Moody's places deposit ratings of Omani banks on review for upgrade
Moody's Investors Service has placed the Baa1 long-term foreign currency deposit ratings of BankMuscat (BM), National Bank of Oman (NBO), Oman International Bank (OIB) and Oman Arab Bank (OAB) on review for possible upgrade, while the Baa2/P-3 long- and short-term local and foreign currency deposit ratings of Alliance Housing Bank (AHB) were also placed on review for possible upgrade. By the same action, Moody's has also placed on review for possible upgrade the local and foreign currency senior unsecured debt ratings of BM. The financial strength ratings of all five banks are unaffected by this action.
These actions were taken after Moody's sovereign risk unit placed the Baa1 ceiling for foreign currency deposit ratings, the Baa1 long-term local and foreign currency government bond ratings, and the A2 ceiling for foreign currency debt in Oman on review for upgrade on 7 September 2006.
In placing the deposit ratings for the five Omani banks and the senior unsecured debt ratings of BM on review for possible upgrade, Moody's highlights its continued expectation of a very strong likelihood of support from the Omani authorities, should the need arise, combined with the improved capacity of the government to provide such support as a result of the significant improvement in Oman's economic fundamentals over the past several years. In the past, the Omani authorities have supported domestic banks in difficulty although there is no explicit guarantee to do so, and Moody's does not anticipate any change in that policy over the medium term.
Moody's believes that the four commercial banks -- BM, NBO, OAB and OIB -- are all very important institutions for the domestic banking system, and that a possible failure of any of them would lead to a systemic crisis. For this reason these banks' deposit ratings have been placed at the country ceiling for such deposits in Oman. Although any increase in the deposit ceiling is likely to result in upward movement of the deposit ratings of all Omani banks, not all of the banks' deposit ratings will necessarily be placed at the new deposit ceiling, should the country ceiling rise by more than one notch. Potential upward movement in the ratings of each bank will depend upon our assessment of the likelihood, timing and extent of support from the authorities for that bank, as well as on our assessment of each bank's individual creditworthiness.
Moody's believes that although AHB does not fall within the "too important to fail" category from a systemic perspective, the authorities would nevertheless provide support to the bank in the event of need, and thus a high degree of support is imputed in the ratings. However, we believe that such support might not be as timely or as certain as in the case of the larger commercial banks. As a result, should the deposit ratings of AHB be upgraded following the review period, Moody's will be likely to preserve a distinction between the deposit ratings of the Omani commercial banks and those of AHB, depending on our assessment of the likelihood, timing and extent of support from the authorities for AHB, as well as on our assessment of AHB's individual creditworthiness.