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Fitch affirms Banco Popular y de Desarrollo Comunal's ratings

Fitch Ratings said March 31 that it affirmed 'slong-term foreign and local currency issuer default ratings at BB+. The outlookis negative.

Fitch also affirmed the bank's short-term foreign and local currencyissuer default ratings at B, viability rating at "bb+," support ratingat 3 and support rating floor at BB. The national ratings in Costa Rica and thebank's issuances in El Salvador and Panama were also affirmed.

The negative outlook reflects the sovereign's high level of influenceover the financial sector and the broader operating environment, Fitch said.

Meanwhile, the viability rating drives the bank's issuer defaultratings and national ratings. The bank's ratings are at the same level of the sovereignrating, reflecting the high influence of the operating environment over the bank'sperformance. The ratings also consider the bank's company profile, with its financialperformance "underpinned by its public nature and the benefits granted by law,such as mandatory capitalization and inflow of deposits," Fitch noted.

In Fitch's view, "the bank's role in the pension regimeas depositary of mandatory savings from Costa Rican workers, its market share inconsumer lending and its franchise" are evidence of its systemic importance.The national ratings of the senior unsecured debt ratings in El Salvador and Panamareflect the relative strength of the Costa Rican bank compared to other issuersin those countries.

The ratings also consider "BPDC's ample loss absorptioncapacity and consistent profitability, adequate asset quality, ample deposit basedfunding, and moderate tenure mismatches in its asset and liability structure,"Fitch said.