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Credit Agricole, Danske Bank Downgraded by Fitch After Review

Credit Agricole SA and Danske Bank A/S were among five European lenders to have their credit grades cut one level by Fitch Ratings, which cited “stronger headwinds” in the industry.

Rabobank Groep, Banque Federative du Credit Mutuel and OP-Pohjola Group also were downgraded, Fitch said yesterday in a statement. The moves followed a review of the world’s largest lenders, Fitch said.

“While ratings for these banks are driven by idiosyncratic factors that determine how they rank in relation to each other and the wider rating universe, the downgrades reflect the broader phenomenon of stronger headwinds facing the banking industry as a whole,” Fitch said.

European banks struggled to raise funds amid the region’s sovereign-debt crisis and deteriorating economic conditions, prompting ratings firms to cut grades. The European Banking Authority ordered lenders on Dec. 8 to raise 115 billion euros ($149 billion) by June to cushion against falling asset values. Greek and European authorities are holding talks with investors over a voluntary debt swap.

BNP Paribas SA and Societe Generale SA, France’s biggest lenders, declined more than 7 percent yesterday. Ronit Ghose, a Citigroup Inc. analyst, said European lenders may drop an additional 30 percent as the euro area has only begun to deleverage.

Credit Agricole, France’s second-biggest bank by assets, was cut to A+ from AA-, as were BFCM and Finland’s OP-Pohjola, according to Fitch’s statement. Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest lender, was lowered to A from A+. Utrecht, Holland-based Rabobank was reduced to AA from AA+.

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