S&P Downgrade Irish Debt, Put on Negative Watch

Standard and Poor‘s have downgraded Irish sovereign debt from AA to AA- and their outlook for the rating (not the economy) is negative. S&P cite the rising cost of the banking bailout as in their statement and project a debt-GDP ratio of 113% in 2012.

On the banking costs, they state

We have increased our estimate of the cumulative total cost to the government of providing support to the banking sector from about €80 billion (50% of GDP; see “Ireland Rating Lowered To ‘AA’ On Potential Fiscal Cost Of Weakening Banking Sector Asset Quality; Outlook Negative,” published June 8, 2009, on RatingsDirect), to €90 billion (58% of GDP) …

We have increased our estimate of the cost to the Irish government of recapitalizing financial institutions to €45 billion-€50 billion (29%-32% of GDP) from €30 billion-€35 billion (19%-22% of GDP). 

Our estimate includes two main components: the upper end of our estimate of the capital we expect to be provided by the Irish government to improve the solvency of financial institutions, and the liabilities we expect the government to incur in exchange for impaired loans acquired from the banks.

Irish ten year bond yields have risen above 5.5 percent this morning and the spread against their German equivalent, at about 340 basis points, is the highest it has been in recent years. The NTMA have objected to the downgrade, arguing that S&P were using an “extreme estimate” of the cost of the banking bailout.

Standard and Poor’s on Anglo

My earlier post on Standard and Poor’s neglected to mention their comments on Anglo Irish Bank. The key passage is as follows:

Anglo has submitted a restructuring plan to the EC as a consequence of the state aid it has received from the Irish government. It has been reported that the management is proposing that Anglo is split up into a good bank and a bad bank. We anticipate that, if such a plan is approved by the EC, capital instruments such as lower Tier 2 may be left in the bad bank. Other options reportedly considered in the plan are liquidation and an orderly wind-down. Anglo’s plan is yet to be approved by the EC; we understand approval may occur in the first half of 2010.

I’d guess that these lower Tier 2 instruments (i.e. subordinated bonds) left in the Anglo “bad bank” (not to be confused with NAMA …) would end up being pretty worthless.

S&P Downgrade Irish Banks Again

Standard and Poor’s have again downgraded the Irish banks. The Irish Times story about this is here. The S&P Press releases are here (need to sign up but it’s free.) The reasons for the downgrade of AIB are summarised as follows:

“The negative outlook reflects our view that the quantum and timing of equity raised through recapitalization may not be sufficient to support an ‘A-‘  rating, combined with our expectation of significant losses from the remaining loan book and weak operating income as a result of the challenging economic environment,” said Ms. Curtin.

Negative rating action could occur if we consider that AIB’s recapitalization plans for 2010 are insufficient to adequately recapitalize the bank by our measures or are unlikely to be fully executed in 2010. Negative rating action could also occur if earnings pressures exceed our base-case expectations. The outlook could be revised to stable if there was reduced uncertainty regarding AIB’s ability to restore its capital position to an adequate level in the near term, and greater clarity on the strategic direction of the bank and scope of restructuring.

In relation to Bank of Ireland, the press release states:

“The rating action reflects our opinion of BOI’s prospects in light of our updated view on economic and industry risk in the bank’s core markets, together with our expectations regarding future credit losses,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Giles Edwards.

It also factors in our view of the likely impact of its participation in Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) and associated restructuring and capital raising. We have lowered the ratings due to our view that the environment will remain challenging over the medium term and BOI’s financial profile will be weaker than we had previously expected, with capital expected to be only adequate by our measures and the bank continuing to make losses through 2011. 

S&P’s concerns about future loan losses and capital adequacy of both the major Irish banks are likely to be shared by many potential private equity investors.