Monday, February 2, 2009
An international credit ratings agency has downgraded the creditworthiness of British bank Barclays LSE: BARC
The bank’s shares fell on the news that Moody’s had cut long-term debt ratings from “Aa1” to “Aa3” on the back of fears of nationalization, significant losses and write downs of more bad loans as the recession bites. The bank’s financial strength was also downgraded from “C” to “B”. Last week, another agency, Fitch, downgraded the bank one step to “AA-minus”.
Barclays is one of the few major “High Street” banks in the UK not to have taken any government capital support. The support is given in return for shares, giving the government significant – sometimes even controlling – stakes in other banks, such as Lloyds Banking Group and the Royal Bank of Scotland Group.
Moody’s said that the downgrades “reflect [our] expectation of potentially significant further losses at Barclays as a result of write-downs on credit market exposures as well as an increase in impairments in the UK, which could weaken profitability and capital ratios… [we consider] the systemic importance of the bank and the likelihood of receiving government support in case of need to be high.”
The bank has forecast a pre-tax profit of £5.3 billion for 2008. It has £36 billion in committed capital equity and expects gross write downs of £8 billion. The bank has recently been referred to the UK’s Serious Fraud Office over allegations of breaching South Africa’s foreign exchange controls, something the bank denies.