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September 29, 2006 (LBO) – Commercial Bank of Ceylon secured a AA(lka) for its upcoming 1.5 billion rupee debenture, with Fitch Ratings asking the bank to match its growth with capital. Sri Lanka's biggest private bank in terms of assets, Commercial Bank is raising debt with maturities ranging from 5-10 years to meet upcoming expansion plans.

The risk evaluator says Commercial Bank's capital has not kept place with asset growth over the past five years.

Part of the lag is due to government taxes which have grown from 20 percent in 2000 to about 53 percent during the first six months of 2006.

The bank's equity to assets ratio slipped to 7.5 percent during the first half of this year from 9.5 percent in 2000, but an improvement in asset quality helped ease the situation somewhat.

"Non-performing loans (NPLs) to gross loans declined to 3.4 percent as at 1H06 from 8.4 percent as at 2001. Solvency as measured by Net NPL to Equity rose to 13.7 percent as at 1H06 from 46.3 percent in 2001," Fitch said.

In the local context, the bank’s solvency ratios have been sound over the last three years.

"However, Commercial Bank's ability to accommodate any deterioratio

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