Moody’s ups Emporiki

Moody’s Investors Service yesterday upgraded to C- from D+ the bank financial strength rating of Emporiki Bank and confirmed its Aa3 rating for long-term deposits and senior debt, as well as its A1 rating for subordinated obligations. Moody’s said in a report that it recognizes the ongoing strengthening of the bank’s overall franchise as a result of ongoing operational support from its parent, French Credit Agricole SA, which is positively contributing to boosting the bank’s overall financial standing. Enjoying market shares of around 10 percent of total banking system credit and deposits, Emporiki is the fifth-largest financial institution in Greece with a long-established presence in corporate banking and growing retail banking activities. With the support of its parent, CASA, Emporiki has been undergoing a restructuring and infrastructure modernization in order to transform the bank into a more modern and competitive financial institution, to release untapped potential and to enhance its franchise value, leveraging on its brand and satisfactory position within the Greek banking system. The management team has been enhanced and broadened, combining both Greek and French professionals, while critical functions, such as risk management and financial services, have been upgraded significantly. Furthermore, the bank is becoming more focused on its core banking operations and has disposed of its non-banking holdings. Limiting the bank’s BFSR (bank financial strength rating) is a low, though increasing, earning power which is constrained primarily by weak, though improving, operational efficiency. Asset quality also remains weaker than its peers, with a relatively high non-payable loan (NPL) ratio. Parental support In confirming the bank’s deposit and debt ratings, Moody’s said that Emporiki’s long-term deposit rating of Aa3 is supported by the bank’s Baa2 Baseline credit assessment and by Moody’s assessment of very high probabilities of both parental support, from CASA, and systemic support in the event of need. The financial and technical support that Emporiki will enjoy from CASA will allow the bank to further enhance its franchise and competitive position so as to exploit the growth potential for banking penetration in Greece and narrow the gap in terms of financial performance with its peers. We note that should this alliance lead to material financial benefits in the medium term, positive pressure will be exerted on Emporiki’s BFSR. Emporiki Bank had consolidated total assets of -23.9 billion at end-June 2007.