EFSF Downgraded To AA+, Or French Fitch Flunks EFSF Following France Flub

Prompted by their FrAAAnce downgrade to AA+, French-owned Fitch has downgraded Europe's last best promise/hope - the EFSF - from AAA to AA+... but the crisis is still behind us - we are assure by such truth-sayers as Juncker, Barroso, and Merkel (pre-elections).

 

Fitch Ratings-London-15 July 2013: Fitch Ratings has downgraded the European Financial Stability Facility's (EFSF) guaranteed and long-term debt Long-term rating to 'AA+' from 'AAA'. The EFSF's short-term (less than 12 months contractual maturity) guaranteed debt instruments' Short-term rating has been affirmed at 'F1+'.

KEY RATING DRIVERS

High Weight

The rating actions were prompted by Fitch's downgrade of France's Long-term Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) to 'AA+'/Stable and the affirmation of its Short-term rating at 'F1+' on 12 July 2013. EFSF's ratings rely on the irrevocable and unconditional guarantees and over-guarantees provided by euro areas member states (EAMS). These commitments are governed by an international agreement dated in June 2012 by the 17 EAMS - the EFSF Framework Agreement (FA) - and by a Deed of Guarantee. The downgrade of France's IDR had a high weight in Fitch's rating actions.

The original version of the FA ensured that all payments due on EFSF debt are covered by guarantees provided by EAMS, pro-rata based on their contribution key in the European Central Bank, which could be extended to 120% of their initial amount. Subsequent amendments to the FA and Deed of Guarantee, applicable to all debt issued since October 2011, reduced the credit enhancement through cash buffers and extended the percentage of over-guarantee percentage to 165%.

Following the downgrade of France's IDR, the EFSF's long-term debt issues are not fully covered by 'AAA' guarantees and over-guarantees and, for debt issued before October 2011, by the cash reserve. However, short-term debt issues remain entirely covered by guarantees and over-guarantees issued by EAMS rated 'F1+'.

RATING SENSITIVITIES

As of 12 July 2013, 100% of the long-term debt issued by the EFSF is covered by guarantees and over-guarantees rated 'AA+' and 'AAA'. In the event that one or more of the 'AAA' and 'AA+' guarantors, namely Germany (AAA/Stable), France (AA+/Stable), Netherlands (AAA/Negative), Austria (AAA/Stable), Finland (AAA/Stable), and Luxembourg (AAA/Stable), are downgraded below 'AA+', and if the coverage by 'AA+' guarantees falls below 100%, Fitch would also review the Long-Term rating assigned to EFSF debt issues.

KEY ASSUMPTIONS

Fitch assumes there will be progress in deepening fiscal and financial integration at the eurozone level in line with commitments by euro area policy makers. Fitch also assumes that the risk of fragmentation of the eurozone remains low.