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Fitch completes peer review of US niche real estate banks

Fitch on April 7 said that it has completed its peer review ofniche real estate banks in the U.S., among them Lake Success, N.Y.-based ; Brooklyn,N.Y.-based Dime Community BancsharesInc.; New York-based EmigrantBancorp Inc.; and Westbury, N.Y.-based New York Community Bancorp Inc.

Fitch said it maintains the Rating Watch Positive on the ratingsof Astoria while it has affirmed Emigrant'sratings with a stable outlook and has concurrently withdrawn coverage of the company,due to "commercial reasons." Fitch also affirmed the ratings of Dime Communityand New York Community at their respective levels with a stable outlook.

The rating agency affirmed New York Community's long-term ratingat BBB+ and short-term issuer default rating at F2, which indicate the company'srelatively strong company profile, consistent earnings and stable asset qualitythroughout the economic cycle. However, the rating agency also pointed out thatNew York Community has a relatively higher-risk funding profile and concentratedloan portfolio.

For Dime Community, the rating agency affirmed the company'slong-term rating at BBB and short-term issuer default rating at F2. Astoria's long-termrating of BBB- and short-term issuer default rating of F3 remain on Rating WatchPositive. Fitch stated that both companies have stable asset quality performancebut are constrained by weak liquidity and funding profiles. However, Dime Community'sabove-peer average asset quality and earnings performance sets it apart from Astoria.

For Emigrant, Fitch affirmed the company's long-term rating ofBB and short-term issuer default rating of B. And while Emigrant has strong capitallevels and reduced balance sheet risk, the company's limited franchise and businessposition, reliance on net interest income, and historically elevated net charge-offsthrough the cycle constrains its ratings.

The rating agency added that the strength of the New York realestate market benefited U.S. niche real estate banks, and noted that these institutionsalso rely more on spread income than more diversified depositories. The group alsohas strong asset quality and low charge-off levels, despite elevated nonperformingasset balances.