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Rating Action:

Moody's takes actions on guaranteed debt of four Austrian banks; ratings placed on review for downgrade

18 Feb 2014

Prime-1 guaranteed short-term ratings of Hypo Tirol also put on review for downgrade

Frankfurt am Main, February 18, 2014 -- Moody's Investors Service has today taken the following actions on the backed long-term and short-term ratings of four Austrian banking groups, whose ratings benefit from a statutory deficiency guarantee issued by Austrian federal states or municipalities:

(1) Moody's has lowered the ratings of the guaranteed long-term senior unsecured and subordinated debt instruments of Hypo Tirol Bank AG, Vorarlberger Landes- und Hypothekenbank AG and UniCredit Bank Austria AG that benefit from statutory deficiency guarantees from individual Austrian federal states or the City of Vienna (Aaa negative). This action has been taken to capture the rating agency's assessment of increased uncertainty about the value of the guarantees to bondholders. The ratings remain on review for downgrade.

(2) As a consequence, Moody's has also placed on review for downgrade the Prime-1 short-term guaranteed deposit ratings of Hypo Tirol Bank AG. At the same time, the rating agency affirmed the Prime-1 short-term guaranteed deposit ratings of Vorarlberger Landes- und Hypothekenbank AG.

(3) Moody's has also placed on review for downgrade the long-term Aaa backed senior unsecured debt ratings of Pfandbriefstelle der Oesterreichischen Landes-Hypothekenbanken (Pfandbriefstelle). The rated debt obligations of Pfandbriefstelle are grandfathered (under statutory deficiency guarantees) by its member banks - Landeshypothekenbanken (regional commercial and mortgage banks) - and those banks' guarantors, the respective Austrian federal states (Bundesländer), according to Austrian federal law.

The main driver of these actions is the precedent set in the case of Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank International AG (HAA), in which Moody's observes rising uncertainty about the intentions of the bank's current owner, the Austrian government (Aaa negative), with regards to the bank's future. In the public debate around how to effect HAA's resolution the possibility has been mooted, and has not been conclusively ruled out, that bondholders may not be fully protected in that process, notwithstanding the statutory deficiency guarantee on their holdings. The debate signals that Austrian authorities more generally are willing to countenance, even if not yet to favour, bank resolutions which might greatly reduce the value of such a deficiency guarantee to ensure full and timely payment of interest and principal.

As a consequence, the guaranteed ratings of the banks affected by this rating action are placed on review for downgrade to allow Moody's to assess their statutory guarantees against the increased uncertainty of the Austrian federal and regional governments' actions and the implied risks for bondholders.

Please see the end of the press release for a detailed list of the affected ratings. All other ratings of the listed banks remain unaffected by this rating action.

For more details on HAA's situation please refer to our press release (https://www.moodys.com/research/Moodys-downgrades-Hypo-Alpe-Adrias-guaranteed-debt-ratings-ratings-placed--PR_292479), published on 14 February 2014.

RATINGS RATIONALE

Previously, the ratings of the guaranteed debt issued by all of these entities reflected Moody's view that it was appropriate to look through the banks to the providers of their respective statutory deficiency guarantees. However, recent public discussions about how to effect the resolution of HAA have revealed that public sector owners may be willing to consider outcomes which might impair the value of the deficiency guarantee. In the case of HAA, government officials have acknowledged in public statements that taxpayer costs are a concern, raising the prospect of actions that could be detrimental to bondholder interests notwithstanding the apparent protection of the statutory deficiency guarantee from the State of Carinthia.

Moody's continues to believe that such outcomes are unlikely to materialise. Indeed, it is not clear how a distressed exchange or a haircut to bondholders would be achieved given the existence of a statutory state deficiency guarantee. However, the fact that they continue to gain traction in the public debate without being conclusively ruled out implies a level of risk to all bondholders that benefit from similar guarantees of other federal states or municipalities which is incommensurate with previous ratings of such instruments. Accordingly, in order to reflect the increased risk, Moody's has decided to cease applying full credit substitution for these guaranteed debt issues, and instead to position each rating at a level below that of the respective guarantor.

The rating actions on the short-term ratings on guaranteed debt follows the rating actions on the long-term ratings. We affirmed the short term rating Prime-1 of Vorarlberger Landes- und Hypothekenbank AG given the bank's long-term debt and deposit ratings of A1 with a negative outlook which sets a floor for the outcome of the review on the guaranteed debt.

The rating agency considers the fundamental credit metrics of the banks affected by the current rating action to be substantially stronger than that of HAA. However, we do believe that government officials may explore similar options in the - currently unlikely - event of a distressed scenario for the banks affected by today's rating actions.

--- FOCUS OF THE REVIEW

The considerable uncertainty about the government's intentions, necessitates a further review period. During the review, Moody's will monitor how the resolution of HAA unfolds in order to gain clarity on the government's intentions both now and in the long term, and specifically on how far bondholders of the banks affected by today's rating actions can continue to fully rely on their respective guarantees to ensure full and timely repayment of amounts due.

The downward direction of each review reflects the fact that, even if the government confirms its intention not to impose losses on bondholders in the case of HAA, that would not imply a return towards previous rating levels for other banks' guaranteed debts. The fact that such options appear to have been considered implies risks to all holders of bonds protected by these deficiency guarantees, which needs to be reflected in their ratings on an ongoing basis.

WHAT COULD MOVE THE RATINGS UP / DOWN

Downward pressure on the affected state-guaranteed debts would be triggered were Moody's to conclude that the authorities' willingness to countenance creditor-unfriendly solutions despite the existence of statutory guarantees was higher than previously assumed. Downward pressure would also arise from any deterioration of the creditworthiness of the respective sub-sovereigns.

The review for downgrade reflects the lack of upward pressure on the guaranteed debt.

DETAILED LIST OF RATING ACTIONS

(1) Hypo Tirol Bank AG

- backed long-term debt and deposit ratings (local currency (LC) and foreign currency (FC))): to Aa2 from Aaa negative, on review for downgrade,

- backed subordinated ratings (LC): to Aa3 from Aa1 negative, on review for downgrade,

- backed short-term deposit ratings (LC and FC): Prime-1, on review for downgrade

All the above ratings are backed by the State of Tyrol (unrated).

(2) Vorarlberger Landes- und Hypothekenbank AG

- backed long-term debt (LC and FC) and deposit (FC) ratings: to Aa2 from Aaa negative, on review for downgrade,

- backed subordinated ratings (LC): to Aa3 from Aa1 negative, on review for downgrade

- backed short-term deposit ratings (FC): Prime-1 affirmed

All the above backed ratings are guaranteed by the State of Vorarlberg (unrated).

(3) UniCredit Bank Austria AG

- backed senior unsecured ratings (FC and LC): to Aa3 from Aa2 negative, on review for downgrade

- backed subordinated ratings (FC and LC): to A1 from Aa3 negative, on review for downgrade

Creditanstalt AG

- backed subordinated ratings (FC), assumed by UniCredit Bank Austria AG: to A1 from Aa3 negative, on review for downgrade

All the above ratings are backed by the City of Vienna (Aaa negative).

(4) Pfandbriefstelle

- backed senior unsecured debt ratings (LC and FC): to Aaa from Aaa negative, on review for downgrade.

All the above ratings reflect the joint and several guarantees provided by the bank's nine member banking groups and its statutory guarantors.

All the other ratings of the above listed banks are unaffected by this rating action.

PRINCIPAL METHODOLOGIES

The methodologies used in this rating were Global Banks published in May 2013, and "Rating Transactions Based on the Credit Substitution Approach: Letter of Credit backed, Insured and Guaranteed Debts" published in March 2013. Please see the Credit Policy page on www.moodys.com for a copy of these methodologies.

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 below contact information is provided for information purposes only. Please see the ratings tab of the issuer page at www.moodys.com, for each of the ratings covered, Moody's disclosures on the lead analyst and the Moody's legal entity that has issued the ratings.

Regulatory disclosures contained in this press release apply to the credit rating and, if applicable, the related rating outlook or rating review.

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.

Mathias Kuelpmann
Senior Vice President
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Deutschland GmbH
An der Welle 5
Frankfurt am Main 60322
Germany
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Carola Schuler
MD - Banking
Financial Institutions Group
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Releasing Office:
Moody's Deutschland GmbH
An der Welle 5
Frankfurt am Main 60322
Germany
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Moody's takes actions on guaranteed debt of four Austrian banks; ratings placed on review for downgrade
No Related Data.
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