TEXT-Fitch cuts Arab Tunisian Bank's FC IDR to 'BBB-'
Dec 14 - Fitch Ratings has downgraded Arab Tunisian Bank's (ATB) Long-term foreign currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) to 'BBB-' from 'BBB'. ATB's Long-term local currency IDR has been affirmed at 'BBB'. The Outlooks on ATB's Long-term IDRs are Negative. A full list of rating actions is at the end of this comment. RATING ACTION RATIONALE ATB's Long-term foreign currency IDR is capped at Tunisia's Country Ceiling and has thus been downgraded to 'BBB-' from 'BBB' following the same rating action on Tunisia's Country Ceiling (see "Fitch Downgrades Tunisia to 'BB+', Outlook Negative", dated 12 December 2012 at www.fitchratings.com). ATB's Long-term local currency IDR is not constrained by Tunisia's Country Ceiling, as the latter captures the risk of convertibility of local currency into foreign currency and transfer of the proceeds to non-resident creditors. Consequently, ATB's Long-term local currency IDR has therefore been affirmed at 'BBB', one notch above the Long-term local currency IDR of Tunisia. However, in line with Fitch's criteria, the agency assumes significant correlation between the risk of foreign currency and local currency restrictions being imposed in a particular country, and therefore will rarely assign a Long-term local currency IDR more than one notch above the Long-term foreign currency IDR. RATING DRIVERS AND SENSITIVITIES - IDRS AND SUPPORT RATING ATB's IDRs are support-driven and reflect the high probability of support it could receive, if required, from its majority (64.2%) shareholder, Arab Bank Plc (AB; 'A-'/Stable/'F1'). This is reflected in ATB having higher IDRs than the Tunisian sovereign. ATB's Long-term foreign currency IDR moves in tandem with AB's, but is capped at Tunisia's Country Ceiling ('BBB-'). The Negative Outlooks on ATB's Long-term IDRs mirror that on Tunisia. Fitch considers that AB is committed to the development of ATB, which fits with AB's strategy to maintain a strong presence in the Middle East North African region. ATB is relatively integrated with AB. ATB's 2011 assets and operating profit contributed 7% and 6%, respectively, of AB's assets and operating profit. ATB's foreign currency IDRs would be downgraded if Tunisia's Country Ceiling and, therefore, Long-term IDRs were downgraded. In this case, as Fitch does not expect ATB's Long-term local currency IDR to be rated more than one notch higher than the bank's Long-term foreign currency IDR, the former would also be downgraded. The Support Rating would also be sensitive to a downgrade of Tunisia's Long-term IDRs. Additionally, ATB's IDRs and Support Rating could be downgraded if there was a material change in Fitch's assessment of ATB's strategic importance to or integration into AB, although this is not in line with Fitch's expectations. RATING DRIVERS AND SENSITIVITIES - NATIONAL RATING Fitch will assess shortly the consequences of Tunisia's IDRs downgrade on ATB's National Rating. The rating actions are as follows: Long-term foreign currency IDR: downgraded to 'BBB-' from 'BBB'; Outlook Negative Short-term foreign currency IDR: affirmed at 'F3' Long-term local currency IDR: affirmed at 'BBB'; Outlook Negative Short-term local currency IDR: affirmed at 'F3' Support Rating: affirmed at '2' Viability Rating: 'b'; unaffected National Long-term rating: 'AA+(tun)'; unaffected National Short-term rating: 'F1+(tun)'unaffected National Senior unsecured debt rating: AA+(tun)'; unaffected Additional information is available on www.fitchratings.com. The ratings above were solicited by, or on behalf of, the issuer, and therefore, Fitch has been compensated for the provision of the ratings. Applicable criteria, 'Global Financial Institutions Rating Criteria, dated 16 August 2012 and 'Rating Financial Institutions Above the Sovereign', dated 11 December 2012 are available at www.fitchratings.com. Note to Editors: Fitch's National ratings provide a relative measure of creditworthiness for rated entities in countries with relatively low international sovereign ratings and where there is demand for such ratings. The best risk within a country is rated 'AAA' and other credits are rated only relative to this risk. National ratings are designed for use mainly by local investors in local markets and are signified by the addition of an identifier for the country concerned, such as 'AAA(tun)' for National ratings in Tunisia. Specific letter grades are not therefore internationally comparable. Applicable Criteria and Related Research: Global Financial Institutions Rating Criteria Rating Financial Institutions Above the Sovereign
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