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European Credit Card ABS: Assessing The Credit Effects Of COVID-19

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European Credit Card ABS: Assessing The Credit Effects Of COVID-19

In our view, actions taken so far by the U.K. and European countries to bolster their economies from the effects of COVID-19 will also support credit card asset-backed securities (ABS) performance. Many of the economic support measures aim to prevent unemployment from spiking, which is one of the primary drivers for charge-off rates in credit card ABS. However, other measures to support consumers such as the introduction of payment holidays could lead to liquidity pressures for credit card ABS. We believe issuers are currently well positioned to weather a short-term reduction in collections, but they could face longer-term challenges if macroeconomic conditions deteriorate.

S&P Global Ratings acknowledges a high degree of uncertainty about the rate of spread and peak of the coronavirus outbreak. Some government authorities estimate the pandemic will peak around midyear, and we are using this assumption in assessing the economic and credit implications. In our view, the measures adopted to contain COVID-19 have pushed the global economy into recession (see our macroeconomic and credit updates here: www.spglobal.com/ratings). As the situation evolves, we will update our assumptions and estimates accordingly.

Economic Considerations

Unlike natural disasters, where the result is localized and immediate--and consequently the influence on an obligor's credit quality is more predictable--the ultimate effect of COVID-19 remains uncertain in terms of magnitude, location, and duration because the situation is fluid. Given the widespread precautionary measures put in place across Europe, COVID-19 is most likely to have a geographic footprint well beyond that of localized natural disasters.

European countries and central banks have been quick to activate safety nets and inject liquidity into their economies. Their actions seek to ensure that small and midsize enterprises continue to have access to credit and don't shed jobs. On the fiscal side, most countries have unveiled large rescue packages, which aim to help businesses and mortgage lenders cope with the containment measures and avoid a more severe rise in nonperforming loans and defaults.

Germany, France, Italy, the U.K., and Spain have also introduced short-term working schemes to avoid a big jump in layoffs as entire sectors of the economy have shuttered. The basic idea of such schemes is for the state to subsidize companies' payrolls to prevent employers from reducing staff in response to a temporary fall in business activity. This will ensure that consumption can recover swiftly once the countries lift their containment measures (for further information, see "Europe Goes Into Lockdown," published April 1, 2020, and "COVID-19: The Steepening Cost To The Eurozone And U.K. Economies," published March 26, 2020).

Table 1

S&P Global Ratings European Economic Forecasts
Forecast
2019 2020 2021 2022 Baseline effect on credit card collateral credit quality
Real GDP (%) change
U.K. 1.4 (1.9) 3.8 2.2 Unfavorable
Belgium 1.4 (1.7) 2.6 1.3 Unfavorable
France 1.3 (1.7) 3.2 1.9 Unfavorable
Spain 2.0 (2.1) 3.1 1.7 Unfavorable
Switzerland 0.8 (1.8) 4.0 2.1 Unfavorable
Unemployment rate (%)
U.K. 3.8 4.5 4.4 3.8 Somewhat unfavorable
Belgium 5.4 5.5 5.9 5.8 Somewhat unfavorable
France 8.5 8.9 8.7 8.3 Somewhat unfavorable
Spain 14.1 14.7 15.6 15.2 Somewhat unfavorable
Switzerland 4.4 5.0 5.0 4.7 Somewhat unfavorable

Collateral Performance

When analyzing credit card ABS, we derive base-case and stressed assumptions for three key performance variables: charge-offs (defaults), yield, and payment rate. Any adverse movement in one of the three key performance variables might be offset by positive movement in the other two variables, which may help to maintain the current ratings on the notes. For example, a reduction in the payment rate or an increase in the charge-off rate may be mitigated by an increase in yield.

Unlike a finite structure of amortizing collateral, credit card receivables are associated with millions of accounts across several industries and are geographically diverse. Our base-case assumptions for the key performance variables generally incorporate a cushion when compared with the current performance to account for potential migration of the portfolio during the transaction's revolving period. They also reflect our view of expected performance during multiple economic scenarios and forecasted economic variables such as unemployment levels and bankruptcy rates. As a result, given our current macroeconomic outlook for the impact of COVID-19, even if transactions experience temporary credit stress, our view is that performance will remain within our base-case expectations.

Nevertheless, we expect that portfolios with co-brand relationships in sectors with high sensitivity to COVID-19, including retail, aviation, and lodging, will experience a larger deterioration in performance (i.e., higher charge-offs, lower payment, or lower yield) than for general purpose bankcards.

Collateral performance will likely differ by country, depending on both the scale of the local response to containing COVID-19 and the related response to financially support borrowers who find themselves struggling to make debt payments. We compare our base-case assumptions with the current performance for each issuer in the tables below. In addition, the historical performance for each issuer is included in Appendix I.

Charge-offs (defaults)  

The likelihood of obligors not satisfying their credit card payment obligations will depend on how much their income curtails. In the short term, we expect delinquencies to be elevated, which could result in increased charge-offs depending on the duration of the dislocation from COVID-19. In our view, credit card issuers' forbearance considerations, employers' assistance, and government efforts to provide financial assistance and other stimulus measures will lessen the burden faced by many obligors and, as a result, reduce delinquencies and losses.

While all credit tiers will likely be affected by job losses, in our view, prime borrowers may have more financial resources to draw upon to cover a temporary loss of income than borrowers in the near prime and subprime segments. We view the majority of borrowers in rated U.K. and European credit card transactions as prime, and as a result, the underlying obligors should be in a stronger position to pay their outstanding credit card debt.

However, we also expect that declining card usage for discretionary purchases by convenience users (those who pay their credit card balance in full each month) will lead to a rise in charge-off ratios. The increase results from the "denominator effect" of a declining pool balance even with a static level of charge-offs.

As shown in tables 2A and 2B, there remains a cushion in our base-case assumptions to mitigate the expected increase in charge-off rates. In addition, under the current expected levels of credit stress from COVID-19, our view of 'AAA' charge-offs for each issuer remains stable, ranging from 30.25%-36.50% for U.K. issuers and 16.80%-42.30% for European issuers.

Table 2A

U.K. Credit Card ABS Base-Case And Stressed Charge-Off Rate Assumption
(%) Delamare Gracechurch New Day Penarth
Base-case (A) 5.5 7.5 7.3 6.5
Actual three-month average* (B) 2.3 4.4 4.7 2.5
Base-case cushion (A)-(B) 3.2 3.1 2.6 4.0
'AAA' 30.25 33.75 36.50 30.88
'AA' N/A N/A 29.40 25.03
'A' N/A N/A 21.70 18.53
'BBB' N/A N/A 15.01 N/A
'BB' N/A N/A 11.15 N/A
'B' N/A N/A 9.13 N/A
*As of fourth-quarter 2019. N/A--Not applicable.

Table 2B

European Credit Card ABS Base-Case And Stressed Charge-Off Rate Assumption
(%) BL Consumer Ginkgo MCCP Columbus Oneycord Swiss Cards
Base-case (A) 5.0 7.8 9.0 9.5 9.0 3.5
Actual three-month average* (B) 0.2 3.8 1.3 5.9 2.1 0.7
Base-case cushion(A)-(B) 4.8 4.0 7.7 3.6 6.9 2.8
'AAA' 25.00 36.66 38.00 N/A 42.30 16.80
'AA' 20.25 28.86 N/A 37.05 34.20 N/A
'A' 14.75 N/A N/A N/A 25.65 10.15
'BBB' 10.25 N/A N/A N/A N/A 7.00
'BB' N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
'B' N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
*As of fourth-quarter 2019. N/A--Not applicable.

Payment rates  

Social distancing measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 have resulted in significant changes in consumers' spending patterns, including reduced traveling, dining in restaurants, and retail shopping. We expect payment rates to moderate as convenience users reduce their spending activity and postpone nonessential purchases. During lockdowns, we estimate households will cut their spending by about 40%.

We also are monitoring the responses of credit card providers and local regulators to assist consumers affected by COVID-19. For example, the U.K.'s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has proposed offering credit card borrowers who face short-term financial difficulty a temporary payment freeze for up to three months, which could come into force by April 9, 2020. During the payment freeze, the account would not be considered in arrears, the credit line would remain open, and firms could continue to charge interest on the outstanding balance. Therefore, we expect that any reduction in payment rates because of these measures would be temporary, and the future collection of any interest accrued during the deferment period may soften the impact on cash flow. In addition, approximately half of credit card receivables in the U.K. are non-interest bearing, for example balance transfers with promotional interest rates. These offers are generally made to higher credit quality borrowers and have lower minimum required monthly payments because no interest accrues. Therefore, we believe fewer of these borrowers would exercise a payment freeze than those whose balances accrue interest.

Our base-case payment rate assumptions are generally below the current performance (see tables 3A and 3B). When sizing our base-case assumptions, we consider a reduction in convenience users in the pool during adverse scenarios. For U.K. issuers, our stressed payment rate assumptions consider that the low payment rates from balance transfers during the promotional period could mitigate deterioration in the payment rate in an amortization scenario once the promotional periods expire. For receivables in France and Spain, we typically model the stressed payment rate at the minimum levels required by law.

Table 3A

U.K. Credit Card ABS Base-Case And Stressed Payment Rate Assumption
(%) Delamare Gracechurch New Day Penarth
Base-case (A) 30.0 15.0 17.0 17.0
Actual three-month average* (B) 36.3 18.2 25.4 25.2
Base-case cushion (B)-(A) 6.3 3.2 8.4 8.2
'AAA' 15.00 8.25 8.50 9.35
'AA' N/A N/A 9.35 10.20
'A' N/A N/A 10.20 11.05
'BBB' N/A N/A 11.90 N/A
'BB' N/A N/A 12.96 N/A
'B' N/A N/A 13.60 N/A
*As of fourth-quarter 2019. N/A--Not applicable.

Table 3B

European Credit Card ABS Base-Case And Stressed Payment Rate Assumption
(%) BL Consumer Ginkgo MCCP Columbus Oneycord Swiss Cards
Base-case (A) 7.5 Contractual/legal minimum§ Contractual/legal minimum§ Contractual/legal minimum§ 8.0 32.0
Actual three-month average* (B) 11.1 5.3 5.2 6.6 6.8 77.4
Base-case cushion (B)-(A) 3.6 N/A N/A N/A 1.2 45.4
'AAA' 4.50 Contractual/legal minimum§ Contractual/legal minimum§ N/A 4.40 16.00
'AA' 4.87 Contractual/legal minimum§ N/A Contractual/legal minimum§ 4.80 N/A
'A' 5.25 N/A N/A N/A 5.20 19.20
'BBB' 6.00 N/A N/A N/A N/A 22.40
'BB' N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
'B' N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
*As of fourth-quarter 2019. §The stressed payment rate is modeled at the contractual or legal minimum. As a result, since the payment rate is already assumed at the minimum level, a haircut is not applied. N/A--Not applicable.

Yield  

We believe that servicers will assess the possibility that obligors may request forbearance on a case-by-case basis and may offer temporary payment relief to those experiencing difficulty making payments because of the COVID-19 effects. Additionally, working remotely is one aspect of business continuity planning and, presently, we do not believe there is a noticeable effect on institutions' ability to continue servicing credit card obligors, including collections.

Considering the diversification of obligors, case-by-case forbearance requests, continued servicing capacities, and current levels of excess spread, we believe the likelihood of temporary payment disruptions to noteholders is low.

We typically assume that yield is below the issuers' current performance (see tables 4A and 4B). For U.K. issuers, our stressed yield assumptions consider that the high proportion of balance transfer receivables would begin to accrue yield if the obligors do not repay their balances in full once the promotional periods expire. We also do not give credit to interchange fees in our base-case yield assumptions. Therefore, even if purchase rates decline, we do not believe the resulting reduction in interchange fees would affect our base-case assumptions.

Table 4A

U.K. Credit Card ABS Base-Case And Stressed Yield Assumption
(%) Delamare Gracechurch New Day Penarth
Base-case (A) 7.5 13.5 19.0 13.5
Actual three-month average* (B) 11.5 15.3 23.3 15.2
Base-case cushion (B)-(A) 4.0 1.8 4.0 1.7
'AAA' 4.88 9.11 12.35 9.11
'AA' N/A N/A 12.92 9.48
'A' N/A N/A 13.49 9.86
'BBB' N/A N/A 14.63 N/A
'BB' N/A N/A 15.58 N/A
'B' N/A N/A 16.15 N/A
*As of fourth-quarter 2019. N/A--Not applicable.

Table 4B

European Credit Card ABS Base-Case And Stressed Yield Assumption
(%) BL Consumer Ginkgo MCCP Columbus Oneycord Swiss Cards
Base-case (A) 9.8 7.9 13.8 19.0 13.5 8.0
Actual three-month average* (B) 11.7 9.1 13.5 19.8 14.0 26.7
Base-case cushion (B)-(A) 1.9 1.2 0.3 0.8 0.5 18.7
'AAA' 6.39 5.10 9.11 N/A 8.78 5.40
'AA' 6.68 5.50 N/A 12.49 9.18 N/A
'A' 6.98 N/A N/A N/A 9.59 5.84
'BBB' 7.56 N/A N/A N/A N/A 6.28
'BB' N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
'B' N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
*As of fourth-quarter 2019. N/A--Not applicable.

Transaction Structures

Liquidity coverage  

Credit card issuers benefit from a significant amount of excess spread, which they may use to satisfy temporary delays in collections on a percentage of the securitized receivables. Currently, the issuers have robust excess revenue collections (i.e., yield net of charge-offs) to offset any increase in delinquencies or use of payment holidays (see tables 5A and 5B).

In addition, in the event interest collections are insufficient to pay bond coupons, many credit card issuers can reallocate principal collections.

Table 5A

U.K. Credit Card ABS Net Spread
(%) Delamare Gracechurch New Day Penarth
Yield* (A) 11.5 15.3 23.3 15.2
Charge-offs*(B) 2.3 4.4 4.7 2.5
Net spread* (A)-(B) 9.2 10.9 18.6 12.7
*As of fourth-quarter 2019.

Table 5B

European Credit Card ABS Net Spread
(%) BL Consumer Ginkgo MCCP Columbus Oneycord Swiss Cards
Yield* (A) 11.7 9.1 13.5 19.8 14.0 26.7
Charge-offs*(B) 0.22 3.8 1.3 5.9 2.1 0.7
Net spread* (A)-(B) 11.48 5.3 12.2 13.9 11.9 26.0
*As of fourth-quarter 2019.

Issuers may also have funded cash reserves that they can draw upon in the event collections are insufficient to cover timely interest (see tables 6A and 6B).

Table 6A

U.K. Credit Card ABS Reserve Funds
Delamare Gracechurch New Day Penarth
Cash reserve 2.0% pre-funded series cash reserve and a 0.5% pre-funded program reserve. No reserve funded at closing. Principal collections can be reallocated to cover any finance charge shortfalls for the rated notes. 2.58% pre-funded series cash reserve. No reserve funded at closing. Principal collections can be reallocated to cover any finance charge shortfalls for the rated notes.

Table 6B

European Credit Card ABS Reserve Funds
BL Consumer Ginkgo MCCP Columbus Oneycord Swiss Cards
Cash reserve 1.2% of the A, B, and C notes' outstanding principal amount and a senior expenses reserve equal to 0.5% of the non-defaulted receivables balance. General reserve fund (0.85% of the class A notes' closing balance) and the class B general reserve fund (3.0% of the class B notes' closing balance). 1.2% of the outstanding balance of the class A notes, with a floor of 0.5% of the class A notes' initial principal balance. 1.2% of the outstanding balance of the class A notes, with a floor of 0.5% of the class A notes' initial principal balance. 3% cash reserve. We only give benefit to 2.74% of the reserve as we consider it could be partly consumed to redeem the class B notes pro rata during the normal amortization period. Part of the reserve fund accounting for 1.5% of the minimum program size is dedicated to the liquidity reserve to pay the class A notes' interest and senior fees. No reserve funded at closing. Principal collections can be reallocated to cover any finance charge shortfalls for the rated notes.

Early amortization events  

When modeling credit card ABS cash flows, we assume that the transactions enter early amortization. However, our ratings do not address the likelihood of early amortization.

Two common events that generally trigger early amortization in credit card structures are a breach of the base-rate trigger or failure of the asset test.

Transaction documents generally have a performance-based amortization trigger, commonly referred to as a base-rate trigger. A breach typically occurs when the three-month average excess spread is less than zero. Excess spread depends on yield levels, charge-off rates, bond coupons, and senior fees. Some structures may also use a principal deficiency ledger (PDL) test, which is similar to a base-rate trigger, whereby in the event of an uncured PDL (when interest collections are insufficient to cover charge-offs, bond coupons, and senior fees) the revolving period will terminate. Therefore, deteriorating performance of receivables could result in early amortization. However, given current levels of net spread across issuers (see tables 4A and 4B), there would need to be significant deterioration to breach this trigger.

Credit card structures also commonly have an asset test, which compares the pool balance to the aggregate outstanding note balance plus any minimum required level of seller's interest. In the event that new purchases decline because of the effects from COVID-19 and the pool balance drops below the minimum required level, early amortization could begin if the seller is unable to remedy the breach by adding receivables. Generally, each program's total amount of receivables exceeds that required by the program's documents, which reduces the risk of early amortization.

In our stressed rating analysis, we determine the maximum purchase rate credit based on the rating on the originator. If the originator's credit quality deteriorates, we may lower the purchase rate credit, which could result in negative rating actions across the capital structure absent any mitigating factors such as excess credit enhancement. For U.K. and European transactions that we assign purchase rate credit to, most of the originators currently benefit from stable rating outlooks or could withstand downgrades of several notches before we would need to reduce our purchase rate assumptions.

Rating Implications

Given our macroeconomic outlook and the levels of cushion within our base-case assumptions, we do not believe that any revisions are warranted at this time. Therefore, we currently believe that our ratings on U.K. and European credit card ABS will remain stable.

If we were to revise our base-case assumptions following a deterioration in performance or a revision to our economic outlook, we anticipate that speculative-grade ratings would be more sensitive to these changes. As most of our outstanding ratings on U.K. and European credit card ABS are investment grade, we expect that any rating actions would be limited to a small number of tranches.

As the situation evolves and the impact of COVID-19 unfolds, we will continue to assess the effects on the U.K. and European credit card ABS we rate.

Appendix I – Charge-off (Default) Rate

Chart 1A

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Chart 1B

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Appendix II – Payment Rate

Chart 2A

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Chart 2B

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Appendix III – Yield

Chart 3A

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Chart 3B

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Glossary

Charge-off rate:   We define charge-offs as losses on principal receivables divided by the pool balance at the beginning of the month, which is annualized and expressed as a percentage. They are effectively gross losses.

Payment rate:   We define the payment rate as the total collections received in a particular month divided by the pool balance at the beginning of the month, expressed as a percentage. In our view, a high payment rate is beneficial for the transaction as during the amortization period the note principal is paid down more quickly, meaning noteholders are exposed to losses for a shorter period.

Yield rate:   We define yield as finance charge and fee income in a particular month divided by the pool balance at the beginning of the month, annualized and expressed as a percentage. We believe high-yield is beneficial for the transaction, as it means a higher income to offset any losses and pay the interest on the notes.

Net spread:   We define net spread as three-month average yield rate minus three-month average charge-off rate.

Related Research

  • Europe Goes Into Lockdown, April 1, 2020
  • European ABS And RMBS: Assessing The Credit Effects Of COVID-19, March 30, 2020
  • Coronavirus Impact: Key Takeaways From Our Articles, March 27, 2020
  • COVID-19: The Steepening Cost To The Eurozone And U.K. Economies, March 26, 2020
  • European Corporate Securitizations: Assessing The Credit Effects Of COVID-19, March 26, 2020
  • European CLOs: Assessing The Credit Effects Of COVID-19, March 25, 2020
  • Global Covered Bonds: Assessing The Credit Effects Of COVID-19, March 25, 2020
  • European CMBS: Assessing The Credit Effects Of COVID-19, March 24, 2020
  • COVID-19 Macroeconomic Update: The Global Recession Is Here And Now, March 17, 2020
  • COVID-19 Credit Update: The Sudden Economic Stop Will Bring Intense Credit Pressure, March 17, 2020
  • Credit FAQ: Will Mortgage Payment Suspensions Related To COVID-19 Affect European RMBS?, March 13, 2020

This report does not constitute a rating action.

Primary Credit Analyst:Matthew S Mitchell, CFA, London (44) 20-7176-8581;
matthew.mitchell@spglobal.com
Secondary Contact:Doug Paterson, London (44) 20-7176-5521;
doug.paterson@spglobal.com

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