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Rating Action:

Moody's takes actions on five Tunisian banks

08 Mar 2013

Actions follow downgrade of Tunisia's bond rating to Ba1, on review for further downgrade

Limassol, March 08, 2013 -- Moody's Investors Service has today taken actions on five Tunisian banks. Today's rating actions primarily reflect the government's declining capacity to support the banks and Moody's assessment of the impact of the deteriorating domestic operating environment on the banks' asset quality, profitability and capitalisation.

The actions follow Moody's recent downgrade of Tunisia's government bond rating to Ba1 (on review for possible downgrade) from Baa3 (please see "Moody's downgrades Tunisia's government debt rating to Ba1; on review for further downgrade" on 28 February 2013).

The affected banks are: Societe Tunisienne De Banque (STB), Amen Bank, Arab Tunisian Bank (ATB), Banque Internationale Arabe De Tunisie (BIAT), Banque De Tunisie (BdT).

For a full list of affected ratings, please see the end of this press release.

RATINGS RATIONALE

Today's rating actions have been driven, to differing degrees, by (1) the government's weakening capacity to provide support to the banks, (2) Moody's view that the deteriorating domestic operating environment will weigh on the banks' asset quality, profitability and capitalisation metrics, and (3) the lowering of the country ceiling on foreign currency bank deposits to Ba2 from Baa3.

ISSUER-SPECIFIC CONSIDERATIONS

SOCIETE TUNISIENE DE BANQUE (STB)

Moody's downgraded STB's local and foreign currency deposit ratings to B1, from Ba2, and lowered its standalone credit assessment to caa3, from b3. The deposit ratings have also been placed on review for downgrade.

In conjunction with an assessment of the government's weakening capacity to provide support to STB, the rating action also reflects the bank's very limited loss absorption capacity, as evidenced by the high stock of non-performing loans (NPLs) and low loan loss provision reserves. According to Moody's estimates, NPLs accounted for 25% of gross loans as of June 2012, owing to previous forced mergers with troubled institutions and weak historical underwriting practices. As the bank maintains low loan loss provision reserves against these exposures -- net NPLs account for over 100% of the bank's equity according to Moody's estimates -- the crystallisation of losses on these exposures will jeopardise the bank's capital base. Moody's also expects that the deteriorating operating environment will further weaken asset quality, which will further challenge the bank's solvency and increase the need for additional capital, beyond the bank's recent improvements in capital and current capital strengthening plan.

The review for downgrade of the bank's deposit ratings is aligned with the review for downgrade of Tunisia's ratings and will focus on the risk of further declines in the government's capacity to support the bank.

AMEN BANK

Moody's downgraded Amen Bank's local and foreign currency deposit ratings to Ba3, from Ba2, and lowered its standalone credit assessment to b2, from b1. The deposit ratings have also been placed on review for downgrade.

In addition to an assessment of the government's weakening capacity to provide support to Amen Bank, the rating action also reflects the bank's weakened loss absorption capacity in the context of Moody's expectation of intensified asset quality pressures. Moody's notes that Amen Bank recently grew its loan book at a high pace (15% in 2011 and 25% in 2010), leaving its asset quality relatively unseasoned. Although the bank's NPL ratio declined to 8.16% in 2011 (most recent publicly available figure), from 9.85% in 2010, the rating agency anticipates a significant rise in NPLs in 2013, owing to (i) the deteriorating operating environment, (ii) the high lending growth, and (ii) risks related to the performance of recently restructured loans. As a result, and despite the bank's ongoing capital strengthening plan, the rating agency considers that the bank's credit risk profile is now more commensurate with a b2 standalone credit profile.

The review for downgrade of the bank's deposit ratings is aligned with the review for downgrade of Tunisia's ratings and will focus on the risk of further declines in the government's capacity to support the bank.

ARAB TUNISIAN BANK (ATB)

Moody's downgraded ATB's local currency deposit ratings to Ba1, from Baa3, its foreign currency deposit ratings to Ba2, from Baa3, and its short term ratings to Not Prime from Prime- 3. The bank's deposit and standalone credit ratings have been placed on review for downgrade.

The downgrade of Arab Tunisian Bank's local deposit ratings primarily reflects the weakening capacity of the government to support the bank, as indicated by the downgrade of the government's bond rating to Ba1. The downgrade of Arab Tunisian Bank's foreign currency deposit rating to Ba2 reflects the lowering of the foreign currency deposit ceiling for Tunisia to Ba2.

The review for downgrade on Arab Tunisian Bank's ratings will assess the impact of the deteriorating domestic operating environment on ATB's financial metrics, mainly asset quality, profitability and capitalisation.

BANQUE INTERNATIONALE ARABE DE TUNISIE (BIAT) and BANQUE DE TUNISIE (BdT)

Moody's downgraded Banque International Arabe de Tunisie and Banque de Tunisie's foreign currency deposit ratings to Ba2, reflecting the lowering of the foreign currency deposit ceiling for Tunisia to Ba2. Moody's also placed the banks' standalone and deposit ratings on review for downgrade.

The rating reviews of Banque International Arabe de Tunisie and Banque de Tunisie are aligned with the review for downgrade on the government's bond ratings and will focus on any further weakening of the government's capacity to support the banks. The review will also assess the impact the deteriorating domestic operating environment on the banks' financial metrics, mainly asset quality, profitability and capitalisation.

WHAT COULD MOVE THE RATINGS DOWN/UP

Although the current review for downgrade indicates limited scope for upward pressure on the ratings, the outlooks on the banks' ratings could stabilise following a reduction in operating environment risks and a stabilisation of the government's credit profile.

A further weakening in the government's capacity to support the banks, as indicated by a further downgrade of Tunisia's bond rating, and/or further expected weakening in banks' asset quality, profitability and capital, beyond current expectations, would exert downward pressure on the ratings.

LIST OF AFFECTED RATINGS

Societe Tunisienne De Banque:

- Bank Financial Strength Ratings (BFSR): Downgraded to E, mapping to a caa3 standalone credit assessment, from E+/b3

- LC deposit rating: Downgraded to B1, on review for downgrade, from Ba2, negative outlook

- FC deposit rating: Downgraded to B1, on review for downgrade, from Ba2, negative outlook

- Short-term Not-Prime ratings are unaffected

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

Amen Bank

- BFSR: Within the E+ category, lowered the standalone credit assessment to b2 from b1; stable outlook

- LC deposit rating: Downgraded to Ba3, on review for downgrade, from Ba2, negative outlook

- FC deposit rating: Downgraded to Ba3, on review for downgrade, from Ba2, negative outlook

- Short-term Not-Prime ratings are not affected

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

Arab Tunisian Bank

- BFSR: D/ba2, on review for downgrade

- LC deposit rating: Downgraded to Ba1, on review for downgrade, from Baa3, negative outlook

- FC deposit rating: Downgraded to Ba2, on review for downgrade, from Baa3, negative outlook

- Short-term ratings: Downgraded to Not-Prime, from Prime 3

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Banque Internationale Arabe de Tunisie

- BFSR: D-/ba3, on review for downgrade

- LC deposit rating: Ba1, on review for downgrade

- FC deposit rating: Downgraded to Ba2, on review for downgrade, from Ba1, negative outlook

- Short-term Not-Prime ratings are unaffected

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Banque de Tunisie

- BFSR: D/ba2, on review for downgrade

- LC deposit rating: Ba1, on review for downgrade

- FC deposit rating: Downgraded to Ba2, on review for downgrade, from Ba1, negative outlook

- Short-term Not Prime ratings are unaffected

The principal methodology used in these ratings 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.

The ratings of rated entities Amen Bank, Banque de Tunisie and Arab Tunisian Bank were initiated by Moody's and were not requested by the rated entities.

Rated entities Amen bank, Banque de Tunisie and Arab Tunisian Bank or their agent(s) participated in the rating process. These rated entities or their agent(s), if any provided Moody's access to the books, records and other relevant internal documents of the rated entities.

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.

Melina Skouridou
Analyst
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service Cyprus Ltd.
Kanika Business Centre
319 28th October Avenue
PO Box 53205
Limassol CY 3301
Cyprus
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Yves J Lemay
MD - Banking
Financial Institutions Group
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Releasing Office:
Moody's Investors Service Cyprus Ltd.
Kanika Business Centre
319 28th October Avenue
PO Box 53205
Limassol CY 3301
Cyprus
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Moody's takes actions on five Tunisian banks
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