Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services announced today that it has affirmed its ‘A-/A-2’ counterparty credit rating on FirstCaribbean International Bank Ltd. (FirstCaribbean) following the announcement last week that Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC; A+/Negative/A-1) has signed a Letter of Intent, under which CIBC would acquire Barclays Bank’s (AA/Stable/A-1+) 43.7% ownership stake in FirstCaribbean. The outlook is stable.

A release from S&P says this rating affirmation reflects Standard & Poor’s Group Methodology, in which FirstCaribbean will be considered a strategically important subsidiary for CIBC once the transaction is completed. The strategically important consideration involves several factors, including CIBC’s future majority ownership of FirstCaribbean, CIBC’s inclination to provide full support financially to FirstCaribbean, and FirstCaribbean’s inclusion in CIBC’s operations. The ratings on FirstCaribbean also reflect its important market share in the Caribbean and adequate financial performance.

On March 13th, FirstCaribbean announced that Barclays Bank PLC and CIBC had signed a non-binding Letter of Intent, under which CIBC would acquire Barclays 43.7% ownership stake in FirstCaribbean International Bank. Upon completion of the transaction, CIBC would own approximately 87.4% of FirstCaribbean.

Completion of the transaction, anticipated in late 2006, is subject to the completion of due diligence and the negotiation and execution of definitive documentation. The transaction would also be conditional upon, amongst other things, regulatory approvals.

CIBC has a long-standing presence in the Caribbean region. It opened its first branch in 1920, and acquired its current ownership stake in FirstCaribbean when its Caribbean operations were merged in 2002 with those of Barclays to form FirstCaribbean.

* “CIBC is a leading North American Bank with an approximate US$25 billion market capitalisation,”* said Michael Mansoor, Executive Chairman of FirstCaribbean. *“With CIBC’s strength behind us, we feel confident in our ability to execute our growth strategy”.*

CIBC has stated that it is its intention to maintain the FirstCaribbean brand. In addition, FirstCaribbean will continue to operate under the leadership of its existing management team. According to Charles Pink, CEO of First Caribbean, *“As a result of this transaction, there will be no impact on FirstCaribbean’s customers, staff or day-to-day business activities”.*

CIBC also enjoys an Aa3 rating from Moody’s Investors Service.