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Report Sees Second Quarter Downgrades Rise in Europe Despite Lower Negative Bias

NEW YORK (Standard & Poor's) July 30, 2004--The negative bias of rated financial and nonfinancial companies in Europe continues to decline, suggesting continued credit quality moderation, according to a report released today by Standard & Poor's Ratings Services. As of June 30, 2004, 19% of rated nonfinancial entities in Europe were had either a negative outlook or CreditWatch with negative implications compared with 24% three months earlier.

Within the nonfinancial category, sectors such as utilities, consumer products, chemicals, packaging and environmental services, oil and gas exploration and production, and high technology appear among the most vulnerable to potential downgrades. On the other hand, the telecommunications and automotive sectors appear the best poised for potential upgrades.

The negative bias also declined visibly in the European financial sector at the end of the second quarter. Only 16% of banks were listed with a negative bias on June 30, compared with 28% a year ago. The corresponding figures for nonbank financials were 24% and 51%, respectively, with the negative bias mostly attributable to the property/casualty, reinsurance, and life insurance subsectors.

"Credit quality should see some stop-start improvement this year amid expectations of weakly accelerating growth, although the stuttering advance suggests no sustainable gain will materialize until final demand for goods and services gains momentum," explained Diane Vazza, head of Standard & Poor's Global Fixed Income Research. The significant payoff from balance sheet repair is largely realized, and further enhancements in credit quality will hinge on growth, with concomitant improvements in profitability, retained earnings, and cash-flow generation.

Members of the media only can obtain a copy of the full report, "Second Quarter Downgrades Rise in Europe Despite Lower Negative Bias," by contacting Mimi Barker at (1) 212-438- 5054. The report is listed under Global Fixed Income Research. If you have not previously registered with the site, you will need to do so to access this material. Registration requires minimal information and is free.

Standard & Poor's, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE:MHP), is the world's foremost provider of independent credit ratings, indices, risk evaluation, investment research, data and valuations. With 5,000 employees located in 20 countries, Standard & Poor's is an essential part of the world's financial infrastructure and has played a leading role for more than 140 years in providing investors with the independent benchmarks they need to feel more confident about their investment and financial decisions.