Moody's Lowers Westpac Rating

NEW YORK - Moody's Investors Service Inc. has downgraded the long-term ratings of Westpac Banking Corp. and placed Japan's Norinchukin Bank and France's Credit Lyonnais under review.

The rating agency, citing Westpac's large commercial real estate exposure, lowered its senior debt rating to A2 from A1 and subordinated debt to A3 from A2.

Moody's added that it may downgrade the Aa-1 long-term debt rating of Credit Lyonnais and plans to review the long-term profitability of Norinchukin, a Japanese agricultural cooperative bank and one of the few remaining institutions with a triple-A rating.

The agency gave Credit Lyonnais' "aggressive expansion both domestically and in Europe" and "rapid secular changes in the French market" as the main reason for its concern over the French bank's long-term prospects.

Westpac has $108 billion in assets, Credit Lyonnais $243 billion, and Norinchukin $252 billion.

Moody's and other major rating agencies have been steadily downgrading the credit ratings of major banks worldwide as a result of deteriorating asset quality and rapid market deregulation.

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