STANDARD & POOR'S ASSIGNS CREDITO BERGAMASCO A/A-1 RATING OUTLOO

  Stable  NEW YORK, Oct. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Standard & Poor's today assigned its single-'A' long-term and 'A-1' short-term counterparty ratings to Credito Bergamasco (Creberg).  The outlook is stable.  The ratings reflect the bank's healthy profitability, stable funding base, sound credit-risk management, and strong capitalization.  It also reflects its membership of the Banca Popolare di Verona - Banco S. Geminiano e S. Prospero SCRL group (BPV-BSGSP, rated 'A/Stable/A-1'), which acquired a controlling stake in Creberg's capital from French bank Credit Lyonnais in 1997. Creberg's acquisition fits in well with BPV-BSGSP's strategy of expanding into areas neighboring its home base in northeastern Italy.  Standard & Poor's believes that Creberg will benefit from its integration into its new parent group because of economies of scale following the merger of information systems and asset management activities, and because of the widening of its product range, notably the distribution of insurance products developed by Societa Cattolica di Assicurazione, its second-largest shareholder with 11.44% of capital.  With Italian lira (ITL) 12.7 trillion (US$7.2 billion at ITL1,760 to US$1) in total assets at year-end 1997, Creberg is a second-tier bank in Italy.  The bank has, however, a strong franchise in its home base, the province of Bergamo, where it has a market share of 13.9% of loans and 13% of deposits. Creberg's core business is banking services for small and midsize businesses and individuals.  The bank is firmly customer focused. Its deep knowledge of its local market combined with effective risk management has enabled Creberg to stabilize its asset-quality ratios at levels that are well above the Italian system average and in line with those of the best regional banks in the country.  Its return on adjusted equity has exceeded 11% since 1996, a good performance by domestic standards, particularly when its strong capitalization is taken into account.  Outlook: Stable  The outlook reflects Standard & Poor's expectation that Creberg will maintain its strong financial profile and develop successful synergies with its parent bank.  The outlook also reflects Standard & Poor's belief that BPV-BSGSP will maintain sound fundamentals and remain conservative in its development strategy. -- CreditWire        NEW RATING     Credito Bergamasco     Counterparty credit rating    A/Stable/A-1     CD   A/A-1    SOURCE  Standard & Poor's /CONTACT:  Yves Burger, 33-1-4420-6691, or Christian Frigerio, 33-1-4420-6687, both of Standard & Poor's, Paris/  /Web site:  http://www.ratings.standardpoor.com/ CO:  Credito Bergamasco ST:  New York IN:  FIN SU:  RTG 
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