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Arab Mediterranean banking continues to withstand difficult operating conditions, says S&P

August 12, 2014

Banks in the Arab Mediterranean region will continue to encounter turbulent and challenging operating conditions in 2014-2015 as protracted regional political turmoil hampers policy making and business confidence and delays economic recovery, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said in a report published today on RatingsDirect titled Arab Mediterranean Banking Sectors Weather Political Turmoil.

"Our ratings on Arab Mediterranean banks have been dragged down since the end of 2010 by the deteriorating creditworthiness of their respective sovereigns, especially given the concentration of government paper that banks carry on their balance sheets," said S&P.

"Sovereign creditworthiness will likely remain the main driver behind bank ratings changes over the period. But we note that many other risk metrics for the banks have remained fairly resilient, from profitability to funding and asset quality," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Nicolas Hardy.

Egyptian, Lebanese, and Tunisian banks have been suffering from muted corporate lending growth but, surprisingly, the reported deterioration of asset quality indicators is so far well-contained, despite the magnitude of the geopolitical events civil societies are going through in these countries, and their spill over effects on economic growth. Jordan's political problems are less acute but, like Lebanon, the country remains vulnerable to the evolving conflict in Syria, including substantial inflows of refugees.

Morocco's banking industry is in better economic shape, and more politically stable, but it is exposed to the economic slowdown of its European economic partners and needs to improve funding metrics and further capture business opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

S&P continues to believe that banks in the region are poised for recovery if political and geopolitical risks abate, because of the real economic growth potential of supportive demographics, educated workforces, increasing financial inclusion, and product sophistication. "Our expectations are supported by our observation that the region's banking sectors, unlike its political institutions, have resisted the crisis well," Hardy said.

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Source: CPI Financial

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