Fitch Affirms Bermuda Commercial Bank's IDRs at 'BBB-/F3'; Outlook Stable

NEW YORK--()--Fitch Ratings has affirmed the Long- and Short-term Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) of Bermuda Commercial Bank (BCB) at 'BBB-/F3'. The Rating Outlook is Stable. A complete list of affirmations follows at the end of this release.

KEY RATING DRIVERS- IDRs & VR

The affirmation of BCB's IDRs and Stable Outlook reflects the company's liquid balance sheet and its strong capital position. The company's unusually strong liquidity profile and capital levels have a high influence on Fitch's investment grade rating for BCB.

BCB operates with a very liquid balance sheet relative to its bank peers in Bermuda and the community bank peer group in the U.S. With averge cash on hand averaging 44% of total assets over the last five years, Fitch views BCB's balance sheet as sufficient to weather through a liquidity crisis, although such an event is considered unlikely.

BCB's capital levels, on a tangible and risk adjusted basis, continue to be strong. Fitch Core Capital relative to risk-weighted assets was approximately 25.5% at Dec. 31, 2013, and much higher than most banks in Fitch's rated universe. In Fitch's view, the company should maintain high levels of capital due to BCB's limited business diversity, large investment portfolio and large customer concentrations in its deposits base.

Offsetting these positives, Fitch's views the company's investment securities book as high risk and concentrated. Fitch believes that further risk management enhancements related to the investment portfolio are needed to support current ratings and Outlook. Positively, the company has made efforts to reduce its level of concentration risk in the securities portfolio. The largest 20 investment holdings account for 41% of the total portfolio compared to 51% a year earlier.

Fitch is also concerned with the level of related party transactions at BCB, which is not considered to be in line with Corporate Governance best practices. Although currently not a significant rating driver or sensitivity, Fitch would view a continued increase of these transactions negatively.

Management has been proactive in improving its non-interest revenue stream. In late 2011, the company completed two acquisitions of trust and corporate administration service companies. This strategy has resulted in a 28% revenue increase year-over-year. Nonetheless, Fitch believes that despite the strong momentum, BCB will face challenges to significantly grow this business given its small market share relative to its competitors on the island.

RATING SENSITIVITIES - IDRs & Viability Rating (VR)

Fitch believes the current ratings are at the higher-end of their potential range given BCB's scale of operations and limited diversity. In Fitch's view, BCB's underlying fundamentals such as franchise value and limited business model are more reflective of a 'bb' range VR. Thus Fitch considers BCB's high capital and liquidity levels to offset what would otherwise suggest a sub-investment-grade rating.

Fitch would consider a rating downgrade if average on-balance-sheet cash liquidity, as defined as cash-to-total assets were to decline below 30% and/or if Fitch Core Capital-to-Risk Weighted Assets fell below 20%. Additionally, a significant increase in credit or market risks including a rise in concentrations in the securities portfolio, and/or any acquisition that results in a shift toward a riskier business mix could also result in a rating downgrade.

KEY RATING DRIVERS AND SENSITIVITIES - SUPPORT RATING

BCB has a Support Ratings of '5' and Support Floor Rating of 'NF'. In Fitch's view, BCB is not systemically important in the local Bermuda market and, therefore, believes the probability of support is unlikely. IDRs and VRs do not incorporate any support for BCB.

Fitch has affirmed the following ratings:

Bermuda Commercial Bank

--Long-term IDR at 'BBB-'; Outlook Stable

--Short-term IDR at `F3';

--Viability Rating at 'bbb-'

--Support at `5';

--Support Floor at `NF'.

Additional information is available at 'www.fitchratings.com.

Applicable Criteria and Related Research:

--'Global Financial Institutions Rating Criteria' (January 31, 2014);

-- Fitch Downgrades Bermuda's Ratings to 'A+'; Outlook Stable (May 30, 2014).

Applicable Criteria and Related Research:

Global Financial Institutions Rating Criteria

http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=732397

Additional Disclosure

Solicitation Status

http://www.fitchratings.com/gws/en/disclosure/solicitation?pr_id=833615

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Contacts

Fitch Ratings
Primary Analyst
Doriana Gamboa Director
+1-212-908-1865
Fitch Ratings, Inc.
33 Whitehall St.
New York, NY 10004
or
Secondary Analyst
Julie Solar
Senior Director
+1-312-368-5479
or
Justin Fuller
Senior Director
+1-312-368-2057
or
Media Relations
Brian Bertsch, New York, +1-212-908-0549
brian.bertsch@fitchratings.com

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Contacts

Fitch Ratings
Primary Analyst
Doriana Gamboa Director
+1-212-908-1865
Fitch Ratings, Inc.
33 Whitehall St.
New York, NY 10004
or
Secondary Analyst
Julie Solar
Senior Director
+1-312-368-5479
or
Justin Fuller
Senior Director
+1-312-368-2057
or
Media Relations
Brian Bertsch, New York, +1-212-908-0549
brian.bertsch@fitchratings.com