Standard & Poor's cut credit ratings on 10 large global banks this morning. All are still investment-grade. But, despite multi-billion-dollar investments in the banks by taxpayers, the rating agency says it's getting more likely the banks may not be able to pay what they owe.
Among those cut: Wells Fargo & Co., which is about to buy Wachovia Bank, the dominant lender in Philadelphia, had its ratings cut from top-tier AAA, to AA+; money-losing Citibank and Goldman Sachs both dropped two levels, to A+ and A, respectively; Citizens Bank owner Royal Bank of Scotland dropped a level to A+ due to loan losses, even though its majority investor is now the British government; and JPMorgan Chase & Co. was cut a level to AA-.
"Wells Fargo will experience lower profitability due to higher credit losses and related expenses in its residential mortgage, credit card, and residential-related commercial real estate portfolios, plus the merger expenses and integration risks associated with its pending merger with Wachovia Corp., which is expected to close in December 2008," S&P analyst Victoria Wagner said in a statement.
S&P gave JPMorgan credit for not getting caught with too much subprime mortgage debt and other low-value assets on its books. Instead, its Wilmington-based credit card bank and other consumer units have gotten the company into trouble: "Its very large exposure to consumer lending, including mortgages and credit cards, will lead to mounting loan losses and the need to add to reserves," wrote analyst Tanya Azarchs.
"Standard & Poor's will host a teleconference to discuss these rating actions and the rationale behind them today, Dec. 19, at 10:00AM EST. The live dial-in-numbers for this teleconference are 1-210-795-1098 (U.S.) and 44-20-7108-6248 (U.K.), and the PassCode for this call is SANDP1."
Posted: December 19, 2008 - 8:45 AM
Joseph N. DiStefano
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