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UniCredit: Standard & Poor’s changes the ratings of the Group

UniCredito Italiano announces that today the rating agency Standard & Poor's downgraded the ratings assigned to UniCredito Italiano SpA and its subsidiaries UniCredit Banca Mobiliare and UniCredit Banca d'Impresa to "A+" (from "AA-") for long-term debts and "A-1" (from "A-1+") for short-term debts. Standard & Poor's also downgraded the long-term rating of Locat SpA to "A" (from "A+"), while affirming its short-term rating at "A-1". Outlook on the parent company and all the aforementioned subsidiaries is negative.

At the same time Standard & Poor's upgraded to "A" (from "A-") and "A-1" (from "A-2") the long and short-term ratings of Bayerische Hypo-und Vereinsbank and Bank Austria Creditanstalt, with negative outlook.

Following the placement of the aforementioned ratings on credit watch upon the announcement of the possible aggregation between UniCredit and HVB groups, such rating actions are attributable to the success of the purchase offer promoted by UniCredit on HVB Group.

UniCredit points out that the aforementioned Standard & Poor's actions were expected, due to the different rating levels assigned by the agency to UniCredit and HVB groups before the announcement of the proposed business combination.

Attached the complete text of Standard & Poor's press release with details of today's rating actions on UniCredito Italiano SpA and its subsidiaries.

Contacts:
Media Relations:
Tel. +39 02 88628236; e-mail: Uci.Ufficiostampa@unicredit.it
Investor Relations:
Tel. + 39 02 88628715; e-mail: UCI-InvestorRelations@unicredit.it






ATTACHMENT



Research Update: UniCredito Italiano Ratings Lowered To 'A+/A-1' On HVB Deal; Outlook Negative; Off Watch

Publication date: 28-Oct-2005
Primary Credit Analyst: Alberto Buffa di Perrero, Milan (39) 02-72111-205;
alberto_buffadiperrero@standardandpoors.com
Secondary Credit Analyst: Arnaud De Toytot, Paris (33) 1-4420-6692;
arnaud_detoytot@standardandpoors.com

  
Credit Rating: A+/Negative/A-1 


Rationale

On Oct. 28, 2005, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services lowered its long- and short-term counterparty credit ratings to 'A+/A-1' from 'AA-/A-1+' on leading Italian bank UniCredito Italiano SpA (UniCredito) and its subsidiaries Unicredit Banca Mobiliare SpA (UBM) and Unicredit Banca d'Impresa SpA (UBI). Standard & Poor's also lowered its long-term counterparty credit rating on leasing subsidiary Locat SpA to 'A' from 'A+', while affirming its 'A-1' short-term counterparty credit rating. The outlook on Unicredito and its related entities is negative.

At the same time, all the ratings were removed from CreditWatch, where they had been placed with negative implications on May 31, 2005, (those on UniCredito, UBM, and Locat SpA) and July 13, 2005, (UBI) after Unicredito's bid for Germany-based Bayerische Hypo- und Vereinsbank AG (HVB, A/Negative/A-1).

The downgrades follow the announcement that 88.14% of HVB's shareholders have accepted UniCredito's exchange offer.
The lowering of the ratings reflects:
 The material dilution of group profitability, given HVB's comparatively low earnings. For instance, UniCredito's post-merger combined pro forma cost-to-income ratio was 61% at midyear 2005, versus a 54% pre-merger figure at the same date. Significant earnings improvement by 2007 is highly reliant on the group's ability to share best practices and accelerate revenue growth, notably in Germany;
 An initially sharp decline in capital ratios, due to HVB's weak capitalization. Standard & Poor's measure of "core" capital, adjusted common equity, for the new UniCredito would be about 5% according to pro forma 2004 combined data, versus 7.15% for pre-merger UniCredito;
 Exposure to the persistently weak German property market. HVB's commercial property loans carry high credit risk stemming from the currently fragile German economy and real estate markets; and
 The managerial challenges related to combining two large, complex banking groups with distinct cultures and operating in different countries. 

The ratings are supported by:
 Broad business and geographic diversification. Despite the currently unfavorable macroeconomic environment in Italy, Germany, and Austria, the combined group stands to benefit from strong market shares in wealthy northern Italy and the German state of Bavaria;
 UniCredito's stronger market position in the more dynamic economies in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). In assessing prospective earnings from these operations, Standard & Poor's also takes into consideration the intrinsically higher volatility of these markets, with greater system risks and potential fluctuations in credit risk; Expected tight integration under the proposed business model, based on clear segmentation principles; and
 Clear corporate governance rules. Management's accountability, through set individual responsibilities and roles, is likely to facilitate the merger process. 


Outlook

The negative outlook reflects the possible downgrades of UniCredito and its related entities if the new group fails to achieve tangible improvement in consolidated earnings and capital ratios over the next two years. The main uncertainty relates to the group's performance in Germany. Given the country's low economic growth and persistently weak property markets, expected progress in UniCredito's earnings will largely depend on its successful turnaround of German operations and the reduction of credit risk related to its real estate lending book. Furthermore, Standard & Poor's will closely monitor the pace and efficiency of the integration
process, given that the sheer complexity of a cross-border link-up between two large banking groups entails significant execution risks.

We expect earnings retention and asset disposals to enable steady rebuilding of the group's capital position over the next two years, in line with Unicredito's prudent capital policy, even taking into account the possible cash disbursement related to purchases of minority stakes at
Bank Austria Creditanstalt AG (A/Negative/A-1) and Bank BPH S.A. (BBBpi/--/--). If the group successfully restores its earnings and capital ratios, we could revise the outlook to stable.  

Unicredito is committed to restoring its consolidated core Tier 1 ratio (excluding hybrid capital) to 6% by year-end 2006, from an expected 5% at year-end 2005, and to its established target of 6.8% thereafter.


UniCredito's New Business Profile

The new UniCredito is one of the largest Pan-European banking groups, with leading positions in Italy, Germany, Austria, and 12 countries in CEE. The combined distribution network unites more than 7,000 branches. UniCredito is the largest player in CEE, with €70 billion ($85 billion) in total assets and 3,000 branches. At year-end 2004, CEE represented 10% of group pro forma loans and 15% of revenues. Poland alone accounts for about 40% of total assets in CEE.