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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Fitch Ratings, one of the internationally recognized statistical agencies downgraded the ratings on four major Greek banks to “restricted default” on Monday.

The decision comes after the government ordered commercial banks to close for a week and established capital controls.

The four banks hit by the downgrade, already rated as CCC or “highly speculative”, were National Bank of Greece, Piraeus Bank, Eurobank Ergasias and Alpha Bank.

According to Fitch, the capital controls, including restrictions on withdrawals by customers, amounted to a restricted default “because the deposit restrictions affect a material part of the banks’ primary obligations.”

The banks’ “viability ratings” — which weigh the banks’ intrinsic creditworthiness — were also downgraded to a bottom-level “f” or “fail”.

“The ratings reflect exceptionally high levels of credit risk, because of the imposition of capital controls as well as poor recovery prospects in the event of the default on senior debt obligations,” said Fitch.

The banks are dependent on the European Central Bank for liquidity and the ECB decision on Sunday not to increase the liquidity due to government action reflects Fitch’s view that “these banks have failed and would have defaulted had capital controls not been imposed”.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services also lowered its sovereign rating on Greece to ‘CCC minus’ from ‘CCC’, saying the probability of Greece exiting the eurozone was now about 50 per cent.

Meanwhile, Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras made a reference that his country would not make a key debt payment due to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday.

“(How) is it possible the creditors are waiting for the IMF payment while our banks are being suffocated?” he asked during an interview on ERT television on the eve of the payment deadline.

“Once they decide to stop the suffocation, they will be paid”, the Prime Minister further responded.


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