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Two Cypriot banks downgraded by Moody’s

Moody’s Investor Services had downgraded the Bank of Cyprus and the Hellenic Bank and has rated them and the Cyprus Popular Bank on review for downgrade as a result of their extensive operations in Greece.

YESTERDAY, Moody’s Investors Service took actions on three Cypriot banks to reflect the increased risk of a Greek exit from the euro area. Moody’s says that the banks’ extensive operations in Greece render their capital positions vulnerable to such an event.

Moody’s has taken the following rating actions:

  • Bank of Cyprus (BoC): The deposit and senior unsecured debt ratings were downgraded by one notch to B2 from B1, and the standalone credit assessment lowered to b3 from b2 (within the E+ bank financial strength rating). The bank’s ratings were placed on review for downgrade.
  • Hellenic Bank Ltd (Hellenic): The deposit ratings were downgraded by one notch to B1 from Ba3 and the standalone credit assessment lowered to b2 from b1 (within the E+ BFSR range). The bank’s ratings were placed on review for downgrade.
  • Cyprus Popular Bank (CPB): The bank’s B3 senior unsecured debt and deposit ratings were placed on review for downgrade. Moody’s will also re-assess the bank’s standalone credit assessment of caa1 (mapped from its E BFSR) during the review period.

Ratings Rationale

Yesterday’s actions on the Cypriot banks primarily reflect Moody’s view, as expressed on 1 June 2012, of the increased risk of Greece exiting the euro area.

Although a Greek exit is not Moody’s central scenario, the rating agency says that it considers the risk of a euro exit by Greece as substantial and recognises that the probability of such an outcome may increase further following the Greek parliamentary elections on 17 June.

The rated Cypriot banks maintain extensive branch operations in Greece, with exposures to Greek borrowers amounting to 42% of net loans for CPB, to 34% of gross loans for BoC, and 17% of gross loans for Hellenic. As such, their capital positions remain susceptible to the direct and indirect consequences of a Greek exit.

The heightened risk of a euro exit could lead to an acceleration in deposit outflows from Cypriot banks’ Greek branches, pressuring liquidity, whilst a euro area exit – triggering currency redenomination, a likely sovereign default and widespread economic stresses – would materially weaken the banks’ solvency.

Yesterday’s downgrades incorporate the impact of the increased risk of a Greek exit in the Cypriot banks’ ratings and reflect, on a relative basis, BoC’s sizable and Hellenic’s moderate exposures to the Greek operating environment. CPB’s ratings incorporate the severe solvency and liquidity risks that the bank faces.

Further reading

Press release: Moody’s downgrades two Cypriot banks

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