TEXT - Fitch revises Poland's ratings outlook to positive

Thu Feb 21, 2013 9:58am EST

Feb 21 - Fitch Ratings has revised the Outlook on Poland's Long-Term foreign
and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) to Positive from Stable and
affirmed the IDRs at 'A-' and 'A', respectively. In addition, Fitch has affirmed
Poland's Country Ceiling at 'AA-' and its Short-Term foreign currency IDR at
'F2'.

RATING RATIONALE

The revision of the Outlook to Positive from Stable reflects the following 
factors:

- Poland's general government deficit in ESA 95 terms has narrowed by around 4.5
percentage points of GDP since 2010, to an estimated 3.4% of GDP in 2012, 
placing it among the EU's best performers. Fitch forecasts further, mild 
consolidation, to 3.2% in 2013 and 2.7% in 2014.

- Public debt has stabilised and is forecast to moderate to 54.5% of GDP in 2014
from a peak of 56.4% of GDP in 2011, closing the gap with the 'A' median. 
Reforms to the pension system adopted in 2012 will improve the medium-term 
sustainability of public finances. Reforms to the business environment - evident
in an improvement in the World Bank's indicator - are underway and could lead to
an increase in potential growth in the long term. 

The affirmation reflects the following key rating factors:

- Poland has a solid track record of resilience to the eurozone debt crisis, 
despite strong economic and financial links with Western Europe. Medium-term 
growth prospects are healthy, despite an expected slowdown in 2013 to 1.6% on 
the back of subdued domestic demand. Polish exporters are well placed to take 
advantage of the eurozone recovery, and to make inroads into new, more dynamic 
markets. The EU budget for 2014-20 will allocate EUR105.8bn to Poland, helping 
it to bridge remaining infrastructure gaps and enhance prospects for long-term 
growth.

- Fitch assumes that Poland possesses sufficient buffers in the form of a 
USD33bn flexible credit line with the IMF and a substantial pool of bank 
liquidity to counter external shocks and the risk of an outflow of non-resident 
(NR) holdings of Polish zloty (PLN) denominated sovereign bonds. NR holdings 
reached a record high of 36% at end-2012. 

- In Fitch's opinion, the Polish banking system is well supervised and 
represents a relative rating strength. The 2013 outlook for the banking sector 
remains stable, despite weaker expected growth and profitability. Housing loans 
denominated in foreign currency (mostly Swiss francs) stood at 55% of total 
residential mortgages at end-2012 (end-2009: 65%) and remain a potential 
weakness given the Polish zloty's volatility. However, their share in total 
loans was moderate at about 20% at end-2012.

- External debt ratios are still high (39% of GDP in 2012 in net terms against a
'A' median of negative 1.6%) and represent Poland's main rating weakness, 
despite a forecast reduction in Poland's net external debt as a share of GDP. 
Nevertheless, a combination of a narrowing of the current account deficit, an 
increase in foreign exchange reserves (FXR) in 2012, lower external debt 
redemptions and economy-wide deleveraging are forecast to reduce Poland's annual
gross external financing requirement to around 100% of FXR in 2013-14 from an 
average of over 140% in 2007-12. 

- Poland's 'A-' rating is supported by a credible monetary and exchange rate 
regime (free float), strong fiscal financing flexibility, governance indicators 
in line with the 'A' median and political stability underpinned by EU 
membership.

RATING OUTLOOK AND SENSITIVITIES

The Positive Outlook reflects the following risk factors that may, individually 
or collectively, result in an upgrade of the ratings:

- Continued progress with fiscal consolidation that further lowers the budget 
deficit and puts the public debt ratio on a clear downward path.

- A material reduction in external debt ratios.

Future developments that may, individually or collectively, lead to a revision 
of the Outlook to Stable include:

- A pronounced fiscal loosening that endangers the achievement of medium-term 
deficit and debt reduction targets.

- Weak economic performance, resulting either from external or domestic shocks.

KEY ASSUMPTIONS 

The ratings and Outlooks are sensitive to a number of assumptions.

- Fitch's economic and fiscal projections are based on the assumption that 
budget outcomes are broadly in line with the Polish government's intention to 
narrow the ESA 95 general government deficit to 1% of GDP in structural terms by
2015, in line with the Medium-Term Objective agreed with the European 
Commission. Furthermore, the agency assumes that the government will honour its 
commitment to adopt a fiscal rule constraining all budget expenditure (and not 
just discretionary spending as is the case now). 

- Fitch's debt sustainability analysis suggests that under reasonable 
assumptions, including trend growth of around 3%-3.5% and the maintenance of a 
small primary fiscal surplus after 2014, public debt will remain on a modest 
downward path into the medium term. The agency assumes that the government would
put in place the necessary consolidation measures to avoid a breach of the 
constitutional debt ceiling of 60% of GDP (calculated on a separate national 
methodology).

- Fitch assumes that the eurozone remains intact and that there is no 
materialisation of severe tail risks to global financial stability that could 
trigger a sudden increase in investor risk aversion and financial market stress 
on the Polish sovereign and banking sector.

- Fitch assumes that under severe financial stress, support for Polish 
subsidiary banks would come first and foremost from their parent banks.
FILED UNDER:
A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Find your dream retirement town

Florida? Hawaii? Reuters has teamed up with Zillow to give you the power to customize a list of your best places to retire.  Video | Full Article