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16:37
ALFA-BANK UKRAINE DOWNGRADED TO 'SD' (SELECTIVE DEFAULT) ON DEBT EXCHANGE DEAL

Kyiv, August 3 (Interfax-Ukraine) - Standard & Poor's Ratings Services on August 3, 2009, lowered its long-term and short-term counterparty credit ratings on Alfa-Bank Ukraine (ABU) to 'SD/SD' (selective default) from 'CC/C,' S&P said in a statement.

At the same time, the Ukrainian national scale rating was downgraded to 'SD' from 'uaCC'.

S&P also removed all the ratings from CreditWatch with negative implications, where they were placed on July 3, 2009.

"The downgrade follows the announcement that on July 31, 2009, the bank completed a debt exchange for its $250 million 12% loan participation notes due in 2011 that Ukraine Issuance PLC had issued," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Ekaterina Trofimova.

The bank has obtained consent for the exchange from more than 80% of the noteholders and plans to complete an exchange of two other LP notes in the coming days. The three LP notes total approximately $1.0 billion and represent about one-third of ABU's liabilities.

Upon completion of the exchange of all three notes, the bank will issue new notes and make upfront cash payments, which combined are equal to 100% of the principal amount of the restructured LP notes. The new notes have a higher coupon of 13%. The maturity of the new notes extends to 2012, beyond the maturity of the LP notes, one of which matures in December 2009. Another has a put option in August 2009. Under its criteria, S&P considers this proposed debt restructuring to be a "distressed exchange" and therefore tantamount to a default, because the new securities' maturities extend beyond those of the original securities. ABU continues to honor its other debt obligations.

On March 31, 2009, ABU reported total assets of $3.5 billion and ranked among the top 10 banks in Ukraine with a market share of about 3.5%. ABU is almost 100%-owned by Alfa Group Consortium (AGC; not rated), one of Russia's largest conglomerates. ABU is a sister bank of Russia-based OJSC Alfa-Bank. (BB-/Watch Neg/B, ruAA-/Watch Neg/--). The group has supported ABU's liquidity and capital position and the upfront cash portion of the exchange offer. Related-party funding represents about a quarter of the bank's liabilities. However, the group's support has not been sufficient to prevent the bank from conducting a debt restructuring and S&P views the bank as a non-strategically important subsidiary under its methodology.

"Following the completion of the exchange of the three LP notes and a review of ABU's liabilities, we intend to reassess ABU's liquidity profile and credit standing, and revise our ratings accordingly," said Trofimova.

The debt restructuring, including the extension of maturities, should reduce the near-term pressure on bank liquidity and refinancing. Nonetheless, S&P says it expects the Ukrainian financial sector to remain highly risky for the rest of 2009 and into 2010.

OJSC Alfa-Bank (Kyiv Investment Bank prior to January 2001) was founded in 1993. Cyprus-registered АВН Ukraine Limited owned 99.99% of its shares as of July 1, 2009. The bank was the ninth biggest among 182 Ukrainian banks according to data from the National Bank of Ukraine as of January 1, 2009.

Alfa-Bank (Ukraine) was the 47th biggest bank by assets in the CIS and the 10th biggest among 178 Ukrainian banks listed in the Interfax- 1000: CIS Banks rankings as of the end of half of 2008

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