Fitch Affirms European Financial Stability Facility at 'AA+'

Fri Jan 10, 2014 11:34am EST

PARIS/LONDON, January 10 (Fitch) Fitch Ratings has affirmed the European Financial Stability Facility's (EFSF) guaranteed long-term debt ratings at 'AA+'. The rating of the short-term (less than 12 months contractual maturity) guaranteed debt instruments has been affirmed at 'F1+'. KEY RATING DRIVERS The affirmation reflects the following key rating factors: The ratings assigned to EFSF's guaranteed debt rely on irrevocable and unconditional guarantees and over-guarantees provided by Euro Area Member States (EAMS) pro rata to their share in the European Central bank (ECB), and on a cash reserve. They are governed by an intergovernmental agreement (the Framework Agreement; FA) and by a deed of guarantee, both amended in June 2011. They ensure EFSF debt is fully covered by guarantees from the most highly rated EAMS or by the reserve. EFSF issued EUR13bn of debt under the original FA (EFSF 1) to fund sovereign loans to Portugal and Ireland. Debt is covered by guarantees from EAMS and by a cash reserve, part of which is loan specific. Guarantees can be extended to 120% of their initial amount if a guarantor defaults on its commitment, which brings the maximum amount of coverage by guarantors rated 'AA+'/'F1+' and above to EUR9.6bn. The cash reserve, dedicated to EFSF 1 debt issues, totals EUR3.5bn. Outstanding debt issued after the June 2011 amendment (EFSF 2) totalled EUR171bn at end-2013, raised mostly to fund loans to Greece. The amendment has allowed EFSF to extend the over-guarantee percentage up to 160.4% for long-term debt and 151.4% for short-term debt. This ensured greater coverage of debt by the highest-rated EAMS. The cash reserve is no longer required as a credit enhancement under EFSF 2. EFSF stopped approving lending programmes at the end of June 2013 and will continue operating until all outstanding loans and bonds, which amounted to EUR184bn at end-December 2013, are repaid. The requirement to have full coverage of debt by 'AAA' rated EAMS or by cash was replaced in 2012 by the requirement for coverage by the most highly rated EAMS. Under EFSF 2, loan maturities are not fully matched to liabilities, while EFSF 1 applied a back-to-back funding principle. Since October 2011, the cash reserve has to be sufficient to service any debt payment at least three days before the payment date. 10 days before the servicing of debt, it has to be at least equal to the share of the payment not covered by the highest-rated guarantors. The cash reserve has to be conservatively managed and invested in high-quality assets. Debt and treasury are managed on EFSF's behalf by the European Stability Mechanism (ESM; AAA/Stable). RATING SENSITIVITIES The triggers that could individually or collectively affect EFSF's ratings are: - A downgrade of the outstanding EFSF debt would occur if any 'AAA' or 'AA+' rated EAMS was downgraded to 'AA' or below, except in the event of a downgrade of Luxembourg only - An upgrade of France's IDR to 'AAA' would lead to an upgrade of EFSF's debt ratings to 'AAA', assuming the ratings of the other guarantors are not downgraded below their current levels. KEY ASSUMPTIONS The ratings are sensitive to the following assumptions: Fitch assumes there will be progress in deepening fiscal and financial integration at the eurozone level in line with commitments by euro area policy makers. It also assumes that the risk of fragmentation of the eurozone remains low. Contact: Primary Analyst Amelie Roux Director +33 144 299 282 Fitch France SAS 60 rue de Monceau 75008 Paris Secondary Analyst Eric Paget-Blanc Senior Director +33 144 299 133 Committee Chairperson Tony Stringer Managing Director +44 20 3530 1219 Media Relations: Peter Fitzpatrick, London, Tel: +44 20 3530 1103, Email: peter.fitzpatrick@fitchratings.com; Hannah Huntly, London, Tel: +44 20 3530 1153, Email: hannah.huntly@fitchratings.com. Additional information is available on www.fitchratings.com Applicable criteria, 'Rating Multilateral Development Banks', dated 23 May 2012, are available at www.fitchratings.com. Applicable Criteria andALL 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. DETAILS OF THIS SERVICE FOR RATINGS FOR WHICH THE LEAD ANALYST IS BASED IN AN EU-REGISTERED ENTITY CAN BE FOUND ON THE ENTITY SUMMARY PAGE FOR THIS ISSUER ON THE FITCH WEBSITE.

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