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Fitch lowers BIL but affirms BGL

News Business 19.07.2012 Aaron Grunwald
Photo: Staff (archives)

Finance: One of the major credit ratings agencies has downgraded Banque Internationale à Luxembourg, but maintained its grading of BGL BNP Paribas.

Fitch Ratings lowered BIL’s score two notches on its 30 level scale, from “A+” to “A-”.

The move follows BIL’s sale late last year by troubled banking group Dexia to Qatari investment group Precision Capital, with a minor stake going to the Grand Duchy’s government.

“As Fitch does not rate Precision Capital, neither its ability nor its willingness to support BIL are factored into the ratings,” the agency said on Tuesday afternoon.

Fitch also noted that BIL’s business will be reduced by about half after its bond, asset management and investor services businesses are sold, and that afterwards the bank will focus solely on private, retain and commercial banking in Luxembourg and Greater Region.

While “the quality of [BIL’s] loan book remains good,” the agency said it “does not expect a change in the willingness of the Luxembourg authorities to support banks in the near term given the current market turbulence.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Fitch had affirmed its “A” score on BGL BNP Paribas, citing the continued strong ratings of BGL’s two-thirds owner, French bank BNP Paribas, and one-third stakeholder, the Luxembourg state.

Fitch also noted that BGL is one of the three largest retail and commercial banks, and the biggest private bank, in the Grand Duchy. At the same time, it would be “sensitive” to a deeper economic downturn in Europe.

Nevertheless, “given BGL BNPP’s systemic importance in Luxembourg, it is Fitch’s opinion that the Luxembourg state would step in to support BGL BNPP if BNP Paribas’ ability and/or willingness to provide support were to reduce,” the agency said.

Fitch said the outlook on both banks was “stable,” meaning the agency does not expect to change its ratings in the foreseeable future.

Other major Luxembourg banks have also been under pressure from credit rating agencies. Earlier this month, Moody’s Investors Services downgraded BCEE and RBC Dexia.

A lower credit score typically increases banks’ cost of borrowing in the global capital markets. If scores fall too far in the future, many investment funds would like sell their shares in publicly listed institutions.

Fitch Moody’s BIL BGL BCEE RBC Dexia Precision Capital Bank finance sovereign debt euro zone rating funds