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Fitch takes UK banks off negative watch, citing lower risk of no-deal Brexit

Fitch Ratings removed 19 U.K. banks and some of their subsidiaries from Rating Watch Negative on Dec. 20, following a similar action on the U.K. sovereign ratings citing a reduced risk of a no-deal Brexit in the short-term.

The rating agency affirmed the A+ long-term issuer default ratings of HBOS PLC, Lloyds Banking Group PLC, HSBC Holdings PLC, Barclays Bank Ireland PLC, Ulster Bank Ltd., Barclays Bank UK PLC, HSBC UK Bank PLC, Santander UK PLC, Bank of Scotland PLC, Barclays Bank PLC, Barclays Capital Inc., Lloyds Bank PLC, Royal Bank of Scotland PLC, HSBC Latin America Holdings (UK) Ltd. and National Westminster Bank PLC.

Fitch affirmed the A long-term issuer default ratings of Barclays PLC, Close Brothers Group PLC, Close Brothers Ltd., Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets Wertpapierhandelsbank GmbH, Santander UK Group Holdings PLC, NatWest Markets PLC, Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets Plc, Nationwide Building Society, NatWest Markets NV, Santander Financial Services Plc, Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC, NatWest Markets Securities Inc. and Royal Bank of Scotland International Ltd.

The A- long-term issuer default ratings of Yorkshire Building Society, Ulster Bank Ireland DAC, Skipton Building Society, Clydesdale Bank PLC, Leeds Building Society, Coventry Building Society and the AA- long-term issuer default rating of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited were also affirmed.

As were the BBB+ long-term issuer default ratings of Virgin Money UK Plc, Investec Bank PLC, Principality Building Society; the BBB long-term issuer default ratings of Bank of Ireland (UK) PLC, Tesco Personal Finance Group Plc Tesco Personal Finance PLC, Paragon Banking Group PLC and the B long-term issuer default rating of Co-operative Bank PLC.

Fitch said the outlook on those entities is stable, except Metro Bank PLC, which is assigned a negative outlook on the long-term rating, citing the challenges to its business model which needs growth to become profitable.

Fitch added that most U.K. banks have sound buffers and are well-capitalized, with impaired loans at cyclical lows, meaning they will remain resilient to moderate deterioration in economic growth. Fitch also believes the lowered uncertainty around Brexit could lead to growth but a lasting benefit from increasing public investment will depend on how effectively the investments are targeted.