MILAN, March 22 Ratings agency Standard & Poor's
cut its long-term credit ratings on Italian mutual bank Banco
Popolare by one notch to the non-investment grade
level of 'BB+', citing concerns over credit losses amid Italy's
"Banco Popolare appears increasingly vulnerable to
higher-than-anticipated credit losses from its mounting
non-performing assets, for which it has a moderate level of
reserve coverage," S&P said in a statement on Friday.
The ratings agency said the outlook was negative to reflect
the possibility that the bank's financial profile, in particular
its capital position, could weaken further over the next 12-18
Banco Popolare, Italy's fourth largest bank, said in a
statement that S&P's judgement was "incorrect" because it did
not take into account, among other things, the improvement in
its Core Tier 1 capital adequacy ratio, as well as its funding
and liquidity profile.
The bank also said its gross impaired loans rose 17.5
percent in 2012, below its main competitors' average increase of
The bank reported last week a full-year net loss of 627
million euros ($815 million) after it took extraordinary
writedowns in the fourth quarter.
($1 = 0.7694 euros)
(Reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Richard Chang)