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      THURSDAY, 29/02/2024 - Scope Ratings GmbH
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      Scope affirms AAA rating on SSB Boligkreditt’s Norwegian mortgage-covered bonds, Outlook Stable

      The issuer’s credit strength combined with governance and cover pool support result in the highest rating. A soft-bullet profile and overcollateralisation reduce risks from maturity mismatches; its low-loan-to-value cover assets are resilient to stress.

      Rating action

      Scope Ratings GmbH (Scope) has today affirmed the AAA/Stable rating on the Norwegian covered bonds (obligasjoner med fortrinnsrett) issued by SSB Boligkreditt AS (SSBB). The specialised mortgage credit institution is fully owned by Sandnes Sparebank.

      Rating rationale

      Solid issuer quality (positive)1. SSBB’s A-/Stable issuer rating is aligned with that of its parent. SSBB would likely benefit from full support from its parent in case of need. Sandnes has a well-established franchise in south-western Norway, a resilient earnings capacity and solid prudential metrics.

      Cover pool support (positive)2. Cover pool support is the primary rating driver and adds at least six notches of rating uplift reflecting the credit strength of the covered bond programme. It factors the following rating considerations:

      1. Cover pool complexity category (positive). Scope has assessed the cover pool complexity as low. This category reflects the issuer’s sound management of the interplay between the programmes complexity and the transparency provided to investors. This allows for the maximum potential cover pool uplift of three notches on top of governance uplift. (ESG factor)
         
      2. Overcollateralisation (positive). As of 31 December 2023, available overcollateralisation was 27.1%. This level provides adequate protection against market and credit risks. We determined a level of the 6% to be sufficient to mitigate identified risk and to support the cover pool uplift.
         
      3. Sound credit quality (positive). The cover pool comprises well-diversified domestic residential mortgage loans. The cover assets benefit from a low average loan-to-value ratio of 53.5% and high granularity, with the top 10 exposures accounting for 0.9% only.
         
      4. Market risks (negative). The covered bond program is exposed to maturity mismatch risk. There is no foreign currency risk as all cover assets and bonds are denominated in local currency (NOK). Interest rate risk is fully mitigated as all cover assets are denominated at floating rates and the limited number of fixed-rate covered bonds are effectively hedged into floating rates.

      Governance support (positive)3. Governance support provides a five-notch uplift above the issuer rating. This effectively forms a rating floor at AA+. Governance support reflects the credit positive effects from i) Norway’s strong legal covered bond framework; and ii) the resolution regime and systemic importance of SSB’s covered bonds (ESG factor). Only one additional notch from cover pool support is needed to achieve the highest rating.

      One or more key drivers of the credit rating action are considered an ESG factor.

      Rating-change drivers

      Scope’s Stable Outlook on the mortgage-covered bonds reflects the stable outlook on the issuer’s credit quality and a rating buffer of two notches from unused cover pool support. The rating may be downgraded upon: i) a deterioration of the credit quality of the issuer by three or more notches; ii) a deterioration in governance support factors relevant to the issuer and Norwegian mortgage-covered bonds in general as well as a change in our assessment of the interplay between complexity and transparency; and/or iii) an inability of the cover pool to provide additional rating uplift.

      Quantitative analysis and assumptions

      Scope’s cash flow analysis projected defaults for the mortgage cover pool assuming an inverse Gaussian distribution. Scope derived an effective weighted-average lifetime mean default rate of 8% with a coefficient of variation of 60%.

      Scope assumed asset-recovery rates ranging between 96.3% in the base scenario and 73.5% in the stressed scenario for the mortgage loans. Assumptions for Scope’s rating-distance-dependent market value declines reflect developments in the Norwegian housing market and its unique characteristics. An additional fire-sale discount of 20% was applied to account for property sales under non-standard or distressed conditions in rural areas of Norway. The stressed security value haircuts for the properties securing the mortgage loans range between 55% and 65% (depending on the location of the property). On top, Scope applied 2.5% for variable costs and NOK 70,000 of fixed liquidation costs.

      Scope analysed substitute asset defaults with a non-parametric distribution using a Monte Carlo method. A correlation factor of up to 22% was assumed. Conservatively, Scope derived its default expectation based on the issuer’s credit view of all exposures. The low default rate of 0.12% and very high coefficient of variation reflect high individual credit quality but also very high obligor concentration. The asset-recovery rate assumptions range between 100% in the base case and 60% in the most stressed scenario.

      Overall, credit risk accounts for 3 pp of the 6% rating-supporting overcollateralisation, same as the previous review, reflecting almost the same stressed recovery rates.

      Scope used the resulting loss distributions and default timings to project the covered bond programme’s losses and reflect its amortisation structure. The analysis also incorporated the impact of rating-distance-dependent interest rate stresses as well as different prepayment scenarios. Scope tested for low (1%) and high (up to 15%) prepayments to stress the mortgage programme’s sensitivity to unscheduled repayments.

      Scope assumed a recovery lag of 24 months for residential loans. This is based on an analysis of Norwegian enforcement processes, which reflects the fact that the collateral’s regionality and strong dependence on the highly volatile oil sector may cause delays in recoveries. A recovery lag of 24 months was also assumed for the substitute assets.

      Scope applied country- and asset-type-specific servicing fees that the cover pool needs to pay. For the residential mortgage loans, Scope assumed a servicing fee of 25 bp and 10 bp for the substitute assets.

      The cover pool’s net present value in the event of an asset sale was calculated by adding a 150 bp refinancing premium to the rating-distance and scenario-dependent discount curve. The same premium was applied to substitute assets (predominantly Norwegian mortgage-covered bonds). Scope derived this liquidity premium by analysing the long-term development of trading spreads for Norwegian and other ‘core country’ covered bond spreads.

      The programme is most sensitive to low prepayments in a low interest rate scenario. In combination with high maturity mismatches, high amounts of assets need to be sold under discount to meet the covered bond’s extended maturity. Scope also tested the programme’s sensitivity to higher liquidity premia to reinforce the programme’s break-even overcollateralisation.

      Market risk accounts for 3 pp of the 6% rating-supporting overcollateralisation, also the same as the previous review. The margins are higher provided by the cover pool in comparison with the last analysis. However, higher asset-liability mismatches kept the market risk in the same level.

      Rating driver references
      1 SSBB’s issuer rating
      2 SSBB’s public reporting
      3 Governance support assessment Norway

      Stress testing
      No stress testing was performed.

      Cash flow analysis
      The Credit Rating uplift is based on a cash flow analysis using Scope Ratings’ covered bond model (Covered Bonds Expected Loss Model Version 1.1). The model applies Credit Rating distance-dependent stresses to scheduled cash flows to simulate the impact of increasing credit and market risks. The model outcome is the expected loss for a given level of overcollateralisation.

      Methodology
      The methodologies used for this Credit Rating and Outlook, (Covered Bond Rating Methodology, 24 May 2023; Counterparty Risk Methodology, 13 July 2023), are available on https://scoperatings.com/governance-and-policies/rating-governance/methodologies.
      The models used for this Credit Rating and Outlook are (Covered Bonds Expected Loss Model Version 1.1, Portfolio Model Version 1.1), available in Scope Ratings’ list of models, published under https://scoperatings.com/governance-and-policies/rating-governance/methodologies.
      Information on the meaning of each Credit Rating category, including definitions of default, recoveries, Outlooks and Under Review, can be viewed in ‘Rating Definitions – Credit Ratings, Ancillary and Other Services’, published on https://www.scoperatings.com/governance-and-policies/rating-governance/definitions-and-scales. Historical default rates of the entities rated by Scope Ratings can be viewed in the Credit Rating performance report at https://scoperatings.com/governance-and-policies/regulatory/eu-regulation. Also refer to the central platform (CEREP) of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA): http://cerep.esma.europa.eu/cerep-web/statistics/defaults.xhtml. A comprehensive clarification of Scope Ratings’ definitions of default and Credit Rating notations can be found at https://www.scoperatings.com/governance-and-policies/rating-governance/definitions-and-scales. Guidance and information on how environmental, social or governance factors (ESG factors) are incorporated into the Credit Rating can be found in the respective sections of the methodologies or guidance documents provided on https://scoperatings.com/governance-and-policies/rating-governance/methodologies.
      The Outlook indicates the most likely direction of the Credit Rating if the Credit Rating were to change within the next 12 to 18 months.

      Solicitation, key sources and quality of information
      The Rated Entity and/or its Related Third Parties participated in the Credit Rating process.
      The following substantially material sources of information were used to prepare the Credit Rating: public domain, the Rated Entity and Scope Ratings’ internal sources.
      Scope Ratings considers the quality of information available to Scope Ratings on the Rated Entity or instrument to be satisfactory. The information and data supporting the Credit Rating originate from sources Scope Ratings considers to be reliable and accurate. Scope Ratings does not, however, independently verify the reliability and accuracy of the information and data.
      Prior to the issuance of the Credit Rating action, the Rated Entity was given the opportunity to review the Credit Rating and Outlook and the principal grounds on which the Credit Rating and Outlook are based. Following that review, the Credit Rating and Outlook were not amended before being issued.

      Regulatory disclosures
      The Credit Rating and Outlook are issued by Scope Ratings GmbH, Lennéstraße 5, D-10785 Berlin, Tel +49 30 27891-0. The Credit Rating and Outlook are UK-endorsed.
      Lead analyst: Fatemeh Torabi Kachousangi, Associate Analyst
      Person responsible for approval of the Credit Rating: Karlo Fuchs, Managing Director
      The Credit Rating/Outlook was first released by Scope Ratings on 19 December 2018. The Credit Rating/Outlook was last updated on 18 April 2023.

      Potential conflicts
      See www.scoperatings.com under Governance & Policies/Regulatory for a list of potential conflicts of interest disclosures related to the issuance of Credit Ratings.

      Conditions of use / exclusion of liability
      © 2024 Scope SE & Co. KGaA and all its subsidiaries including Scope Ratings GmbH, Scope Ratings UK Limited, Scope Fund Analysis GmbH, and Scope ESG Analysis GmbH (collectively, Scope). All rights reserved. The information and data supporting Scope’s ratings, rating reports, rating opinions and related research and credit opinions originate from sources Scope considers to be reliable and accurate. Scope does not, however, independently verify the reliability and accuracy of the information and data. Scope’s ratings, rating reports, rating opinions, or related research and credit opinions are provided ‘as is’ without any representation or warranty of any kind. In no circumstance shall Scope or its directors, officers, employees and other representatives be liable to any party for any direct, indirect, incidental or other damages, expenses of any kind, or losses arising from any use of Scope’s ratings, rating reports, rating opinions, related research or credit opinions. Ratings and other related credit opinions issued by Scope are, and have to be viewed by any party as, opinions on relative credit risk and not a statement of fact or recommendation to purchase, hold or sell securities. Past performance does not necessarily predict future results. Any report issued by Scope is not a prospectus or similar document related to a debt security or issuing entity. Scope issues credit ratings and related research and opinions with the understanding and expectation that parties using them will assess independently the suitability of each security for investment or transaction purposes. Scope’s credit ratings address relative credit risk, they do not address other risks such as market, liquidity, legal, or volatility. The information and data included herein is protected by copyright and other laws. To reproduce, transmit, transfer, disseminate, translate, resell, or store for subsequent use for any such purpose the information and data contained herein, contact Scope Ratings GmbH at Lennéstraße 5, D-10785 Berlin.

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