Correction: Fitch Affirms HSBC USA at 'AA-' / HSBC Finance at 'A+'; Outlook Remains Stable

CHICAGO--()--(This is a correction of a release published Dec. 8, 2015. It corrects the market linked deposits rating for HSBC Bank USA, National Association provided in the ratings list of the original release.)

Fitch Ratings has affirmed HSBC USA Inc.'s (HUSI) and subsidiary, HSBC Bank USA's (HBUS) Issuer Default Ratings (IDR) and Viability Ratings (VR) at 'AA-' and 'a-', respectively. HSBC Finance Corp.'s (HBIO) IDR was affirmed at 'A+'. Fitch does not maintain a VR on HBIO, as it does not view the company as a stand-alone entity.

HUSI's, HBUS's and HBIO's IDRs were affirmed in conjunction with the affirmation of its parent company, HSBC Holdings plc (HSBC).

For additional information, please see the press release 'Fitch Affirms HSBC Holdings, HSBC Bank, and HK Subsidiaries at 'AA-'; Outlook Stable', dated Dec. 8, 2015. A complete list of rating actions follows at the end of this release.

KEY RATING DRIVERS

IDRs

As wholly owned subsidiaries of HSBC, HUSI's and HBIO's long- and short-term IDRs are linked to those of their parent company. As per Fitch's rating criteria, the difference in notching reflects Fitch's view of the varying levels of operational importance and expected support.

HUSI's IDR is equalized with HSBC at 'AA-', reflecting its core operations to the HSBC Group. HSBC Group publically reiterated HUSI's importance to its overall global strategy in June 2015, supporting Fitch's view that the entity is core to the Group's operations.

HBIO's IDR is notched once below HSBC to 'A+', reflecting Fitch's view that HSBC would continue to provide support for reputational considerations, even though HBIO is in run-off.

As supported entities, HUSI's and HBIO's IDRs will move in tandem with HSBC.

VR

Today's affirmation of HUSI's VR reflects the company's strong, internationally-focused franchise, its strong capital position and its solid liquidity levels. These strengths are offset by HUSI's consistently weak earnings profile relative to peers in Fitch's rated universe.

HUSI's strong brand recognition in its target markets has contributed to HUSI's solid core funding base and high deposit market share. Fitch continues to view HUSI's franchise and overall company profile as a high-influence rating factor and expects HUSI's growth and profitability strategies to heavily leverage its international brand recognition over the coming years.

HUSI's strong liquidity profile also remains a key rating driver. Loans-to-deposits have remained below 70% since 2011, while peers average approximately 90%. HUSI's cash and securities represent approximately half of total assets as of third quarter 2015 (3Q15), with the majority of investments in low-risk, highly liquid securities such as treasuries, government agencies, and agency mortgage-backed securities. Supporting the bank's liquidity profile further, cash and equivalents also represent a higher portion of assets than peers at around 20% of total assets.

HUSI's capital levels are well above peers, benefiting from the bank's concentration in lower risk weighted assets and a $4 billion injection of equity from HUSI's ultimate US parent, HSBC North America Holdings (HNAH). HUSI has also maintained a healthy Fitch Core Capital (FCC) Ratio. The FCC Ratio has increased 172bps to 11.92% since FYE2014, well above the large regional peer average. While the company has ample capital relative to peers, Fitch views the level as necessary considering the strength of growth HUSI is generating, its relatively weaker earnings power, and annual regulatory stress testing.

Nonperforming assets (NPAs; inclusive of troubled debt restructures) were 2.26% of total loans and other real estate owned, up slightly from 2.24% at 1Q15. Fitch notes that absolute NPA levels increased by around $100 million over the same period, attributable to an uptick in troubled debt restructurings as well as pressure on the company's energy portfolio. Fitch views HUSI's energy exposure as manageable although it could be a drag on provision expense going forward should energy prices remain depressed.

Fitch also notes that HUSI's legacy residential portfolio continues to drag on the overall loan portfolio, with over 85% of nonaccrual loans in one-to-four-family residential loans at 3Q15 due to management's measured approach to selling loans as well as the lengthy foreclosure processes in certain operating markets.

Fitch considers HUSI's earnings to have lower influence on its current ratings, and that HUSI's earnings should be considered in the context of the company's current balance sheet posture. HUSI's current level of liquidity and lower risk assets has an adverse impact on earning asset yields. Fitch also notes HUSI discloses that it is the largest contributor to HSBC Group's outbound revenues (i.e. U.S.-generated business booked in other parts of the organization) which likely mutes some profitability measures. As a result, Fitch expects HUSI's net interest margin and profitability to remain below peer averages in the near- to intermediate-term.

Over the first nine months of the fiscal year, HUSI has had fewer nonrecurring litigation expenses. However, compliance-related costs should continue to be relatively elevated going forward as HUSI works toward achieving compliance with the various outstanding consent orders from local regulators; this is incorporated in current ratings.

SUPPORT RATING

Fitch considers HUSI to be a core operating entity of the HSBC Group, and as such, considers institutional support from its ultimate parent to be extremely likely. In determining HUSI's importance, Fitch views HUSI's strategic initiatives as aligned with HSBC group, potential for disposal from its parent to be extremely limited, and reputational risk to HSBC resulting from default by HUSI to be high.

Despite the entity being in run-off, Fitch views HBIO as strategically important to HSBC Group and considers the probability of institutional support to be high. This view is underpinned by the high level of reputation risk to HSBC in the event of default and precedent of support already established.

SUBORDINATED DEBT AND OTHER HYBRID SECURITIES

Subordinated debt and hybrid capital instruments issued by HUSI are notched down from the IDR. These ratings are typically notched from the bank's VR. However, given the high level of institutional support, issue ratings are notched from HUSI's IDR, as support from the parent is presumed.

Subordinated debt and hybrid capital instruments issued by HSBC Finance are notched down from the IDR. Fitch does not maintain a VR on the unit as the agency does not view the company as a stand-alone entity.

LONG- AND SHORT-TERM DEPOSIT RATINGS

The uninsured deposit ratings of HSBC Bank USA, NA are rated one notch higher than its IDR and senior unsecured debt because U.S. uninsured deposits benefit from depositor preference. U.S. depositor preference gives deposit liabilities superior recovery prospects in the event of default.

HOLDING COMPANY

HBUS is a wholly owned subsidiary of the bank holding company (BHC), HUSI. HUSI's and HBUS's IDRs and VRs are equalized, reflecting the mandate in the U.S. for BHCs to act as a source of strength for their bank subsidiaries.

RATING SENSITIVITIES

IDRS

HUSI's and HBIO's IDRs are linked to those of their parent. As such, their IDRs will likely be affected by any changes to the ratings of HSBC itself. In addition, although not anticipated, any changes to their strategic importance indicated, for example, through ownership, level of integration, or their role in the group would also prompt a review of the ratings.

VR

Fitch believes HUSI's current VR is solidly situated at 'a-', and upward movement is limited in the near- to medium-term. Over the long term, positive rating momentum could emerge should management execute on its strategic initiatives and enhance its franchise in key markets and products leading to improved profitability commensurate with higher rated peers. Coupled with strategic execution and improved profitability, positive rating momentum would incorporate an expectation that HUSI maintains sound asset quality and solid capital levels, consistent with higher-rated peers.

HUSI's ratings are sensitive to the bank maintaining a relatively conservative risk appetite and ample capital and liquidity levels. As noted above, HUSI has grown its loan portfolio significantly over the last 12 to 18 months, necessitating a relatively higher level of capital. Comparing 3Q15 to 3Q14, total loans have grown 16%, primarily driven by its commercial and global banking business lines. Fitch has concerns about the competitive environment in commercial lending in the U.S. Continued aggressive commercial loan growth that could suggest a weakening of underwriting standards and lead to a deterioration in asset quality trends may pressure ratings negatively.

Fitch's current ratings incorporate HUSI's recent and on-going compliance issues. Negative rating pressure would likely occur if unexpected concerns arise regarding HUSI's ability to meet existing regulatory mandates.

SUPPORT RATING

As noted, HUSI's and HBIO's Support Ratings reflect Fitch's views on the probability of support from the parent company, HSBC.

Therefore, any changes to HUSI's or HBIO's strategic importance indicated, for example, in ownership, level of integration, or their role under HSBC would prompt a review of the ratings.

SUBORDINATED DEBT AND OTHER HYBRID SECURITIES

Subordinated debt and hybrid capital instruments issued by HUSI and HBIO are sensitive to changes in their respective IDRs.

LONG- AND SHORT-TERM DEPOSIT RATINGS

The long-and short-term deposit ratings are sensitive to any change to HSBC Bank USA, NA's long- and short-term IDR.

HOLDING COMPANY

Should HBUS begin to exhibit signs of weakness, demonstrate trouble accessing the capital markets, or have inadequate cash flow coverage to meet near-term obligations, there is the potential that Fitch could notch the holding company IDR and VR from the ratings of the operating companies.

Fitch has affirmed the following ratings:

HSBC USA Inc.

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

Short-term IDR at 'F1+';

Viability Rating at 'a-'.

Support Rating at '1';

Commercial paper at 'F1+'

Preferred stock at 'BBB+';

Senior debt at 'AA-';

Subordinated debt at 'A+'.

HSBC Bank USA, National Association

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

Short-term IDR at 'F1+';

Viability Rating at 'a-'.

Support Rating at '1';

Long-term deposits at 'AA';

Market linked deposits 'AAemr';

Senior debt at 'AA-';

Short-term deposits at 'F1+';

Subordinated debt at 'A+'.

HSBC Finance Corporation

Long-term IDR at 'A+'; Outlook Stable;

Short-term IDR at 'F1';

Support Rating at '1';

Commercial paper at 'F1';

Senior debt at 'A+';

Subordinated debt at 'A'.

Beneficial Company, LLC

Senior debt at 'A+'.

Additional information is available on www.fitchratings.com

Applicable Criteria

Global Bank Rating Criteria (pub. 20 Mar 2015)

https://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=863501

Additional Disclosures

Dodd-Frank Rating Information Disclosure Form

https://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/press_releases/content/ridf_frame.cfm?pr_id=996670

Solicitation Status

https://www.fitchratings.com/gws/en/disclosure/solicitation?pr_id=996670

Endorsement Policy

https://www.fitchratings.com/jsp/creditdesk/PolicyRegulation.faces?context=2&detail=31

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Contacts

Fitch Ratings
Primary Analyst
Bain K. Rumohr, CFA
Director
+1-312-368-3153
Fitch Ratings, Inc.
70 West Madison St.
Chicago, IL 60602
or
Secondary Analyst
Doriana Gamboa
Senior Director
+1-212-908-0865
or
Committee Chairperson
Meghan Neenan, CFA
Senior Director
+1-212-908-0121
or
Media Relations
Hannah James, + 1 646-582-4947
hannah.james@fitchratings.com

Contacts

Fitch Ratings
Primary Analyst
Bain K. Rumohr, CFA
Director
+1-312-368-3153
Fitch Ratings, Inc.
70 West Madison St.
Chicago, IL 60602
or
Secondary Analyst
Doriana Gamboa
Senior Director
+1-212-908-0865
or
Committee Chairperson
Meghan Neenan, CFA
Senior Director
+1-212-908-0121
or
Media Relations
Hannah James, + 1 646-582-4947
hannah.james@fitchratings.com