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Fitch places Turkey's Halkbank on Rating Watch Negative following US charges

Fitch Ratings on Oct. 21 placed certain ratings of Türkiye Halk Bankası AŞ on Rating Watch Negative, following U.S. charges filed against the lender for its alleged role in a multibillion-dollar scheme to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran.

The agency placed the bank's long-term B+ foreign-currency and BB- local-currency issuer default ratings, its B short-term foreign- and local- currency issuer default ratings and its "b" viability rating on Rating Watch Negative, along with its senior unsecured debt rating of B+, support rating of 4, support rating floor of B+ and national long-term rating of AA(tur).

The rating watch placement reflects uncertainty about the severity and nature of measures that the bank could face in relation to the charges. It also takes into account the heightened geopolitical tensions between Turkey and the U.S., which could further escalate and raise doubts about the capacity of Turkish authorities to provide timely and sufficient support for Halkbank in case the lender is hit with a material fine or any other punitive measures as a result of the U.S. investigation.

Fitch said it expects to resolve the Rating Watch Negative once there is more clarity on the outcome of the case and the impact it may have on Halkbank. The rating watch placement may be maintained for longer than six months in the event that the U.S. investigation is extended, the agency noted.

Fitch's ratings action follows Moody's placement of the bank's ratings on review for downgrade.