Fitch Ratings on April 14 upgraded a number of banks in theBenelux region as part of a periodic ratings review.
Thebanks upgraded were ING GroepNV, ING BankNV and ING BelgiëNV; ABN AMRO GroupNV's ABN AMRO BankNV; SNS BankNV; and BelfiusBanque SA. The agency also revised to positive from stable theoutlooks on the A- long-term issuer default ratings of and KBC Bank NV and affirmed various ratings of and RabobankGroup's Coöperatieve Rabobank UA.
Theupgrades of ING Groep's, ING Bank's and ING België's long-term issuer defaultratings to A+ from A, with a stable outlook, reflects ING Bank's solid andstable financial metrics and strong execution of its strategy, and the agency'sexpectation that the stable and gradually improving earnings will bemaintained. ING Groep's and ING Bank's viability ratings were upgraded to"a+" from "a."
Theupgrade of ABN AMRO's long-term issuer default rating to A+ from A reflects theaddition of a one-notch buffer above the "a" viability rating, aresult of the now significant junior debt buffers that provide additionalprotection for senior creditors.
Theupgrade of Belfius Banque's long-term issuer default rating to A- from BBB+reflects significant progress in reducing the risk of its legacy operations,which Fitch no longer expects to be a material drag on profitability. Thebank's viability rating was upgraded to "a-" from "bbb+."
SNSBank's long-term issuer default rating was upgraded to BBB+ from BBB, while itsviability rating was upgraded to "bbb+" from "bbb" and itsshort-term issuer default rating to F2 from F3. The upgrade reflects the bank'scontinuing solid financial metrics and the agency's expectation that its moreconservative risk appetite and metrics improvements to date will be maintained.The bank's narrow Dutch retail focus means further upgrades are now unlikely,however.
Theoutlook revisions on KBC Group and KBC Bank reflect the latter's improvedearnings generation and capitalization, which have reduced its vulnerability toa still-high level of unreserved impaired loans. An upgrade of the bank'sratings is contingent on strong earnings generation and capitalization,including reduced vulnerability to the Irish legacy books, as problem loansfall or cash reserve coverage is increased.
The agencyalso affirmed Coöperatieve Rabobank's long-term issuer default rating at AA-and its viability rating at "a-" and affirmed Banque Internationale aLuxembourg's long-term issuer default rating at BBB+ and viability rating at"bbb+."
Withthe exception of KBC Bank and KBC Group, the outlooks on all the institutions'long-term issuer default ratings are stable.