INTERNATIONAL. Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said today that it has lowered its long-term counterparty credit ratings on Jordan-based Arab Bank PLC to 'BB' from 'BB+'. The short-term counterparty credit ratings were affirmed at 'B'. The outlook is negative.
The rating action follows the recent negative rating action on the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (BB/Negative/B; for further details see "Long-Term Local-Currency Rating On Kingdom of Jordan Cut To 'BB'; Foreign-Currency Ratings Affirmed; Outlook Negative," published on Nov. 23, 2011).
The lowering of the local currency ratings is based on Standard & Poor's new sovereign criteria. Among several factors, local currency ratings can only enjoy uplift from the foreign currency ratings under an independent monetary policy with a track record of a floating exchange rate.
The Jordanian dinar (JOD), however, has been pegged to the U.S. Dollar since 1995. As a result, the local currency ratings on Jordan are equalized with the foreign currency ratings at 'BB/B'.
The ratings on Arab Bank PLC reflect the strengths of the Arab Bank Group (not rated) but also its incorporation in Jordan, where the bank is subject to sovereign risk. Hence, the ratings on Arab Bank PLC are constrained by the local currency ratings on the sovereign. With total assets of US$45 billion on Sept. 30, 2011, the Arab Bank Group is one of the Middle East's largest banking organizations.
Operating in 30 countries across five continents, Arab Bank Group is also one of the most geographically diversified banking groups. It deploys about 32% of its loans in Levant countries, including Jordan, and about 41% in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.