Standalone financial strength rating of SNS Bank and ratings for hybrid capital instruments of all entities downgraded with ongoing review
London, 21 November 2012 -- Moody's Investors Service has today placed on review for downgrade the ratings of all SNS REAAL Group's entities. Today's announcements and actions were triggered by (1) the rapid deterioration of the Dutch commercial real-estate (CRE) sector, which raises the likelihood of future losses on SNS's CRE exposures booked under the property finance (PF) legacy portfolio; and (2) the rating agency's view of an increasing probability that the group might need external support to immunise SNS Bank against potential CRE losses and preserve its solvency.
The rating agency has taken the following actions on SNS Bank:
(1) Downgraded the standalone bank financial strength rating (BFSR) to E+ (equivalent to a standalone credit assessment of b3) from D+/ba1, and placed the BFSR under review for further downgrade.
(2) Placed on review for downgrade the Baa2/Prime-2 long and short-term debt and deposit ratings, prompted by the review of the BFSR.
Because of the actions on SNS Bank, Moody's has also taken the following actions on the other entities of the group:
(1) Placed on review for downgrade the Baa1 insurance financial strength ratings (IFSRs) of SNS REAAL Group's main insurance operations, REAAL Schadeverzekeringen N.V. and SRLEV N.V.
(2) Placed on review for downgrade the Baa3 senior debt rating and (P) Prime-3 short-term debt rating of SNS REAAL N.V., the holding company of the Group.
Moody's has also downgraded the ratings of several subordinated securities issued by various entities of the group and these ratings remain on review for further downgrade. These rating actions reflect the group's weakened standalone credit profile, and, for hybrid instruments (1) Moody's expectations of an increased risk of omission of future coupon payments; and (2) the potential for the European Commission (EC) to impose compensation measures for previous (or potentially renewed) state-aid measures.
Moody's review will consider the potential impact on SNS's creditworthiness of the restructuring plan that the group intends to announce either in late 2012, or in early 2013. Moody's will assess the extent to which these measures will effectively (1) restore the capital of the various group entities; and/or (2) immunise the group against future losses in SNS Bank's legacy PF portfolio.
A list of affected credit ratings is available at the end of this Press Release.
--- SNS BANK'S STANDALONE FINANCIAL STRENGTH
SNS Bank's BFSR was downgraded to E+/b3. This reflects Moody's view that SNS Bank's credit risk has increased, absent any extraordinary support. SNS Bank's higher credit-risk profile is driven by (1) the rapid deterioration of the Dutch CRE sector, and the resulting higher-than-previously anticipated levels of impairments on the bank's legacy PF portfolio; and (2) the increasing pressure on SNS Bank's solvency, with a Core Tier 1 ratio of 8.8% at end-September (end-June: 9.6%).
While the bank's capital has previously benefited from the support of the rest of the group -- notably through asset transfers and capital injections -- Moody's believes that future impairments on the bank's PF portfolio may exceed the group's support capacity.
In combination, these factors suggest a rising likelihood that SNS Bank will require additional support from sources outside the group. This is in turn reflected in the downgrade of the standalone credit assessment to E+/b3.
The downgrade of the standalone credit assessment to E+/b3 was limited by Moody's expectation that the plan the group intends to present aims to restore capital and immunise the bank against future impairments on the legacy PF portfolio, rather than to remediate an immediate capital shortfall. Furthermore, Moody's considers the bank's liquidity position to be adequate, which mitigates the risks of a loss of investor confidence in the short-term, in Moody's view.
The BFSR remains on review for downgrade, reflecting potential further deterioration of the bank's standalone credit assessment, if (1) the group's financial fundamentals deteriorate further; and/or (2) the EC imposes compensation measures for previous or potentially renewed state-aid.
--- SNS BANK'S DEPOSIT AND SENIOR UNSECURED DEBT RATINGS
Moody's review of SNS Bank's Baa2/Prime-2 senior unsecured debt and deposit ratings follows the opening of the review of the standalone BFSR. The review period will allow Moody's to re-assess its assumptions of systemic support for the bank, in the context of the weaker standalone credit profile and the introduction of the Dutch Intervention Act introduced in June 2012. This Act gives the Dutch Ministry of Finance and the Dutch central bank (De Nederlandsche Bank) more options for dealing with troubled institutions, including the transfer of assets and liabilities to "bridge" banks.
Nonetheless, Moody's continues to consider that there is a high probability of systemic support available to the bank, in case of need, which substantially mitigates the deterioration in its standalone financial strength. This reflects the bank's domestic retail-deposit market share of around 10%, indicative of its systemic relevance in the Netherlands. Therefore, Moody's expects the magnitude of a potential downgrade on the long-term ratings to be more limited than for today's action on the BFSR.
--- INSURANCE FINANCIAL STRENGTH RATINGS
The review for downgrade on the Baa1 IFSRs of REAAL Schadeverzekeringen and SRLEV reflects (1) the weakening credit profile of SNS Bank; and (2) the significant contagion risks between the insurance and the banking operations of the SNS REAAL Group, notably because of capital, franchise and financial flexibility inter-linkages.
Moody's says that its review of the IFSRs will focus on the risks for the insurance operations' market position, profitability, capitalisation and access to capital markets, in the context of the bank's standalone credit profile and the expected role of the insurance operations within the SNS REAAL Group. Moody's says that a potential decision by SNS REAAL to divest the insurance operations may limit the risks of contagion from the bank, while a decision to retain these operations could potentially lead to a multi-notch downgrade of the IFSRs.
--- SNS REAAL HOLDING COMPANY SENIOR DEBT AND SHORT-TERM DEBT RATING
The rating action on SNS REAAL N.V.'s senior and short-term debt ratings reflects the similar rating actions on SNS REAAL's insurance operations and SNS Bank's senior debt rating.
The Baa3 senior debt rating of SNS REAAL continues to reflect the combination of (1) the credit strengths of the banking and insurance operations of SNS REAAL; (2) the specific benefit derived from the diversification afforded by its banking and insurance activities; (3) the systemic support that would be available to the banking units and the resulting benefits attributable to the holding operations; and (4) the structural subordination of the revenues that the Group receives in the form of dividends from operating companies.
--- SUBORDINATED DEBT RATINGS
The downgrade of the ratings of several subordinated securities issued by various entities of the group reflects the weakened credit profiles of these entities.
The downgrade of SNS Bank's dated subordinated debt ratings to Caa1 from Ba2 reflects the similar action on the institution's standalone BFSR. The subordinated debt rating is one notch below SNS Bank's b3 standalone credit assessment and remains under review for downgrade.
The downgrade of SNS REAAL's subordinated debt rating to Caa1 from Ba2 mirrors the rating action on SNS Bank's dated subordinated debt rating. This reflects Moody's opinion that the intrinsic financial strength of the holding company, which excludes any benefit from potential systemic support and from which the subordinated debt will be anchored, cannot be stronger than the intrinsic financial strength of SNS Bank going forward. Furthermore, if SNS REAAL sold or decided to sell its insurance operations, the holding company's intrinsic financial strength would ultimately be lower than that of the bank, due to its structural subordination within the group. Given these uncertainties, the debt rating remains on review for downgrade.
--- HYBRID INSTRUMENTS
Moody's rating actions on the hybrid securities issued by several of SNS REAAL's entities reflect the weakened credit profiles of these entities, as well as (1) Moody's expectations for an increased risk of omission of future coupon payments; and (2) the potential for intervention by the EC that also increases the risk of a principal write-down on some instruments.
Moody's notes that the terms and conditions of these hybrids allow -- or in some cases oblige -- the entities to defer coupons, subject to certain triggers. Given the weakening credit profile of SNS Bank and the risk of contagion to the holding company and to the insurance operations, the probability has increased that SNS REAAL could skip the coupons on some of these debts.
Moody's also says that there is an increased probability that SNS REAAL will not be able to repay the State Aid it received in 2008, because of the overall weakening of the group's credit profile. This could prompt the EC to impose restrictions on the Group as a whole, including coupon deferrals on hybrid instruments.
The downgrade of SNS Bank's Junior Subordinated notes to Caa3(hyb) from B1(hyb) reflects (1) the downgrade of SNS Bank's standalone financial strength rating; (2) the existence of a mandatory coupon suspension mechanism in the event that the bank has no distributable items; and (3) the non-cumulative feature of the instrument. The Junior Subordinated notes are rated three notches below SNS Bank's baseline credit assessment of b3. The rating is on review for downgrade, in line with the standalone credit assessment of the bank.
The downgrade of SNS Bank's Tier 1 Notes to Ca(hyb) from B1(hyb) reflects (1) the downgrade of SNS Bank's standalone financial strength rating; (2) the existence of a mandatory coupon suspension mechanism tied to a breach of minimum solvency ratios or to regulatory intervention; (3) the optional coupon suspension mechanism subject to a look-back period of 6 months; and (4) the non-cumulative feature of the instrument. In addition, the instruments contain a variation provision, which allows the issuer to vary the terms of the securities so that they remain compliant with Tier 1 requirements set by the Dutch regulator, possibly posing additional credit risk for investors.
The Tier 1 notes are rated one notch below the Junior Subordinated notes, as Moody's considers them to have terms which lead to higher credit risk. This reflects notably the possibility that part of the principal may be written down through the variation of the terms of the documentation.
The downgrade of SNS REAAL's Capital Securities to Caa2(hyb) from Ba3 (hyb) reflects the similar action taken on SNS Bank's hybrid debt ratings. The downgrade of the hybrid debt rating also captures the higher risk of coupon deferral on this instrument and the cumulative nature of the coupon skip.
The downgrade of the ratings on the hybrid debts issued by SRLEV to Ba1 (hyb) from Baa3(hyb) also reflects Moody's opinion of an increased probability of deferral of coupons on these securities and the cumulative nature of the coupon skip.
WHAT COULD MOVE THE RATINGS UP/DOWN
--- SNS BANK
SNS Bank's standalone BFSR is on review for downgrade and as such the probability of an upgrade is remote. Elements that could lead to a confirmation include a material improvement in the capital base or a reduction in the credit risk arising from the PF portfolio in particular.
Conversely, SNS Bank's standalone BFSR could be downgraded further if (1) asset quality and capital continue to deteriorate, making the need for external support still more likely; (2) funding and liquidity challenges intensify, for example as a result of deposit outflows combined with increasingly restricted capital market access; or (3) the EC imposes compensation measures that are detrimental to the bank's overall franchise.
SNS Bank's long-term ratings would likely be downgraded if Moody's concludes that the deterioration in SNS Bank's fundamentals are not fully offset by likely external support. This may be the case in the event of (1) Moody's perception of an increased willingness by the government to insulate its own finances from the crisis affecting financial institutions; (2) the imposition of burden-sharing with senior creditors, notably by recourse to the Dutch Intervention Act of June 2012, or (3) a deterioration of the financial position of the government of the Netherlands.
--- INSURANCE ENTITIES
According to Moody's, the IFSRs of the insurance companies could potentially be downgraded if the companies' operations remain within the SNS REAAL Group. However, the IFSRs might also be downgraded if SNS REAAL decided to sell these operations, but Moody's believes that the sale process would not be executed in a reasonable short period. In these scenarios, the ultimate IFSRs of the insurance operations would be linked to SNS Bank's standalone credit assessment, leading to a potential multi-notch downgrade. Conversely, the ratings could be confirmed if the group expedites a rapid divestment of its insurance operations.
--- HOLDING COMPANY
The rating agency says that a downgrade of the bank's long-term ratings or of the insurance entities' IFSRs would likely result in a downgrade of the holding company's senior debt ratings. Furthermore, a downgrade of SNS REAAL's senior debt rating would result in a downgrade of the holding company's short-term debt rating to Not-Prime from (P) Prime-3.
--- SUBORDINATED AND HYBRID DEBT INSTRUMENTS
A downgrade of SNS Bank's BFSR would result in a downgrade of its subordinated and hybrid debt instruments. Furthermore, the bank's hybrid debt ratings could be downgraded if Moody's believes that the probability of a coupon deferral has increased for those instruments.
A downgrade of SRLEV's IFSR would lead to a downgrade of hybrid debts issued by this entity. Moreover, the hybrid debt ratings of SRLEV could be downgraded if Moody's believes that the probability of a coupon deferral has increased for those instruments.
A downgrade of SNS Bank's standalone BFSR would result in a downgrade of SNS REAAL's subordinated and hybrid debt ratings. Separately, a decision by SNS REAAL to sell its insurance operations would likely also result in a downgrade of SNS REAAL's subordinated and hybrid debt ratings.
LIST OF AFFECTED RATINGS
The following ratings were placed on review for possible downgrade:
- REAAL Schadeverzekeringen N.V. -- insurance financial strength rating at Baa1;
- SRLEV N.V. -- insurance financial strength rating at Baa1;
- SNS Bank N.V. -- senior unsecured debt rating and long term bank deposit rating at Baa2;
- SNS Bank N.V. -- short-term bank deposit rating and other short-term ratings at Prime-2;
- SNS REAAL N.V. -- senior unsecured debt rating at Baa3;
- SNS REAAL N.V. -- senior unsecured MTN rating at (P)Baa3;
- SNS REAAL N.V. -- short term issuer rating at (P)P-3.
The following ratings have been downgraded and placed on review for further downgrade:
- SNS REAAL N.V. -- subordinated debt rating to Caa1 from Ba2;
- SNS REAAL N.V. -- subordinated MTN rating to (P)Caa1 from (P)Ba2;
- SNS REAAL N.V. -- preferred stock rating to Caa2(hyb) from Ba3(hyb);
- SRLEV N.V. -- dated subordinated debt rating to Ba1(hyb) from Baa3 (hyb);
- SRLEV N.V. -- perpetual junior subordinated debt rating to Ba1(hyb) from Baa3(hyb);
- SNS Bank N.V. -- bank financial strength rating to E+ (mapping to b3) from D+ (mapping to ba1);
- SNS Bank N.V. -- subordinated debt rating to Caa1 from Ba2;
- SNS Bank N.V. -- subordinate MTN rating to (P)Caa1 from (P)Ba2;
- SNS Bank N.V. -- Tier 1 securities rating to Ca(hyb) from B1(hyb); (ISIN XS0172565482)
- SNS Bank N.V. -- Tier 1 securities rating to Ca(hyb) from B1(hyb); (ISIN XS0468954523)
SNS Bank backed senior unsecured rating at Aaa with a negative outlook, and the backed other short term rating of (P)P-1, remain unaffected by this rating action.
The methodologies used in these ratings were Moody's Consolidated Global Bank Rating Methodology published in June2012, Moody's Global Rating Methodology for Property and Casualty Insurers published in May 2010, Moody's Global Rating Methodology for Life Insurers published in May 2010 and Moody's Guidelines for Rating Insurance Hybrid Securities and Subordinated Debt published in January 2010. Please see the Credit Policy page on www.moodys.com for a copy of these methodologies.
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The person who approved SNS Bank N.V credit ratings is Carola Schuler, Managing Director - Banking JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456 SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454
The person who approved REAAL Verzekeringen and SNS REAAL credit ratings is Simon Harris, Managing Director - Insurance JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456 SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454
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