TEXT-S&P keeps Unipol Banca 'BB' rating on watch negative

Thu Aug 9, 2012 12:21pm EDT

Overview
     -- On Aug. 9, 2012, we lowered the ratings on Unipol Gruppo Finanziario 
SpA (UGF; BB+/Watch Neg/--), and its "core" operating subsidiary
Unipol Assicurazioni SpA (BBB/Watch Neg/--) by one notch, reflecting the
negative impact on the financial risk profile of the investment in Fondiaria-SAI
holding company Premafin. 
     -- We believe that a merger of Unipol Assicurazioni and Fondiaria-SAI 
(B/Watch Pos/--) could ultimately weaken UGF's capacity to support Unipol 
Banca. 
     -- We are keeping our 'BB' long-term rating on Unipol Banca on 
CreditWatch negative, and affirming our 'B' short-term rating on Unipol Banca.
     -- Our assessment of Unipol Banca's risk position, which we consider as 
"weak," already takes into account what we view as its vulnerability to a 
potentially deeper and more prolonged recession than we had originally 
anticipated in Italy.
     -- We aim to resolve the CreditWatch on Unipol Banca after resolving the 
CreditWatch placements on UGF and Unipol Assicurazioni. 

Rating Action
On Aug. 9, 2012, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services kept its 'BB' long-term 
counterparty credit ratings on Unipol Banca SpA on CreditWatch with negative 
implications. We originally placed Unipol Banca's ratings on CreditWatch 
negative on Dec. 7, 2011. We have also affirmed our 'B' short-term 
counterparty credit rating on Unipol Banca.

Rationale
The CreditWatch negative status follows that on Unipol Banca's parent company 
Unipol Gruppo Finanziario SpA (UGF; BB+/Watch Neg/--), and its "core" 
operating subsidiary Unipol Assicurazioni SpA (BBB/Watch Neg/--) . The 
downgrade of Unipol Assicurazioni and UGF by one notch reflected our view of 
the negative impact on the financial risk profile of its investment in 
Premafin, the holding company of Fondiaria-SAI SpA (B+/Watch Pos/--). At the 
same time, a downward revision of our assessment of the economic risks for 
banks in Italy has not affected Unipol Banca's rating (see "BICRA On Italy 
Maintained At Group '4', Economic Risk Score Revised To '5' On Increased 
Credit Risk For Italian Banks," published Aug. 3, 2012, on RatingsDirect on 
the Global Credit Portal).

With Italy facing a potentially deeper and more prolonged recession than we 
had originally anticipated, we think Italian banks' vulnerability to credit 
risk in the economy is rising. In this context, we believe that the combined 
effect of mounting problem assets and reduced coverage of loan loss reserves 
makes banks more vulnerable to the impact of higher credit losses, 
particularly in the event of deterioration in the collateral values of assets.

In our view, our assessment of Unipol Banca's risk position, which we consider 
"weak," already takes into account a low level of coverage of problem assets. 
We also base our rating on Unipol Banca on our view of its "weak" business 
position, "moderate" capital and earnings, "below average" funding, and 
"adequate" liquidity, as our criteria define these terms. In particular, we 
expect that Unipol Banca's Standard & Poor's risk-adjusted capital (RAC) ratio 
will remain close to 5.5% in the coming 24 months, taking into account the 
potential that Unipol Banca will not post profits in the next two years 
because of loan loss provisions of about 100 basis points per year. 

We consider Unipol Banca to be a "strategically important" subsidiary to its 
parent, UGF. In our view, UGF is strongly committed to financially supporting 
Unipol Banca, as demonstrated by its past capital injections and guarantee 
scheme for over EUR500 million of Unipol Banca's nonperforming assets. As a 
result, according to our group methodology, Unipol Banca's rating benefits 
from three notches of uplift from its stand-alone credit profile (SACP) for 
parental support, reflecting our view that UGF would provide additional 
support, if needed.

On July 27, 2012, UGF made a first step in acquiring Italian insurance company 
Fondiaria-SAI SpA by taking full control of Premafin, which owns 36% of 
Fondiaria SAI. In our view, a merger of Unipol Assicurazioni and Fondiaria-SAI 
could materially weaken UGF's current financial profile and its ability to 
support Unipol Banca. We think there could be less capacity for the merged 
group to absorb potential extraordinary costs resulting from a sizable and 
challenging integration with a troubled organization in a difficult 
macroeconomic and financial environment. 

CreditWatch
Standard & Poor's intends to resolve the CreditWatch on Unipol Banca after 
resolving the CreditWatch placements on UGF and Unipol Assicurazioni.

We could lower our long-term rating on Unipol Banca if we were to take a 
similar action on UGF. 

We could also lower the ratings on Unipol Banca if we perceived deterioration 
of UGF's financial strength and its ability to support its subsidiary. As a 
result, we could reduce the number of notches we factor into Unipol Banca's 
long-term rating for parental support. A deterioration of Unipol Banca's 
capitalization, currently not expected, could also put negative pressure on 
the ratings. 

Conversely, if we were to conclude that the integration of Fondiaria-SAI does 
not significantly reduce the merged group's potential capacity to support 
Unipol Banca, we could affirm our ratings on the latter.

Ratings Score Snapshot
Issuer Credit Rating:   BB/Watch Neg/B

SACP:                   b
 Anchor:                bbb
 Business Position:     Weak (-2)
 Capital and Earnings:  Moderate (-1)
 Risk Position:         Weak (-2)
 Funding and Liquidity: Below Average and Adequate (-1)

Support:                3
 GRE Support:           0
 Group Support:         3
 Sovereign Support:     0

Additional Factors:     0

Related Criteria And Research
     -- Banks: Rating Methodology And Assumptions, Nov. 9, 2011
     -- Banking Industry Country Risk Assessment Methodology And Assumptions, 
Nov. 9, 2011
     -- Group Methodology, April 22, 2009
     -- Use Of CreditWatch And Outlooks, Sept. 14, 2009
     -- BICRA On Italy Maintained At Group '4', Economic Risk Score Revised To 
'5' On Increased Credit Risk For Italian Banks, Aug. 3, 2012
     -- Italy's Unipol Assicurazioni SpA Rating Lowered To 'BBB' On Increased 
Premafin Commitment; Ratings Remain On Watch Neg, Aug. 9, 2012

Ratings List
Ratings Affirmed

Unipol Banca SpA
 Counterparty Credit Rating             BB/Watch Neg/B     
 Certificate Of Deposit                 BB/Watch Neg/B       


Complete ratings information is available to subscribers of RatingsDirect on 
the Global Credit Portal at www.globalcreditportal.com. All ratings affected 
by this rating action can be found on Standard & Poor's public Web site at 
www.standardandpoors.com. Use the Ratings search box located in the left 
column.
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