Thursday, July 22, 2010

Economics 22/7/10: Banks downgraded - expect more fireworks

After hammering Irish sovereign ratings, Moody’s rightly took the shine off the six guaranteed banks’ bonds. Not surprising, really, and goes to show just how meaningless the term ‘stable outlook’ can be. Now, few facts:
  • Moody’s has downgraded the long-term ratings for EBS Building Society and Irish Life & Permanent from A2 to A3, stable outlook didn’t help much here.
  • Moody’s also downgraded the government-guaranteed debt of all six guaranteed institutions: AIB, Bank of Ireland, EBS, Anglo, IL&P and Irish Nationwide.
  • Prior to the latest downgrade, AIB and BofI both had stable outlook, and this has been maintained.
  • The reason for the downgrades was the reduction in the government’s ability to support the banks stemming from the sovereign debt downgrade announced Monday.
What’s next, you might ask? Barring any news on loans impairments etc, the growth prospects for banks will have to be the key. And here, folks, there isn’t any good news. No matter how you can spin the thing.

BofI and AIB are disposing of their performing assets – divisions and businesses in the US, UK and elsewhere – in order to plug the vast holes in their balance sheets caused by their non-performing assets.

And it’s a fire sale: Polish BZWBK – 70.5%-owned by AIB – is the only growth hopeful in the entire AIB stable. Yesterday, some reports in Poland suggested that PKO Bank Polski, Banco Santander, BNP Paribas and Intesa San Paolo are the only ones remaining in the bidding. Neither one can be expected to pay a serious premium.

Take a look at M&T in which AIB holds a 22.5%. Not a growth engine, but a solid contributor to the balance sheet. The US bank Q2 profit quadrupled as it is facing the market with structural aversion to banks shares. So M&T is losing value in the market as it is gaining value on AIB’s balance sheet. But hey, let’s sell that, the gurus from Ballsbridge say, and pay off those fantastic development deals we’ve done in Meath and Dundalk.

Likewise, BofI are selling tons of proprietary assets, including proprietary wholesale services platforms, which are performing well.

Will the money raised go to provide a basis for growth in revenue in 2010-2012? Not really. BofI needs new capital. Not as badly as AIB, but still - €2.9bn capital injection in June is not going to be enough to cover future losses. It is just a temporary stop-gap measure to cover already expected losses plus new regulatory capital floors. Future losses will require future capital.

AIB is desperate. €7.4bn is a serious amount of dosh and there are indicators they’ll need more. Of course, in order to properly repair its balance sheet, AIB will need closer to €10bn this side of Christmas (as estimated by Peter Mathews - see here).

However, the bank won’t make any noise about that for political reasons.

Even after getting no serious opposition to their banks recovery plans for some two years already, the Government is starting to get concerned about continuous and never diminishing demand for capital from our banks. This concern is not motivated by the suddenly acquired desire to be prudent with taxpayers’ cash. Instead it is motivated by the optical impressions Irish banks appetite for Exchequer funding is creating around the world. Sovereign ratings are now directly being impacted by banks weaknesses and some investors are starting to ask uncomfortable questions about viability of AIB outside state control. There’s an added sticky issue of Irish Government deficit potentially reaching 20% of GDP this year should our banks come for more cash.

And they will... not in 2010, possibly, but in 2011, once Nama last tranche closes in February (or thereabouts - remember, it has blown through few deadlines already and can strategically move past February 2011 with closing off its purchases, to allow more time for banks to play the 'Head in the Sand' game).

If you want to see what is really happening in our sovereign bonds markets, check out the next post on this blog, which will be covering this.
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