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Negative outlook for Baltic banking system

Rating house Moody’s has published its Banking System Outlook for the Baltic Countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania). Our outlook for the Baltic banking system has been changed to negative from stable. The outlook expresses our expectation of how bank creditworthiness will evolve in this system over the next 12-18 months.

· The main driver of the change is the upcoming implementation of a bail-in regime across Europe, bringing negative credit implications that outweigh the positive developments within the Baltic banking system, such as robust economic growth, declining problem-loan levels and stable profitability prospects for the banks

· We expect stronger loan growth, together with a likely increase in interest rates towards the end of this outlook, to help support bank profitability in the region

· Baltic banks’ funding profiles will likely remain stable over the outlook period, as they become less reliant on external funding, including that supplied by Nordic parent-banking-groups to their subsidiaries in the region

· That said, an escalation of tensions between Russia and the European Union is the key downside risk to this scenario, as Russia is an important trade-partner to the region, especially in the agriculture and transportation sectors

Jan Skogberg, a Moody's Analyst and author of the report says: "Aside from the fundamental changes in the EU bank regulatory environment, we acknowledge that strengthening economic fundamentals in each country are benefiting Baltic banks' credit profiles. We expect greater credit demand and stronger loan growth, which, together with a likely increase in interest rates towards the end of this outlook period, should provide a boost to bank profitability in the region. Already, loan growth in Estonia and Lithuania has turned positive entering 2014 and is likely to turn positive in Latvia during the outlook period due to the extended economic recovery.”


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