With heavy Greek exposure, three largest banks in Cyprus now junk

Cyprus is not an important player on the world’s financial stage but it does bear noting that banking and sovereign debt problems run both wide and deep in the European Union. The latest news underscoring these difficulties comes via Fitch, which has just downgraded the largest banks in Cyprus to below investment-grade status.

The downgrade of the three banks, Bank of Cyprus, Marfin Popular Bank and Hellenic Bank, means that many investors can no longer lend money to these banks, making the probability of default greater. This downgrade from BBB- to BB+ puts the banks again one notch below the sovereign credit rating of Cyprus which was downgraded last week to just one notch above junk status.

We should consider this a knock-on effect of Greece’s national insolvency and default. Fitch announced in the statement on the Cypriot banks that it anticipates greater pressure on the financial sector in Cyprus because Greece is going to write down its sovereign debt by fifty to seventy percent. Cyprus has a large Greek population and so these banks have large holdings of Greek sovereign debt relative to the size of their capital base.

Sources: Associated Press, NRC Handelsblad


Edward Harrison is the founder of Credit Writedowns and a former career diplomat, investment banker and technology executive with over twenty five years of business experience. He has also been a regular economic and financial commentator on BBC World News, CNBC Television, Business News Network, CBC, Fox Television and RT Television. He speaks six languages and reads another five, skills he uses to provide a more global perspective. Edward holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA in Economics from Dartmouth College.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Cypriot banks were doomed from the start. Their dependence on the Greek sovereign bonds meant that thy were in trouble from the start of the crisis. It will be interesting to see what is done to help Cyprus in the coming months.