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Rating Action:

Moody's takes positive rating actions on five Greek banks

06 Dec 2013

Actions follow upgrade of Greece's government bond rating to Caa3, stable

Limassol, December 06, 2013 -- Moody's Investors Service has today upgraded the long-term deposit and senior debt ratings of Piraeus Bank SA, National Bank of Greece SA and Alpha Bank AE by one notch to Caa1 (stable outlook) from Caa2 (negative outlook) and increased the banks' baseline credit assessments (BCAs) to caa2 from caa3, within the bank financial strength rating (BFSR) range of E.

At the same time, Moody's has affirmed and changed the outlook to positive from negative on Eurobank Ergasias SA's Caa2 deposit and senior debt ratings, and affirmed and changed the outlook to stable from negative on Attica Bank SA's Caa2 deposit rating. The BFSR of these banks was also affirmed at E (stable outlook), equivalent to a BCA of caa3.

These rating actions follow the recent improvement in the creditworthiness of the Government of Greece, reflected by Moody's upgrade of Greece's sovereign bond rating to Caa3 (stable outlook) from C (no outlook). Please see 'Moody's upgrades Greece's government bond rating to Caa3 from C; stable outlook' dated 29 November 2013: https://www.moodys.com/research/Moodys-upgrades-Greeces-government-bond-rating-to-Caa3-from-C--PR_287652 .

The full list of affected bank ratings are provided at the end of this press release.

RATINGS RATIONALE

UPGRADE OF PIRAEUS BANK, NATIONAL BANK OF GREECE AND ALPHA BANK

The upgrade for three of the banks to Caa1 from Caa2, with stable outlooks, reflects a combination of the following:

(1) Restored capital bases, following the official recapitalisations by the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF) and private investors in June 2013.

(2) Reduction in the formation of new non-performing loans (NPLs), and Moody's expectation that the volume of NPLs will peak towards the end of 2014 or early 2015.

(3) An overall improvement in the banks' credit profiles, with the sizeable holdings of European Financial Stability Facility bonds (EFSF rated (P)Aa1, negative) that partly counterbalance risk posed by sovereign-related exposures.

(4) Improved funding and liquidity profiles, although dependence on central bank funding will remain in place for some time.

At the same time, Moody's notes that the ratings of these and other Greek banks remain significantly constrained by the still adverse operating environment, high -- although stabilising -- levels of impaired loans, ongoing losses and sovereign risk exposure.

- PIRAEUS BANK

Piraeus Bank's rating upgrade captures its strengthened capital base, sizeable holdings of EFSF bonds and improvements in its funding and liquidity profile, balanced by the high NPL levels driving the bank's current operational losses.

Following its recapitalisation, the bank's core Tier 1 ratio increased to 13.5% at the end of September 2013, well above the 9% minimum requirement set by Bank of Greece. This provides the bank with a solid loss-absorption cushion in view of its elevated NPLs, at 35.2% of gross loans. Piraeus Bank reported a net profit of EUR3.2 billion in the first nine months of 2013, as a result of a one-off negative goodwill gain of EUR3.8 billion from its recent acquisitions at a deep discount. However, Moody's expects the bank to remain loss making at an operating level in 2013-14, primarily because of high loan loss provision requirements.

The bank holds a total of around EUR14.3 billion of EFSF bonds (Aa1, negative), which mitigate the risks stemming from its direct sovereign exposure of around EUR2.3 billion, and enhance the bank's overall credit-risk profile. EFSF bonds represent around 15.4% of its total assets, and were received mainly from the HFSF as part of its recapitalisation. The EFSF bonds have also helped reduce the bank's funding and liquidity pressures, with overall central bank funding down to around EUR15 billion in September 2013, from EUR33 billion in September 2012. Following the takeover of six different entities over the past 18 months, significant progress has been made to integrate these entities and Moody's expects Piraeus Bank to benefit from synergies as the largest commercial bank in Greece.

- NATIONAL BANK OF GREECE

The rating upgrade of National Bank of Greece reflects its more favourable asset-quality, funding profile and earnings than local peers, as well as Moody's expectation of further capital enhancement to address its weaker capital base.

Although National Bank of Greece has a weaker capital base (pro-forma core Tier 1 ratio of 9.4% incorporating the recent sale of its real-estate subsidiary 'National Pangaea') relative to its similarly rated local peers, Moody's notes its stronger loan quality, with NPLs at 21.9% of gross loans as of September 2013. Moreover, Moody's expects National Bank of Greece to further strengthen its capitalisation in 2014, through the further sale of non-core assets, as well as the possible sale of a minority stake in its Turkish subsidiary Finansbank AS (Ba2, negative, BFSR E+/BCA b2 negative). The sale could yield an approximate 300 basis point enhancement to its core Tier 1 ratio.

In addition, Moody's expects that the bank will be profit-making in both 2013 and 2014, mainly as a result of the earnings contribution by Finansbank, while National Bank of Greece exhibits the best net loans-to-deposits ratio among its local peers, at 97%, due to its strong market share in savings deposits in Greece. The bank has also reduced central bank funding to EUR22.2 billion in September 2013, with no emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) from the Bank of Greece, down from EUR33 billion in September 2012.

- ALPHA BANK

Alpha Bank's rating upgrade reflects its strong capital base, declining trend in the formation of new NPLs and some improvements in its funding and liquidity profile, balanced by the high stock of NPLs and funding challenges, including a weaker net loans-to-deposits ratio relative to local peers.

Alpha Bank's loss-absorption cushion has strengthened following its recapitalisation, with a core Tier 1 ratio of 13.5% as of September 2013, up from 12.8% in September 2012. Moreover, Moody's notes the bank's declining trend in the quarterly formation of new NPLs, which resulted in a slowdown in the increase in its NPL ratio to 32.9% in September 2013. This favourable development has caused a decline in the loan loss provisions as a percentage of gross loans to 308 basis points in Q3 2013 from 391 basis points in Q3 2012.

The bank has also reduced central bank funding significantly to EUR17.5 billion (of which EUR3.5 billion in the form of ELA) in September 2013 from EUR23.7 billion in December 2012, although its net loans-to-deposits ratio remained higher than its local peers at 125% as of September 2013. Although Moody's expects the bank to report operational losses in 2013-14, Alpha Bank reported a profit of EUR2.5 billion after tax in the first nine months of 2013, driven by a one-off negative goodwill gain of EUR2.6 billion from its earlier acquisition of Emporiki Bank of Greece.

POSITIVE RATING OUTLOOK FOR EUROBANK

Moody's affirmed Eurobank's deposit rating at Caa2, and changed its rating outlook to positive from negative to reflect its plan to raise new capital and improvements in its funding profile.

The positive outlook takes into account the bank's recent announcement of its plan to raise new capital of approximately EUR2 billion in January 2014, as part of a re-privatisation initiative (following its full recapitalisation with EUR5.8 billion by the HFSF in June 2013 without the involvement of any private investors). The bank's funding profile has improved following the takeover of New Hellenic Postbank in July 2013, with central bank funding reduced to EUR17.9 billion (of which EUR5.4 billion through the ELA) in September 2013 from EUR34 billion in June 2012, as the bank's customer deposit base has strengthened.

Nonetheless, these positive developments are counterbalanced by its weaker capital levels relative to its above-mentioned local peers, leading to the positioning of the bank's rating one notch lower. Eurobank's core Tier 1 ratio was 8.1% in September 2013, lower than the 9% regulatory minimum required by Bank of Greece, thus providing the bank with a weak loss-absorption cushion.

STABLE RATING OUTLOOK FOR ATTICA BANK

Moody's affirmed Attica Bank's deposit rating at Caa2, and changed its rating outlook to stable from negative, to reflect its reduced dependence on central bank funding, a more stable deposit base and its available capital cushion.

While the bank reported a core Tier 1 ratio of 9.4% in September 2013, Moody's recognises the additional capital cushion of approximately EUR100 million provided by its mandatory contingent convertible bonds, which effectively raise its Tier 1 ratio to 12.4%. The stable outlook also takes into account the bank's low central bank funding at around 5.3% of total assets, and its more resilient deposit base from loyal customers with a net loans-to-deposits ratio of 108% in September 2013.

However, the bank's rating, positioned one notch lower than its larger peers, reflects its much smaller franchise with a market share of around 1.6%, and also its weaker earnings power. The bank has a narrow net interest margin, combined with a lower fee income capacity and a high cost base, which resulted in negative pre-provision income in 2013, unlike the other rated Greek banks. The elevated loan losses compound the earnings constraints for the bank, which posted a net loss of EUR69.2 million in the first nine months of 2013, compared with EUR108.4 million loss in the corresponding period in 2012.

EXTERNAL SUPPORT FROM THE TROIKA AND HFSF

Moody's continues to incorporate one notch of rating uplift in Greek banks' deposit and senior debt ratings from their BCAs, in view of the likelihood of support being provided from the Troika (the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) if necessary. Moody's recognises the continued supranational liquidity support to Greek banks from the ECB and the Bank of Greece, as well as potential for additional capital support through the HFSF, which has around EUR9 billion (from the EUR50 billion in total) remaining for this purpose.

WHAT COULD MOVE THE RATINGS UP/DOWN

Moody's could consider upgrading the banks' ratings in the event of a combination of (1) further easing of funding and liquidity challenges with the return of more customer deposits into the banking system; (2) asset-quality improvements, with the decline in NPLs and significantly lower provisioning levels that would support the banks' earnings; and (3) sustained capital levels above the regulatory requirement, providing a comfortable cushion to absorb loan losses.

Conversely, the banks' ratings could be downgraded if domestic operating/political conditions deteriorate leading to sizeable deposit outflows that cause any increased reliance on central bank funding, or if asset quality deteriorates more than anticipated, consuming significantly more capital than expected.

THE SPECIFIC RATING CHANGES IMPLEMENTED TODAY ARE AS FOLLOWS:

National Bank of Greece SA, NBG Finance plc, and National Bank of Greece Funding Limited:

- Standalone BFSR affirmed at E, equivalent to a BCA of caa2 from caa3

- Long-term deposit ratings and senior unsecured debt ratings upgraded to Caa1 from Caa2

- Backed (government-guaranteed) senior unsecured ratings upgraded to Caa1 from Caa2

- Subordinated debt ratings upgraded to Caa3 from Ca

- Preferred stock (Hybrid Tier 1) affirmed at Ca (hyb)

- Short-term ratings affirmed at Not-Prime

All the above-mentioned Long term ratings and BFSR have a stable outlook

Piraeus Bank SA, Piraeus Group Finance plc, and Piraeus Group Capital Limited:

- Standalone BFSR affirmed at E, equivalent to a BCA of caa2 from caa3

- Long-term deposit and senior unsecured debt ratings upgraded to Caa1 from Caa2

- Backed (government-guaranteed) senior unsecured ratings upgraded to Caa1 from Caa2

- Subordinated debt ratings upgraded to Caa3 from Ca

- Preferred stock (Hybrid Tier 1) affirmed at Ca (hyb)

- Short-term ratings affirmed at Not-Prime

All the above-mentioned long term ratings and BFSR have a stable outlook

Eurobank Ergasias SA, EFG Hellas plc, EFG Hellas (Cayman Islands) Limited, and EFG Hellas Funding Limited:

- Standalone BFSR affirmed at E (stable outlook), equivalent to a BCA of caa3

- Long-term deposit ratings and senior unsecured debt ratings affirmed at Caa2

- Backed (government-guaranteed) senior unsecured MTN affirmed at Caa2

- Subordinated debt ratings affirmed at Ca

- Preferred stock (Hybrid Tier 1) affirmed at Ca (hyb) with stable outlook

- Short-term ratings affirmed at Not-Prime

All the above-mentioned long term ratings, except the BFSR and the Hybrid Tier 1, have a positive outlook

Alpha Bank AE, Alpha Credit Group plc, Alpha Group Jersey Limited and Emporiki Group Finance plc:

- Standalone BFSR affirmed at E, equivalent to a BCA of caa2 from caa3

- Long-term deposit ratings and senior unsecured debt ratings upgraded to Caa1 from Caa2

- Backed (government-guaranteed) senior unsecured ratings upgraded to Caa1 from Caa2

- Subordinated debt ratings upgraded to Caa3 from Ca

- Preferred stock (Hybrid Tier 1) affirmed at Ca (hyb)

- Short-term ratings affirmed at Not-Prime

All the above-mentioned long term ratings and BFSR have a stable outlook

Attica Bank SA and Attica Funds plc:

- Standalone BFSR affirmed at E, equivalent to a BCA of caa3

- Long-term deposit ratings affirmed at Caa2

- Subordinated debt ratings affirmed at Ca

- Short-term ratings affirmed at Not-Prime

All the above-mentioned long term ratings and BFSR have a stable outlook

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

The principal methodology used in these ratings was Global Banks published in May 2013. Please see the Credit Policy page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

All banks affected by today's review are headquartered in Athens, Greece:

- National Bank of Greece SA reported total assets of EUR111 billion as of September 2013

- Piraeus Bank SA reported total assets of EUR92.7 billion as of September 2013

- Eurobank Ergasias SA reported total assets of EUR80.1 billion as of September 2013

- Alpha Bank SA reported total assets of EUR73.4 billion as of September 2013

- Attica Bank SA reported total assets of EUR3.9 billion as of September 2013

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.

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.

Nondas Nicolaides
Vice President - Senior 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 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 positive rating actions on five Greek banks
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