and China Construction Bank to D+ from D-; and Bank of China to D from D- two weeks ago."

"China's strong economic growth has and should continue to fuel bank revenue growth in East Asia. The region's banks are well positioned to cope with the Basel III capital requirements, thanks to their strong capital bases. The proposed liquidity requirements will be more difficult to meet but, in our opinion, are unlikely to be implemented as currently proposed," said Deborah.

Moody's will also host annual Global Banking & Sovereign Conferences in Shanghai on June 29 and Beijing on June 30 on similar themes.

Singapore
Deborah Schuler
Senior Vice President
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Singapore Pte Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: (852) 3758 -1350
SUBSCRIBERS: (65) 6398-8308

Singapore
Thomas J. Byrne
Senior Vice President - Regional Credit Officer
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Singapore Pte Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: (852) 3758 -1350
SUBSCRIBERS: (65) 6398-8308

Moody's sees stable outlook for Northeast Asian sovereigns and banks
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