Fitch Reviews HSBC Latin American Subsidiaries

Thu May 16, 2013 5:19pm EDT

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(The following statement was released by the rating agency) NEW YORK/BUENOS AIRES, May 16 (Fitch) Fitch Ratings has taken various rating actions on the Latin America subsidiaries of HSBC Holdings plc (HSBC), following the May 15, 2013 review of HSBC's Long-term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) and Viability Rating (VR). The rating actions on HSBC's Latin American subsidiaries differ across companies and countries. A complete list of rating actions for each subsidiary follows at the end of this press release. HSBC subsidiaries in Mexico were reviewed on May 13, 2013. On May 16, 2013, Fitch affirmed HSBC's Long-term IDR and VRs at 'AA-' and 'aa-', respectively. The Rating Outlook is Stable (see 'Fitch Affirms HSBC at 'AA-'; Outlook Stable', dated May 16, 2013, available at www.fitchratings.com). The affirmation of HSBC's ratings reflects the continuous strength of the group's global operations and in particular the sound financial profile of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (HKSB). HSBC's VR is primarily derived from its key entities' VRs to take into account the group's subsidiary business model which is based on maintaining self-sufficient entities. The standalone blend is combined with an assessment of the group's quantitative and qualitative resources, which Fitch believes to be material. In Fitch's view, soft factors such as the group's conservative risk appetite, common policies, consistent procedures, stringent monitoring, and refinancing capacity at group level contribute to lower default risk for the group. In Fitch's view, HSBC's ability and propensity to provide support to its Latin American subsidiaries is strong; and support is expected to be provided if required. Recent divesture announcements in Uruguay and Panama, however, explain the current placement of the supported IDRs and National Scale ratings of those subsidiaries on Rating Watch Negative. In the case of Chile and Argentina, their ratings are notched down from the rating of the parent bank depending on the assessment of its strategic importance under Fitch's rating criteria. Last but not least, HSBC Mexican subsidiaries are considered by Fitch as Strategically Important, as they operate in a fairly integrated manner with the parent bank, are located in markets with good growth prospects, and provide services and products aligned with those services and products provided by the parent bank worldwide. As it is explained below, the Rating Watch Negative of those subsidiaries waiting to be sold will be resolved once the transactions in Panama and Uruguay are completed and the assessment of the new capacity and propensity of support of new shareholders is assessed. Fitch has taken rating actions on the following HSBC subsidiaries: HSBC BANK (CHILE) The affirmation of HSBC Bank (Chile)'s Long-term IDR is in conjunction with the affirmation of HSBC. HSBC Bank (Chile)'s IDRs are supported by HSBC, primarily reflecting its importance to the group. As such, HSBC Bank (Chile) IDRs will move in tandem with HSBC's. In Fitch's opinion, HSBC Bank (Chile) is considered by Fitch as a subsidiary of limited importance for HSBC, because of its small size within the group and in its local market. Therefore its IDRs could be as much as two notches below the parent's. Fitch does not maintain a VR on HSBC Bank (Chile), as it does not view the company as a standalone entity. HSBC Bank (Chile)'s support rating and National scale ratings were affirmed due to expected support from its parent. National scale ratings are relative rankings of creditworthiness within a certain jurisdiction. Ratings Sensitivities HSBC Bank (Chile)'s IDRs would move in line with those of its parent. The National scale ratings could be affected by a downgrade of HSBC. HSBC BANK (PANAMA) HSBC Bank (Panama)'s IDRs, support and National ratings remain on Rating Watch Negative. The ratings were placed on Negative Watch following the announcement of HSBC's agreement to sell these operations to the Colombian Bancolombia, S.A. (Bancolombia) for total consideration of US$2.1 billion. The transaction is subject to regulatory and other approvals and is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2013. The Negative Watch reflects that after the transaction is completed, the sold entities would no longer receive potential support from their current ultimate parent (HSBC Holding plc, rated 'AA-' with a Stable Outlook by Fitch). The Rating Watch will be resolved once the transaction is completed and Fitch assesses the potential support that Bancolombia could provide to its future subsidiaries and the individual strengths of the Panamanian entities. Ratings Sensitivities Once the transaction is completed, HSBC Bank (Panama)'s IDRs could be downgraded to the level of its VR, currently at 'bbb'. In addition, Fitch expects this bank to be considered core for Bancolombia; therefore, it is unlikely that HSBC Panama's IDRs would eventually be downgraded below Bancolombia's IDRs. In turn, the bank's Support rating will likely be downgraded, as Bancolombia's ability to support its subsidiaries is in Fitch's view relatively weaker than HSBC's, and it could be downgraded to '2' upon completion of the transaction. The bank's National ratings are also likely to be downgraded. Fitch expects that the resulting long-term National rating would be in the 'AA' category and the short-term National rating in the 'F1' category. HSBC BANK (URUGUAY) HSBC Bank (Uruguay) S.A.'s Long-term FC and LC IDRs, as well as National Long-term and Support ratings remain on Rating Watch Negative, as the bank's acquisition by Colombia's Banco GNB Sudameris SA is still pending regulatory approval. Rating Sensitivities The Rating Watch will be resolved once the transaction is approved by Uruguayan and Colombian regulators, which is expected during the second or third quarter of 2013. HSBC Bank (Uruguay)'s IDRs, National Scale and Support ratings will be likely downgraded once a full review of the new shareholder's capacity and willingness to provide support and the intrinsic financial profile of the bank in Uruguay. Fitch rates Banco GNB Sudameris SA's LT FC and LC IDRs 'BB+'. HSBC Bank (Uruguay)'s intrinsic financial profile is affected by its small size, thin capitalization, low, though improving, profitability, and a relatively high loan and deposits concentration. Additionally, as is the case with most other Uruguayan banks, the bank's balance sheet is highly dollarized. On the other hand, the bank has sound asset quality and ample liquidity. In Fitch's opinion, the main challenge the bank faces in 2013, and that could affect its intrinsic financial profile, is to navigate the transition period once the acquisition by the new shareholder is approved without losing a significant amount of clients and business. If the bank is able to retain its client base after the acquisition, if operating revenues continue to improve while it maintains adequate asset quality and liquidity, and it improves its capital adequacy ratios, Fitch would view this as a positive for the bank's financial profile. HSBC BANK ARGENTINA S.A. HSBC Bank Argentina S.A.'s National Scale ratings were affirmed at the last review. Despite the volatility of the environment HSBC Bank Argentina is considered by Fitch a Strategically Important subsidiary for HSBC and as such, its National Scale ratings are supported by the expected support from HSBC. Argentina is considered a strategic market for HSBC and the operations in Argentina are focused on commercial banking activities domestically funded, and providing banking services to domestic customers and customers related to HSBC around the world. The current ratings of HSBC Bank Argentina are constrained by the negative effects of government intervention on the banking business, similar to other banks locally, and the low sovereign ratings and country ceiling. Rating Sensitivities HSBC Bank Argentina's National scale ratings could be affected by a significant reduction of the rating of its parent and/or lower propensity to provide support, which Fitch considers a scenario of very low probability of occurrence. Also, further deterioration of the operating environment or new actions of government intervention in the bank business may also trigger a review of its ratings. Changes in Argentina's sovereign rating may also trigger a review on HSBC Bank Argentina's ratings. HSBC MEXICO (Unaffected) After the upgrade of Mexico's sovereign rating, HSBC Mexico S.A.'s long-term LC and FC ratings were upgraded to 'A', while its National scale ratings and the ratings of HSBC Mexico Casa de Bolsa S.A were affirmed at the top end of the National ratings scale. The IDRs and National scale ratings of HSBC subsidiaries in Mexico are driven by the potential support of HSBC. The ratings are consistent with Fitch's perception that HSBC Mexico is a Strategically Important subsidiary of HSBC Holdings; therefore, it is one notch below the parent's rating. In Fitch's opinion, Mexico is a priority growth market for HSBC (see 'Fitch Upgrades HSBC Mexico's IDRs following Sovereign Action; Outlook Stable'; dated May 13, 2013; available at www.fitchratings.com). Fitch has taken the following rating actions: HSBC Bank (Chile) --Long-term foreign and local currency IDR affirmed at 'A'; Outlook Stable; --Short-term foreign and local currency IDR affirmed at 'F1'; --Long-term National rating affirmed at 'AAA(cl)'; Outlook Stable; --Short-term National rating affirmed at 'N1+(cl)'; --Support Rating affirmed at '1'. HSBC Bank (Panama): --Long-term IDR of 'A' remains on Rating Watch Negative; --Short-term IDR of 'F1' remains on Rating Watch Negative; --Support Rating of '1' remains on Rating Watch Negative; --Long-term National scale rating of 'AAA(pan)' remains on Rating Watch Negative; --Short-term National scale rating of 'F1+(pan)' remains on Rating Watch Negative. HSBC Bank (Uruguay) --Foreign currency IDR of 'BBB' remains on Rating Watch Negative; --Local currency IDR of 'BBB+' remains on Rating Watch Negative; --National long-term rating of 'AAA(uy)' remains on Rating Watch Negative; --Support rating of '2' remains on Rating Watch Negative. HSBC Bank (Argentina) --Long-term National scale rating affirmed at 'AA(arg)'; Rating Outlook Negative; --Short-term National scale rating affirmed at 'A1+(arg)'. --Senior Unsecured Debt national-scale rating affirmed at 'AA(arg)'; Rating Outlook Negative. Contact: Primary Analyst (HSBC Chile; HSBC Uruguay and Secondary Analyst on HSBC Argentina) Santiago Gallo Director +54-11-5235-8137 Fitch Argentina Calificadora de Riesgo S.A. Sarmiento 663 - piso 7 - C1041AAM Buenos Aires, Argentina Primary Analyst (HSBC Panama) Diego Alcazar Director +1 212 908-0396 Primary Analyst (HSBC Argentina and Secondary Analyst on HSBC Uruguay) Dario Logiodice Associate Director +54 11 5235 8137 Secondary Analyst (HSBC Chile) Eduardo Santibanez Director +56-2-499-33-07 Secondary Analyst (HSBC Panama) Carmen Matamoros Associate Director +503 2516-6612 Committee Chairperson Franklin Santarelli Managing Director +1 212 908-0739 Media Relations: Elizabeth Fogerty, New York, Tel: +1 (212) 908 0526, Email: elizabeth.fogerty@fitchratings.com. Additional information is available on www.fitchratings.com. Applicable Criteria and Related Research: --'Global Financial Institutions Rating Criteria' (Aug. 15, 2012); --'National Ratings Criteria' (Jan. 19, 2011); --'Rating FI Subsidiaries and Holding Companies' (Aug. 10, 2012). Applicable Criteria and Related Research Rating FI Subsidiaries and Holding Companies here National Ratings Criteria here Global Financial Institutions Rating Criteria here Additional Disclosure Solicitation Status here ALL FITCH CREDIT RATINGS ARE SUBJECT TO CERTAIN LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS. PLEASE READ THESE LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS BY FOLLOWING THIS LINK: here. IN ADDITION, RATING DEFINITIONS AND THE TERMS OF USE OF SUCH RATINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON THE AGENCY'S PUBLIC WEBSITE 'WWW.FITCHRATINGS.COM'. PUBLISHED RATINGS, CRITERIA AND METHODOLOGIES ARE AVAILABLE FROM THIS SITE AT ALL TIMES. FITCH'S CODE OF CONDUCT, CONFIDENTIALITY, CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, AFFILIATE FIREWALL, COMPLIANCE AND OTHER RELEVANT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES ARE ALSO AVAILABLE FROM THE 'CODE OF CONDUCT' SECTION OF THIS SITE. FITCH MAY HAVE PROVIDED ANOTHER PERMISSIBLE SERVICE TO THE RATED ENTITY OR ITS RELATED THIRD PARTIES. 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