By Simon Miller
Moody's has downgraded ten northern European banks as the eurocrisis rumbles on ahead of the Greek elections this weekend and warned of further cuts on the back of a 'Grexit'.
Five Dutch banks, three French, one Belgium and one Luxembourg finance house were downgraded.
Moody's cut four Dutch banks by two notches with one moved a single step lower. It kept a negative outlook for Dutch bank and insurer ING Bank, one of those cut two notches, meaning the rating could be cut again.
The rating agency said it had cut the ratings by two notches to Aa2 for Rabobank Nederland to A2 for ING, to A2 for ABN AMRO Bank, and to Baa2 for LeasePlan Corporation.
The long-term debt and deposit ratings for SNS Bank, owned by SNS Reaal, were cut one notch to Baa2.
"Today's actions reflect Moody's view that Dutch banks will face difficult operating conditions throughout 2012 and possibly beyond," it said.
The agency said there were heightened risks for creditors amidst elevated uncertainty and downside risks to the economic outlook and fragile investor confidence in Europe.
Short-term ratings for all the groups were unchanged.
Moody's said while it had factored in an increased risk of Greece leaving the euro area, this was not its central scenario. "If a Greek exit became Moody's central scenario, further rating actions on European banks could well be needed."
French groups Banque Federative du Credit Mutuel, BPCE and CIC,KBC from Belgium, and Banque et Caisse d'Epargne de l'Etat from Luxembourg were also downgraded.
The rating actions are part of an expected review of all banks with European exposure and Moody's added that to date it had "taken actions on banks in Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland".