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Moody's cuts ratings on French, Dutch, Belgian, and Luxembourg banks as eurozone deteriorates
The online news portal of TV5

PARIS - The international ratings agency Moody's cut on Friday its debt ratings for banks in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, owing to deteriorating eurozone financial conditions.

Moody's added that it was also assessing French banks BNP Paribas, Societe Generale and Credit Agricole among a group of 114 European entities under review since February, but did not say when it would release a statement concerning them.

It was the latest in a lengthening list of eurozone countries and banks to be downgraded by ratings agencies suchy as Moody's, Fitch, and Standard & Poor's as prospects for a resolution to the region's debt crisis remain elusive.

Those downgraded include 16 Spanish banks, six German banks including number two Commerzbank, and three of the biggest Austrian banks.

The sovereign debt rating of Spain itself, and that of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus have also been downgraded, as have the ratings on nine Danish banks, even though Denmark is not a eurozone member.

Moody's cut its note on the French bank BPCE by two notches to "A2" from "Aa3" while maintaining a stable outlook, and confirmed one on rival CIC at "Aa3."

Speaking of BPCE, Moody's said: "Although France remains one of the stronger economies in the euro area, Moody's expects that weakening economic conditions will lead to mounting negative pressures on the group's overall asset quality."

The rating for Belgian bank and insurance group KBC was also cut by two notches to "A3" from "A2", while its outlook stayed stable as well.

The bank's parent group was also downgraded, but it too continues to have a stable outlook.

Moody's pointed to "KBC Bank's higher sensitivity to the deteriorating European macro-economic environment, due its exposures to markets experiencing material stress, notably Ireland and Hungary."

In Luxembourg, the rating for Banque et Caisse d'Epargne de l'Etat (BCEE) was cut one notch to "Aa1" from "Aaa," owing largely to "the bank's material borrower and industry concentrations, notably to Italian government bond holdings and to the European banking sector in general."

The ratings for five Dutch banking groups were downgraded.

Moody's said it had made two-notch cuts for Rabobank Nederland, to "Aa2", for ING Bank to "A2", and for ABN AMRO Bank to "Aa2".

The outlook for Rabobank and ABN AMRO remained stable, while ING was hit with a negative outlook.

"Today's actions reflect Moody's view that Dutch banks will face difficult operating conditions throughout 2012 and possibly beyond," the agency said.

On February 15, Moody's launched a review of leading European banks, including French groups BNP Paribas, Societe Generale and Credit Agricole, and it said on Friday that the assessments "will be concluded together with the reviews for other global firms with large capital markets operations."

Moody's did not give a date, however, and also declined to identify the other global firms it referred to.