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Rating Action:

Moody's upgrades Close Brothers Limited's bank deposit ratings to Aa3/Prime-1; outlook stable

07 May 2015

Standalone BCA upgraded to a2 from a3

London, 07 May 2015 -- Moody's Investors Service has today upgraded the long-term deposit rating of Close Brothers Limited (CBL) to Aa3 from A3 and its short-term deposit rating to Prime-1 from Prime-2. Concurrently, Moody's has assigned a Counterparty Risk Assessment (CR Assessment) of Aa2(cr)/Prime-1(cr) to CBL.

This follows the upgrade of the bank's baseline credit assessment (BCA) to a2 from a3, driven by its improved asset-quality profile. It also incorporates the implementation of Moody's new bank rating methodology, particularly the advanced Loss Given Failure (LGF) analysis, which provides a further two-notch benefit to the bank's long-term deposit rating.

Moody's has furthermore upgraded the long-term issuer and senior unsecured rating for Close Brothers Group PLC (CBG) to A3 from Baa1. CBG's Prime-2 short-term issuer rating was unaffected by this rating action.

The outlook is stable on all long-term ratings for CBL and CBG.

This rating action concludes the review for upgrade on CBL's BCA and deposit ratings and on CBG's long-term issuer and senior unsecured debt rating, initiated on 17 March 2015.

A full list of affected ratings can be found at the end of this press release.

RATINGS RATIONALE

RATIONALE FOR UPGRADING CBL's BCA TO a2 FROM a3

The upgrade in CBL's BCA, which is assessed using CBG's consolidated financial metrics, mainly reflects the bank's improved asset quality profile as a result of more benign credit conditions in the UK (Aa1 stable) and further reductions in the bank's legacy property portfolio, which includes some poor-quality assets. Moody's notes, however, that the bank's relatively small loan portfolio of GBP5.5 billion at end-January 2015 included exposure to certain sectors that are cyclical by nature and therefore sensitive to changes in the UK economic environment. These, together with risks associated with its securities business increase the group's overall asset risk.

The bank's a2 BCA is also supported by four main factors. First, CBL has seen a further increase in its already strong profitability levels, underpinned by high-margin and mostly secured lending, improving its capital generation capacity and, in turn, providing it with a good degree of protection against asset-quality deterioration that might materialise in the future. The combination of high profitability and cost control also leads to high operational efficiency levels.

Second, CBL has a strong funding structure underpinned by a 'borrow long / lend short' strategy giving rise to limited refinancing risk and its ample high-quality liquidity buffer mitigates short-term liquidity stresses, in Moody's view.

Third, the bank has a good track record of performance stability over various economic cycles, which in Moody's view is indicative of a strong management team, conservative lending criteria and effective controls and risk management.

Lastly, the bank has a strong capital position compared to rated peers which, coupled with the relatively short duration of its loan portfolio, makes the business resilient to stress.

UPGRADE OF THE CBL'S DEPOSIT AND CBG'S ISSUER AND SENIOR UNSECURED RATINGS

Moody's said that the upgrades of CBL's long-term deposit rating to Aa3 from A3, its short-term deposit rating to Prime-1 from Prime-2 and CBG's long-term issuer and senior unsecured ratings to A3 from Baa1, derive from the upgrade in the BCA and the introduction of the rating agency's Loss Given Failure (LGF) analysis.

Moody's applies its LGF analysis to CBG because it is domiciled in the UK, which it considers as an operational resolution regime, following the introduction of the EU Bank Resolution and Recovery Directive (BRRD). The rating agency's standard assumptions, which are applied to CBG, assume: (1) residual tangible common equity at failure of 3% of tangible banking assets, (2) losses post-failure of 8% of tangible banking assets, (3) junior wholesale deposits of 26% of the bank's total deposit book, (4) a 25% run-off in junior wholesale deposits, (5) a 5% run-off in preferred deposits, and (6) a 25% probability of deposits being preferred to senior unsecured debt. Under these assumptions, CBL's deposits are likely to face very low loss-given-failure, due to the loss absorption provided by subordinated debt and, potentially, by senior unsecured debt should deposits be treated preferentially in a resolution, as well as the volume of deposits themselves. This results in a Preliminary Rating Assessment (PRA) for CBL's deposit of Aa3, two notches above the a2 BCA. The upgrade of the firm's long-term deposit ratings to Aa3, reflecting a strengthening of its credit standing and the LGF analysis, have led to the upgrade of the bank's short-term deposit rating to Prime-1 from Prime-2.

CBG's senior unsecured creditors are likely to face high loss-given failure, as the holding company has limited senior unsecured and/or junior liabilities. This results in a PRA for CBG's senior unsecured creditors of A3, one notch below the a2 BCA of CBL, from which these ratings are ultimately derived.

Moody's judges the probability of support from the UK public authorities for the group's creditors to be low, and as such it does not include any uplift based on government support in its ratings.

RATIONALE FOR STABLE OUTLOOK

The stable outlook on CBL's long-term deposit rating and on CBG's issuer and senior unsecured ratings reflects Moody's view that the positive trends in the firm's credit fundamentals are now fully reflected in the bank's BCA, from which these ratings are derived.

RATIONALE FOR THE CR ASSESSMENT

As part of today's actions, Moody's has assigned CR Assessment to CBL of Aa2(cr)/Prime-1(cr). The CR Assessment, which is not a rating, reflects an issuer's probability of defaulting on certain bank operating liabilities, such as covered bonds, derivatives, letters of credit and other contractual commitments. In assigning the CR Assessment, Moody's evaluates the issuer's standalone strength and the likelihood, should the need arise, of affiliate and government support, as well as the anticipated seniority of counterparty obligations under Moody's Loss Given Failure framework. The CR Assessment also assumes that authorities will likely take steps to preserve the continuity of a bank's key operations, maintain payment flows, and avoid contagion should the bank enter a resolution.

WHAT COULD CHANGE THE RATING -- UP/DOWN

CBL's high rating relative to its UK rated peers, and the still-elevated growth rate of CBL's loan book, imply limited upward potential for the bank's ratings. Downward pressure on the ratings could materialise from continued above-average loan-book growth combined with greater than expected asset quality deterioration, which could materialise for example in the event of a very severe downturn in the UK economy. A reversal in the improving profitability trend and a weakening of the group's funding and liquidity profile could also be negative for the ratings.

LIST OF AFFECTED RATINGS

..Issuer: Close Brothers Limited

....Adjusted Baseline Credit Assessment , Upgraded to a2 from a3

....Baseline Credit Assessment , Upgraded to a2 from a3

....Long-Term Bank Deposits, Upgraded to Aa3 Stable from A3 Rating Under Review

....Short-Term Bank Deposits, Upgraded to Prime-1 from Prime-2 Rating Under Review

....Assigned Counterparty Risk Assessment of Aa2(cr)/Prime-1(cr).

..Issuer: Close Brothers Group PLC

....Long-Term Issuer Rating, Upgraded to A3 Stable from Baa1 Rating Under Review

....Senior Unsecured Rating, Upgraded to A3 Stable from Baa1 Rating Under Review

..Issuer: Close Brothers Finance PLC

....BACKED Senior Unsecured Rating, Upgraded to Aa3 Stable from A3 Rating Under Review

....BACKED Senior Unsecured Medium-Term Note Program, Upgraded to (P)Aa3 from (P)A3 Rating Under Review

....BACKED Other Short-Term Rating, Upgraded to (P)Prime-1 from (P)Prime-2 Rating Under Review

Outlook Actions:

Outlook, Changed To Stable From Rating Under Review

..Issuer: Close Brothers Limited

..Issuer: Close Brothers Group PLC

..Issuer: Close Brothers Finance PLC

PRINCIPAL METHODOLOGY

The principal methodology used in these ratings was Banks published in March 2015. 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.

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.

Andrea Usai
VP - Senior Credit Officer
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
One Canada Square
Canary Wharf
London E14 5FA
United Kingdom
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Nicholas Hill
Managing Director
Financial Institutions Group
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Releasing Office:
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
One Canada Square
Canary Wharf
London E14 5FA
United Kingdom
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Moody's upgrades Close Brothers Limited's bank deposit ratings to Aa3/Prime-1; outlook stable
No Related Data.
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