Standard & Poor’s is reviewing credit ratings on 50 banks in the Middle East and North Africa under a new set of criteria, a senior executive from the firm has told Reuters.
This move may result in higher funding costs for lenders already hit by the Eurozone crisis and Arab revolts. S&P has already classified Bahrain’s banks as the riskiest of all those in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
"We look at 25 banks in the GCC region. We also rate banks in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon so across the MENA, we look at 50 credits," said Timucin Engin, S&P's associate director of financial institutions, adding that he expected decisions by year-end.
In late November the agency cut its ratings on 15 big global banks, mostly in Europe and the United States, as a result of the revamp of its ratings criteria.
Last month, S&P published its revised BICRA (Banking Industry Country Risk Assessment) methodology, designed to compare global banking systems.
BICRA are scored on a scale from 1 to 10, ranging upward from the lowest to highest risk.
S&P reaffirmed Qatar's score of 4 and changed both Kuwait and Oman from 5 to 4. Saudi Arabia fell from 3 to 2, UAE was up from 4 to 5 and Bahrain rose from 5 to 6.