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Fitch Affirms Santander Rio's (Argentina) LC IDR at 'B-'; Outlook Negative
March 20, 2013 / 8:08 PM / 5 years ago

Fitch Affirms Santander Rio's (Argentina) LC IDR at 'B-'; Outlook Negative

(The following statement was released by the rating agency) BUENOS AIRES, March 20 (Fitch) Fitch Ratings has affirmed Banco Santander Rio S.A.'s (Santander Rio) Viability Rating (VR) and Local Currency Long-term Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) at 'b-' and 'B-', respectively. The Rating Outlook on the Long-term IDR is Negative. A full list of ratings actions follows at the end of this press release. KEY RATING DRIVERS Santander Rio benefits from the vast expertise of its largest shareholder, Spain's Banco Santander (Santander, rated 'BBB+'; Rating Outlook Negative by Fitch); however, given the relative high country risk and specially government intervention over the bank business, Santander Rio's support rating remains on 5 and hence, its IDRs are driven by its VR. The latter reflects the bank's sound franchise in Argentina, its strong profitability, its healthy asset quality ratios, ample liquidity and improved capitalization, as well as the volatile environment in Argentina. RATING SENSITIVITIES The Rating Outlook on Santander Rio's LC Long-term IDR and Long-term National Rating is Negative, in line with the outlook on Argentina's sovereign ratings, which constrains those of Santander Rio. Downside risk to Santander Rio ratings mainly stem from a downgrade of the sovereign rating, or a significant decline in the bank's liquidity or asset quality, which Fitch considers unlikely in the medium term. Upside to Santander Rio ratings currently appears limited but could stem from an upgrade of the sovereign ratings. CREDIT PROFILE Along with the benign operating environment in the past few years, Santander Rio's profitability has been very strong, mainly based on sound interest and commission income, which have compensated for the increase in administrative expenses due to the high inflation rate. Fitch expects Santander Rio's profitability to remain sound, based on its solid revenue generation capacity, although it will probably be under pressure from slower loan growth, rising inflation and persistent market volatility. Santander Rio's asset quality is sound, although it has deteriorated slightly in line with the economic slowdown in 2012. Non-performing loans were only 1.17% of the total at Dec. 31, 2012, and loan loss reserve coverage was 143.5%. Fitch expects Santander Rio's asset quality ratios to remain healthy, although its NPL could rise somewhat in the current year in line with the outlook for the economy. Since 2012, banks in Argentina are demanded to comply with some rules regarding compulsory lending, that in Fitch's view may limit their room to maneuver regarding the credit risk management, and may result in some pressures overt the industry asset quality ratios; even when the first results of such measures are too early to judge. Santander Rio's funding was comprised primarily of retail deposits. While the bank's liquidity is ample, Fitch is cautious about the large negative maturity mismatch of all banks in Argentina given the short term nature of their liabilities and the longer tenor on their assets; however, this position is manageable given the strong franchise of Santander Rio and also the complex set of capital controls in place. The company's capital base is adequate and has been supported by its rising profitability and the recent restrictions imposed by the Central Bank on dividend payments; at Dec. 31, 2012 Fitch Core Capital was a sound 16.62%. Fitch expects Santander Rio's capitalization to improve further in the medium term as loan growth will decelerate and profitability remain solid. Santander Rio is 99.3% owned by Santander. It is a universal bank, offering a wide range of financial services through its 327 branches. It was Argentina's largest private sector bank by loans and deposits at Oct. 31, 2012. Fitch has affirmed the following ratings for Santander Rio: --Local currency long-term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at 'B-'; Negative Outlook; --Viability Rating at 'b-'; --Support at '5'; --Long-term National Rating at 'AA(arg)'; Negative Outlook; --Short-term National Rating at 'A1+(arg)'; --National long-term rating on senior unsecured notes at 'AA(arg) '; Negative Outlook. Contact: Primary Analyst Santiago Gallo Director +54-11-5235-8137 Fitch Argentina Calificadora de Riesgo S.A. Sarmiento 663 - piso 7 - C1041AAM Buenos Aires, Argentina Secondary Analyst Dario Logiodice Associate Director +54-11-5235-8112 Committee Chairperson Franklin Santarelli Managing Director +1-212-908-0739 Media Relations: Brian Bertsch, New York, Tel: +1 212-908-0549, Email: Additional information is available at ''. The ratings above were solicited by, or on behalf of, the issuer, and therefore, Fitch has been compensated for the provision of the ratings. Applicable Criteria and Related Research: --'Global Financial Institutions Rating Criteria' (Aug. 15, 2012). Applicable Criteria and Related Research Global Financial Institutions Rating Criteria here ALL FITCH CREDIT RATINGS ARE SUBJECT TO CERTAIN LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS. PLEASE READ THESE LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS BY FOLLOWING THIS LINK: here. IN ADDITION, RATING DEFINITIONS AND THE TERMS OF USE OF SUCH RATINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON THE AGENCY'S PUBLIC WEBSITE 'WWW.FITCHRATINGS.COM'. PUBLISHED RATINGS, CRITERIA AND METHODOLOGIES ARE AVAILABLE FROM THIS SITE AT ALL TIMES. FITCH'S CODE OF CONDUCT, CONFIDENTIALITY, CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, AFFILIATE FIREWALL, COMPLIANCE AND OTHER RELEVANT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES ARE ALSO AVAILABLE FROM THE 'CODE OF CONDUCT' SECTION OF THIS SITE. FITCH MAY HAVE PROVIDED ANOTHER PERMISSIBLE SERVICE TO THE RATED ENTITY OR ITS RELATED THIRD PARTIES. DETAILS OF THIS SERVICE FOR RATINGS FOR WHICH THE LEAD ANALYST IS BASED IN AN EU-REGISTERED ENTITY CAN BE FOUND ON THE ENTITY SUMMARY PAGE FOR THIS ISSUER ON THE FITCH WEBSITE.

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