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Fitch upgrades Bantrab on improved risk profile, capacity to service debt

Fitch Ratings on March 21 upgraded Guatemala-based Banco de los Trabajadores' long- and short-term national ratings to BBB+(gtm) and F2(gtm) from BBB(gtm) and F3(gtm), respectively.

It also affirmed the bank's long-term foreign and local currency issuer default ratings at B+, short-term foreign and local currency issuer default ratings at B, viability rating at "b+" and support rating at 5.

The outlook on the long-term currency issuer default ratings and on the national rating was revised to positive from stable, reflecting Fitch's view that the bank has enhanced its overall risk profile through recent measures aimed at strengthening its corporate governance, as well as its stronger capital base. The bank's operational capacity to meet future debt payments has also improved, according to the rating agency.

Bantrab, as the bank is known, was placed under new management following the arrest of multiple former executives and directors in 2016 on charges of fraud, illicit associations and embezzlement. The management changes and an ongoing operational restructuring process are positive, but there is some uncertainty surrounding their long-term impact and sustainability, Fitch noted.

Despite those setbacks, Bantrab has shown sound profitability, good asset quality and adequate liquidity, while its plans for technology investments should support the lender's further growth.

The bank's "growth prospects are also buttressed by solid capitalization, which compares favorably with the industry average and its main competitors," Fitch said.