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Rating Action:

Moody's upgrades Iccrea BancaImpresa to Ba2; stable outlook assigned

28 Jan 2014

Action concludes review

NOTE: On January 31, 2014, the press release was revised as follows: Above the heading “RATINGS RATIONALE”, add heading “LIST OF AFFECTED RATINGS” with a debt list as follows: - Senior unsecured debt and EMTN, and bank deposits: to Ba2 from Ba3; to (P)Ba2 from (P)Ba3 - Subordinate debt and EMTN: confirmed at B1; confirmed at (P)B1 - Tier III debt EMTN: confirmed at (P)B1 - Junior subordinate debt and EMTN: confirmed at B2(hyb); confirmed at (P)B2 - BFSR: to E+(b1) from E (caa1). Revised release follows.

London, 28 January 2014 -- Moody's Investors Service has today concluded the review for downgrade for all ratings of Iccrea BancaImpresa S.p.a's (IBI) initiated on May 17, 2013. The conclusion of the review resulted in the following rating actions being taken:

1. Moody's has upgraded IBI's long-term issuer and deposit ratings by one notch to Ba2 from Ba3 with a stable outlook, reflecting (i) the greater likelihood of systemic support for the entire Iccrea Holding S.p.A. Group (Iccrea Group; unrated), than for IBI on its own, combined with (ii) Moody's broadening of its analytical perimeter for IBI: from a credit perspective the agency now sees IBI as an integrated part of Iccrea Group. The rating continues to incorporate a moderate expectation of support from the broader cooperative banking sector (Banche di Credito Cooperativo or BCC network).

2. IBI's standalone rating (its BCA) has been raised to b1 from caa1 in recognition of the high degree of integration of IBI into Iccrea Group; Iccrea Group's strengths with regards to liquidity and capital are therefore now assessed within IBI's standalone ratings rather than through the form of parental support as was previously the case; this change in the analytical perimeter of IBI is based upon new information regarding the degree of integration of IBI within Iccrea Group.

3. Moody's says the review concluded that there had not been sufficient deterioration in the financial strength of IBI to justify a downgrade of its standalone rating.

LIST OF AFFECTED RATINGS

- Senior unsecured debt and EMTN, and bank deposits: to Ba2 from Ba3; to (P)Ba2 from (P)Ba3

- Subordinate debt and EMTN: confirmed at B1; confirmed at (P)B1

- Tier III debt EMTN: confirmed at (P)B1

- Junior subordinate debt and EMTN: confirmed at B2(hyb); confirmed at (P)B2

- BFSR: to E+(b1) from E (caa1)

RATINGS RATIONALE

1. UPGRADE OF THE LONG-TERM ISSUER AND DEPOSIT RATING AND THE STABLE OUTLOOK

Moody's says that the one-notch upgrade of the long-term deposit rating to Ba2 from Ba3 reflects its assessment of a moderate probability of systemic support for Iccrea Group. The one-notch uplift is in line with peers of a similar size, specifically reflecting the important role Iccrea Group plays for the more than 350 cooperative banks, as well as its overall importance for the Italian banking system.

The outlook on all ratings is now stable. This reflects the expectation that any further deterioration in IBI's and Iccrea Group's credit fundamentals is likely to be limited and adequately reflected in the ratings. This is supported by the slight improvement of the Italian operating environment, as Moody's forecasts Italian GDP to grow between 0 and 1% in 2014 (See Note 2), compared to a decline of around 1.8% in 2013.

2. RAISING OF THE STANDALONE BCA

Iccrea Group is the central banking group of the BCC network. It is composed of a holding company, Iccrea Holding S.p.A (IHG; unrated), and a number of operating banks, the major ones being IBI and Iccrea Banca S.p.A (Iccrea Banca; unrated). The Iccrea Group has total assets of EUR 47.8billion, which would position it as Italy's 11th largest bank, and it is supervised on a consolidated basis by the Bank of Italy. It is managed as a single group, with a highly integrated balance sheet structure for the individual entities. Based on new information about the group, unconsolidated financial statements of the different group entities and other elements, Moody's says that it now considers the strength of the entire group being available to all entities within the group. Therefore the agency now assesses the standalone financial strength of IBI as being aligned with that of Iccrea Group and it has accordingly decided to reflect the consolidated financial strength of Iccrea Group in the standalone rating of IBI. This has resulted in the decision to raise IBI's standalone rating from caa1 to b1. The only parental support specifically reflected in the adjusted BCA is the support from the cooperative network BCC, resulting in a one notch uplift of the adjusted BCA to ba3.

Previously, the standalone BCA of IBI did not incorporate any credit strengths derived specifically from the group's higher capital or liquidity levels; rather, these factors had been considered together with the unchanged assessment of the BCC support as external, parental support in the adjusted BCA, which also remains unchanged at ba3.

3. CONFIRMATION OF IBI'S STANDALONE RATINGS

The agency believes that a standalone BCA of b1 is appropriate for IBI, reflecting (1) Iccrea Group solid funding and ample liquidity, supported by its role in the BCC network; (2) modest capitalisation, mitigated by several factors, as explained below; (3) weak and deteriorating asset quality as well as significant concentration in Italian government bonds; and (4) low but stable profitability in the context of its specific business model within the cooperative banking network.

--- Solid funding and ample liquidity supported by the bank's role in the BCC's network

IBI relies primarily on Iccrea Banca for all new funding and Moody's expects this to continue over the medium term. At the consolidated level, and given its role to channel European Central Bank (ECB)-provided funds into the BCC network, Iccrea Group currently benefits from ample liquidity, as most of its balance sheet comprises liquid assets, and a matched funding profile. Moody's anticipates that Iccrea Group should be able to maintain a sound liquidity position and stable funding from the BCC network.

--- Modest capitalisation mitigated by several factors

Given that equity is allocated by IHG among the different subsidiaries taking into account regulatory, tax, accounting and other operational factors, Moody's considers IBI's capitalisation as modest, but adequate relatively to IBI's role within the Iccrea Group. The agency believes that the capital within the group is fungible because Iccrea Group is considered as an unique entity from a regulatory standpoint. At consolidated level, with a Core Tier 1 ratio of 9.7% at end-H1203, Iccrea Group's capitalisation is weak compared to its risk profile, albeit mitigated by some factors related to its asset quality including (1) limited single name concentration in the banking and customer loan portfolio; and (2) higher collateralisation of IBI's lending book primarily in the leasing sector, supported by a easier and quicker recovery process.

--- Deteriorating asset quality and significant concentration on Italian government bonds

IBI's loan book accounted for about 88.4% of Iccrea Group's lending portfolio at end-H12013 (which accounted for 25.1% of the Group's total assets), and drives the Group's asset quality metrics. At end-H12013 IBI reported problem loans ( See Note 1) of 12.8% of gross loans, while the figure for Iccrea Group was 12.5%. Moody's expects further deterioration of IBI's asset quality, albeit at a slower pace than in previous years.

At consolidated level, the agency identifies two other categories from which credit risk may arise: (1) loans to BCCs, which account for 42.2% of Iccrea Group's total assets and are the technical form through which the Group channels Long Term Refinancing Operation funds provided by the ECB to the co-operative banks. However, Moody's does not envisage any significant problem arising from this category, given the high overcollateralisation and granularity of the portfolio; and (2) Iccrea Group's securities portfolio (30.7% of total assets) which is about 9.5x the Group's Tier 1 Capital. Moody's believes that a key risk for the Group stems from its concentration on government bonds, which makes it particularly sensitive to sovereign tail-risk events.

--- Low but stable profitability

Moody's expects that high loan-loss provisions in future years will continue to suppress IBI's profitability. Net interest income coming from the loan portfolio is expected to decline due to higher funding costs and loan deleveraging. Bottom line profitability will be primarily driven by how IHG will allocate the group's investment portfolio among the two main subsidiaries, IBI and Iccrea Banca. At the consolidated level, Moody's expects that the persistently low interest-rate environment, increasing funding costs and the already mentioned high loan impairment charges will continue to weaken the group's profitability in the next two years.

WHAT COULD MOVE THE RATINGS UP/DOWN

IBI's standalone BCA could come under upward pressure through a combination of the following factors:

(1) evidence of a significant and sustainable improvement of asset quality, as indicated by non-performing loans trending back towards pre-crisis levels over several quarters; (2) a return to higher and sustainable profitability on an operational level beyond the benefit of carry trades over several consecutive quarters; and (3) a significant strengthening of its solvency profile, beyond the expected improvement coming from a EUR50 million rights issue in the next two years and internal capital generation.

The deposit rating could be upgraded if (1) Moody's raises IBI's BCA; (2) the BCC network shows a stronger commitment to support Iccrea Group; and/or (3) Moody's assesses that the willingness or ability of the Italian government (Baa2 negative) to support its banking system has strengthened.

Further unexpected material deterioration in IBI's asset-quality metrics or a weakening in Iccrea Group's funding profile would exert downward pressure on the bank's standalone BCA.

The deposit rating could be lowered if (1) Moody's lowers IBI's BCA; (2) Moody's assesses a lower degree of support from the BCC network; and/or (3) Moody's assesses that the Italian government's willingness or ability to support its banking system is weakening.

Note 1: Moody's definition of problem loans include non-performing loans (sofferenze), 30% of watchlist (incagli), restructured (ristrutturati) and "past due" loans (scaduti)

Note 2: Global Macro Outlook 2013-2015, published in November 2013

PRINCIPAL METHODOLOGIES

The principal methodology used in this rating was Global Banks published in May 2013. 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.

Dany Castiglione
Asst Vice President - Analyst
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

Johannes Felix Wassenberg
MD - Banking
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 Iccrea BancaImpresa to Ba2; stable outlook assigned
No Related Data.
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