September 28, 2017 / 9:18 PM / a year ago

Fitch Affirms Credit Suisse Group at 'A-'; Outlook Stable

(The following statement was released by the rating agency) LONDON, September 28 (Fitch) Fitch Ratings has affirmed Credit Suisse Group AG's (CSGAG) Long-Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) and Viability Rating (VR) at 'A-' and 'a-', respectively. At the same time, Fitch has affirmed the ratings of the group's main operating entity, Credit Suisse AG (Credit Suisse), at IDR 'A' and VR 'a-' and of the group's domestic subsidiary, Credit Suisse (Schweiz) AG (CS Schweiz) at IDR 'A' and VR 'a'. The Outlooks are all Stable. A full list of rating actions is available at the end of this rating action commentary. The rating actions have been taken in conjunction with Fitch's periodic review of the Global Trading and Universal Banks (GTUBs), which comprise 12 large and globally active banking groups. KEY RATING DRIVERS VR CSGAG AND CREDIT SUISSE Credit Suisse accounts for substantially all of CSGAG's consolidated assets, and their VRs are assessed on a consolidated basis. The banks' VRs reflect the group's franchise as one of the leading global wealth managers with material investment banking capabilities, and the second-largest universal banking presence in Switzerland. They also reflect, however, our view that the company profile acts as a constraint, given the high proportion of revenue generated by the group's trading, underwriting and advisory operations, (47% of the group in 1H17), which exposes it to volatility and cyclicality. CS has a particularly strong focus on fixed income instruments, and in particular, leveraged finance and credit, where activity can be cyclical. We have also taken into account the bank's improving operating earnings and good progress in cost reductions, which have been implemented ahead of original plans. Credit Suisse's operating expenses excluding litigation, restructuring and goodwill impairment in 2016 were CHF1.8 billion lower yoy (at constant exchange rates), which compares with an initial net cost savings target of CHF1.4 billion. The bank targets cumulated net savings of CHF4.2 billion by end-2018, a material 20% of the 2015 CHF21.2 billion cost base and we believe that it should be able to deliver on its target. Positively the bank's future performance is expected to see smaller losses from the Strategic Resolution Unit (SRU), which were the main driver depressing the bank's profitability in 1H17. We expect the group's reported operating earnings to improve by early 2019 if the SRU reduction is successful, which in our view is likely given the sound record of maintaining exit costs within management guidance and reducing assets and costs rapidly. The bank guided that it expects quarterly pre-tax losses to ease to around CHF350 million in 2018 and CHF200 million by 2019 (from CHF1.1 billion in 1H17). Credit Suisse's wealth management franchises have to date performed well, with sound net margins on assets under management and momentum in net new asset growth. Results in 1H17 also highlighted progress towards the group's targeted levels of revenue and costs in Global Markets. However, materially lower client trading activity in Asia Pacific has been denting profitability and may make reaching divisional targets challenging. Credit Suisse's sound capitalisation compares well with GTUB peers' following a CHF4.1 billion rights issue completed in 2Q17. By end-2Q17 it had reached a 13.3% fully-loaded Basel III CET1 ratio, a 5.2% Tier 1 leverage ratio and the 2020 Swiss going concern requirements at end-2Q17. However, we expect the bank's reinvestment in international wealth management and Asia Pacific to consume capital, partly to fund lending to wealth management clients and participate in cross-border mergers and acquisitions financing. We expect that capitalisation levels may fluctuate to the bank's medium-term targeted 13% CET1 ratio and 5% leverage ratio. Litigation tail risks to capitalisation have materially receded following the RMBS settlement with the US Department of Justice in 4Q16, while smaller restructuring and SRU losses should have less of an impact on capital. Nonetheless, the small size of the capital base in absolute terms, in relation to the risks related to the sizeable capital markets businesses, makes the bank somewhat more vulnerable than peers to external shocks. These risks are mitigated by sound underwriting standards and material risk-weighted asset (RWA) reductions in trading activities and the SRU, which have to date been more than ample to fund growth in strategic businesses. Credit Suisse's strong asset quality benefits from a low-risk domestic residential mortgage portfolio and well-controlled higher risk exposures, including underwriting corporate transactions, leveraged finance and wealth management-related shipping and aviation portfolios. We believe that growth in Asia Pacific has been well-controlled. CSGAG's VR is equalised to that of Credit Suisse as we view holding company double leverage (107% at end-2016 according to our calculation) as moderate and because of CSGAG's role as the issuer of total loss-absorbing capacity (TLAC), including AT1 instruments and senior unsecured long-term debt. We expect the holding company to maintain prudent management of liquidity, which should be helped by existing policies to manage liquidity across a large number of legal entities globally. IDRs, DERIVATIVE COUNTERPARTY RATING AND SENIOR DEBT CSGAG AND CREDIT SUISSE Credit Suisse's IDRs and senior debt one notch above the bank's VR because the buffer of qualifying junior debt and TLAC-eligible senior holding company debt (around 18% of RWAs at end-2Q17) is sufficiently large to recapitalise the bank after a resolution without imposing losses on senior creditors. This compares with our estimated recapitalisation amount of around 9%, which represents the difference between minimum going concern capital requirements (14.3%) and our assumed regulator intervention point at 6%. We do not apply this uplift to CSGAG because the quantum of qualifying junior debt available as a buffer for holding company senior creditors is insufficient in our view and we do not expect it to become sufficiently large given the single-point-of-entry resolution strategy focussed on building up TLAC in the form of senior holding company debt. Credit Suisse's Derivative Counterparty Rating (DCR) is at the same level as the bank's Long-Term IDR because derivative counterparties have no definitive preferential status over other senior obligations in a resolution scenario. Credit Suisse's Short-Term IDR of 'F1' is at the higher of the two options that map against a Long-Term IDR of 'A-', as group liquidity is managed and retained at Credit Suisse level. For the same reason, CSGAG's Short-Term IDR of 'F2' is at the lower of two options mapping to a Long-Term IDR of 'A-'. TLAC-eligible senior unsecured debt issued by Credit Suisse Group Funding (Guernsey) Limited and guaranteed by CSGAG is rated in line with the guarantor's Long-Term IDR. VR, IDRs, SENIOR DEBT AND DCR CS SCHWEIZ CS Schweiz is Credit Suisse's wholly-owned domestic subsidiary, whose Long-Term IDR is driven by its VR and reflects its low-risk domestic loan book, moderate volumes of trading assets, sound capitalisation and a strong deposit franchise. The ratings also reflect a strong risk correlation with its parent bank as a result of Credit Suisse performing a central treasury role, which caps CS Schweiz's VR at the level of Credit Suisse's Long-Term IDR. The DCR is at the same level as CS Schweiz's Long-Term IDR because derivative counterparties have no definitive preferential status over other senior obligations in a resolution scenario. SUPPORT RATING AND SUPPORT RATING FLOOR CREDIT SUISSE AND CSGAG CSGAG's and Credit Suisse's Support Ratings (SR) and Support Rating Floors (SRF) reflect our view that senior creditors of both the holding and the operating banks can no longer rely on receiving full extraordinary support from the sovereign in the event that Credit Suisse becomes non-viable largely due to progress made in Swiss legislation and regulation to address the 'too big to fail' problem for the two big Swiss banks. CS SCHWEIZ CS Schweiz's Support Rating of '1' reflects primarily our view that the entity is an integral part of Credit Suisse, and whose default would constitute significant reputational risk to its parent, thus increasing Credit Suisse's propensity to provide extraordinary support, if required. While CS Schweiz makes up a significant part of the group's total assets and equity, we believe it would be unlikely that the Swiss regulator would impose significant restrictions on recapitalising CS Schweiz using resources from the rest of the group, or on upstreaming capital from other Credit Suisse subsidiaries where available. CS Schweiz's significant relative size is further mitigated by our view that the subsidiary's need for support is unlikely to arise simultaneously with that of other foreign subsidiaries. SUBORDINATED DEBT AND OTHER HYBRID SECURITIES Subordinated debt and other hybrid securities issued by Credit Suisse, CSGAG and by various issuing vehicles are all notched down from Credit Suisse's and CSGAG's VRs in accordance with Fitch's assessment of each instrument's respective non-performance and relative loss severity risk profiles, which vary considerably. Subordinated lower Tier 2 debt is rated one notch below the VR for loss severity, reflecting below-average recoveries. Low trigger contingent capital Tier 2 notes are rated two notches below the VR, reflecting loss severity, due to contractual full and permanent write-down language. Upper Tier 2 instruments are rated three notches below the VR, comprising one notch for loss severity and two notches for incremental non-performance risk due to cumulative coupon deferral. High trigger contingent capital Tier 2 notes are rated four notches below the VR. The notes are notched down twice for loss severity, reflecting poor recoveries as the instruments can be converted to equity or written down well ahead of resolution. In addition, they are notched down twice for high non-performance risk, as the trigger can result in contractual loss absorption ahead of non-viability. Legacy Tier 1 securities are rated four notches below the VR, comprising two notches for higher-than-average loss severity, and two further notches for non-performance risk due to partly discretionary coupon omission. High and low trigger contingent capital Tier 1 instruments are rated five notches below the VR. The issues are notched down twice for loss severity, reflecting poor recoveries as the instruments can be converted to equity or written down well ahead of resolution. In addition, they are notched down three times for very high non-performance risk due to fully discretionary coupon omission. SUBSIDIARIES AND AFFILIATED COMPANIES Credit Suisse International (CSI) is a UK-based wholly-owned subsidiary of Credit Suisse, and Credit Suisse (USA) Inc. (CSUSA) is a US holding company directly held by Credit Suisse Holdings (USA), Inc., the group's US intermediate holding company (IHC). We view these entities as integral to the group's business and core to Credit Suisse's strategy and their Long-Term IDRs are aligned with Credit Suisse's VR. We have not applied a one-notch uplift to their IDRs and DCRs as we do not believe that at present these foreign subsidiaries have had a sufficient qualifying junior debt, including internal TLAC, allocated to them to ensure their recapitalisation in a resolution event. The Positive Outlook on CSUSA's Long-Term IDR reflects our view that the Fed's final rules on internal TLAC are likely to result over time in material amounts of internal loss-absorbing debt being down-streamed. CSI is incorporated as an unlimited liability company, which underpins Fitch's view of an extremely high probability of support from its parent, if needed. However, we have not applied the one-notch uplift because it is not clear what impact unlimited liability status would have in protecting senior creditors in a resolution event. At end-1H17, CSI's Tier 2 buffer of around 6% of RWAs was insufficient to recapitalise the entity without imposing losses on senior creditors. CSI's DCR is at the same level as the entity's Long-Term IDR because derivative counterparties have no definitive preferential status over other senior obligations in a resolution scenario in the UK. CSI's and CSUSA's Short-Term IDRs of 'F1', the higher of two Short-Term IDRS mapping to an 'A-' Long-Term IDR, reflect the benefits for the subsidiaries of the group's central treasury approach and strong funding and liquidity at Credit Suisse level. The IDRs of Credit Suisse New York branch are at the same level as those of Credit Suisse as the branch is part of the same legal entity without any country risk restrictions. The alignment of IDRs reflects our view that senior creditors of the branch would be treated identically to other senior creditors of Credit Suisse. RATING SENSITIVITIES VRS CSGAG AND CREDIT SUISSE Material deviation from capital, cost and non-core asset reduction targets, as well as greater-than-expected asset risk from growth in international wealth management, would put pressure on the group's VRs. Upside to the ratings could arise in the medium term conditional on continued strong implementation on cost and non-core asset reductions that would bring profitability more in line with the group's underlying capacity, together with unchanged capitalisation and risk appetite. IDRs, DCR AND SENIOR DEBT CSGAG AND CREDIT SUISSE CSGAG's and Credit Suisse's Long-Term IDRs are primarily sensitive to a change in the VRs. The Stable Outlook reflects our view that the group will continue to successfully implement its strategy and that qualifying junior debt buffers at the CSGAG level are unlikely to be sufficient to allow us to notch up the Long-Term IDR from the VR, given Switzerland's single-point-of-entry approach to bank resolution. In respect of Credit Suisse, the Long-Term IDR is sensitive to maintaining sufficient qualifying junior debt and down-streamed TLAC to continue to protect senior creditors. DCRs are primarily sensitive to changes in the respective issuers' Long-Term IDRs. In addition, they could be upgraded to one notch above the IDR if a change in legislation creates legal preference for derivatives over certain other senior obligations, and if in Fitch's view, the volume of all legally subordinated obligations provides a substantial enough buffer to protect derivative counterparties from default in a resolution scenario. TLAC senior notes are rated in line with CSGAG's Long-Term IDR and are therefore primarily sensitive to a change to the Long-Term IDR. VR, IDRs, SENIOR DEBT AND DCR CS SCHWEIZ A longer track record of strong and stable earnings and capitalisation could provide upside to CS Schweiz's VR, provided it is no longer constrained at the same level by large unsecured exposures to Credit Suisse. Conversely, weaker capitalisation or asset quality or reduced earnings stability than we currently expect, or a downgrade of Credit Suisse's Long-Term IDR, would put pressure on CS Schweiz's VR. CS Schweiz's Long-Term IDR and DCR could be rated above the VR if we believe buffers of qualifying junior debt and internal loss-absorbing capacity pre-placed at the CS Schweiz level are sufficient to result in a significantly lower risk of default on CS Schweiz's senior obligations than the risk of the bank failing. For this to happen we would have to conclude that CS Schweiz could reach a higher Long-Term IDR were the buffers in the form of Fitch core capital, which is unlikely given the close risk correlation with its parent. Clear requirements on internal buffers at CS Schweiz ensuring their permanence would also be necessary for its Long-Term IDR to be rated above its VR. SUPPORT RATING AND SUPPORT RATING FLOOR Credit Suisse and CSGAG An upgrade to Credit Suisse's or CSGAG's SRs and an upward revision to the SRFs would be contingent on a positive change in Switzerland's propensity to support its banks. This is highly unlikely in our view, though not impossible. CS Schweiz The SR is sensitive to changes in our assessment of Credit Suisse's ability to provide extraordinary support to CS Schweiz as well as the importance of CS Schweiz to the rest of the group. SUBORDINATED DEBT AND OTHER HYBRID SECURITIES Subordinated debt and other hybrid capital ratings are primarily sensitive to a change in the VRs of Credit Suisse or CSGAG. The securities' ratings are also sensitive to a change in their notching, which could arise if Fitch changes its assessment of the probability of their non-performance relative to the risk captured in the respective issuers' VRs. This may reflect a change in capital management in the group or an unexpected shift in regulatory buffer requirements, for example. SUBSIDIARIES AND AFFILIATED COMPANIES CSI's and CSUSA's Long-Term IDRs are sensitive to changes in the parent bank Credit Suisse's VR. The subsidiaries' Long-Term IDRs could benefit from a one-notch uplift if we believe that sufficient TLAC will be down-streamed from the parent to the subsidiaries to recapitalise them sufficiently in a resolution event. We expect internal TLAC requirements to become binding for Credit Suisse's US IHC from 1 January 2019. Once sufficient debt buffers are pre-placed, this could result in CSUSA's Long-Term IDR being upgraded by one notch and aligned with Credit Suisse's. Similarly, sufficient qualifying junior debt buffers and internal loss-absorbing debt pre-placed at CSI, along with clear regulatory incentives to maintain these, could lead to a one-notch upgrade of its Long-Term IDR. The subsidiaries' IDRs are sensitive to adverse changes in the parent's propensity to provide support. The rating actions are as follows: Credit Suisse Group AG: Long-Term IDR: affirmed at 'A-'; Outlook Stable Short-Term IDR: affirmed at 'F2' Viability Rating: affirmed at 'a-' Support Rating: affirmed at '5' Support Rating Floor: affirmed at 'No Floor' Senior unsecured debt (including programme ratings): affirmed at 'A-'/'F2' Senior market-linked notes: affirmed at 'A-emr' Subordinated notes: affirmed at 'BBB+' Additional Tier 1 notes: affirmed at 'BB' Credit Suisse: Long-Term IDR: affirmed at 'A'; Outlook Stable Short-Term IDR: affirmed at 'F1' Derivative Counterparty Rating: affirmed at 'A(dcr)' Viability Rating: affirmed at 'a-' Support Rating: affirmed at '5' Support Rating Floor: affirmed at 'No Floor' Senior unsecured debt (including programme ratings): affirmed at 'A'/'F1' Senior market-linked notes: affirmed at 'Aemr' Subordinated lower Tier 2 notes: affirmed at 'BBB+' Subordinated notes: affirmed at 'BBB' Credit Suisse (Schweiz) AG Long-Term IDR: affirmed at 'A'; Outlook Stable Short-Term IDR: affirmed at 'F1' Derivative Counterparty Rating: affirmed at 'A(dcr)' Viability Rating: affirmed at 'a' Support Rating: affirmed at '1' Credit Suisse International: Long-Term IDR: affirmed at 'A-'; Outlook Stable Short-Term IDR: affirmed at 'F1' Derivative Counterparty Rating: affirmed at 'A-(dcr)' Support Rating: affirmed at '1' Senior unsecured debt including programme rating affirmed at 'A-'/'F1' Credit Suisse (USA) Inc.: Long-Term IDR: affirmed at 'A-', Outlook Positive Short-Term IDR: affirmed at 'F1' Support Rating: affirmed at '1' Senior unsecured debt (including programme ratings): affirmed at 'A-' Commercial paper programme: affirmed at 'F1' Credit Suisse NY (branch): Long-Term IDR: affirmed at 'A', Outlook Stable Short-Term IDR: affirmed at 'F1' Senior unsecured debt (including programme ratings): affirmed at 'A' Commercial paper programme: affirmed at 'F1' Senior market-linked notes: affirmed at 'Aemr' Credit Suisse Group Funding (Guernsey) Limited Senior unsecured notes (with TLAC language): affirmed at 'A-'/'F2' Credit Suisse Group (Guernsey) II Limited Tier 1 buffer capital perpetual notes: affirmed at 'BB' Contact: Primary Analyst Claudia Nelson Senior Director +44 20 3530 1191 Fitch Ratings Limited 30 North Colonnade London E14 5GN Secondary Analyst Luis Garrido Associate Director +44 20 3530 1631 Committee Chairperson Christopher Wolfe Managing Director +1 212 908 0771 Media Relations: Peter Fitzpatrick, London, Tel: +44 20 3530 1103, Email: Additional information is available on Applicable Criteria Global Bank Rating Criteria (pub. 25 Nov 2016) here Global Non-Bank Financial Institutions Rating Criteria (pub. 10 Mar 2017) here Additional Disclosures Dodd-Frank Rating Information Disclosure Form here Solicitation Status here Endorsement Policy here ALL FITCH CREDIT RATINGS ARE SUBJECT TO CERTAIN LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS. 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