FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Standard & Poor's left its ratings on Deutsche Bank unchanged on Monday but said that raising its profitability is the biggest hurdle for Germany's largest lender.
Deutsche Bank's ratings have been under pressure from major agencies such as S&P as the bank restructures under new Chief Executive Christian Sewing who took charge last April.
The bank's earnings for the fourth quarter, announced on Friday, "confirm our view that management's biggest challenge is to improve profitability and bolster the bank's customer franchise", S&P said in a statement.
Deutsche posted a bigger than expected loss in the fourth quarter and showed weakness at its investment bank, overshadowing a first annual profit in four years.
S&P, which rates Deutsche Bank's long-term credit at BBB+ after cutting it last year from A-, said that the bank's litigation and regulatory risks had lessened considerably.
"But the ongoing drip of cases and adverse news flow continues to undermine management's efforts to improve stability," it said.
Executives have said that negative headlines about police raids on the bank in November dented business.
The bank has vowed to do everything it can to make sure global agencies don't further cut ratings.
"We do view it as a critical objective of ourselves to be on an improving trajectory," Deutsche's Chief Financial Officer James von Moltke told fixed-income investors on a call on Monday.
Credit ratings are critical for any company but especially crucial for a bank such as Deutsche, whose perceived health is important in winning business.
Moody's, another rating agency, said on Friday that Deutsche's earnings were in line with expectations but that the bank's ability to rebuild and stabilise revenue in the coming quarters "will be paramount to the long-term success of its restructuring plan" and remains a work in progress.
For its part, Fitch said its negative outlook for Deutsche "reflects our view that it continues to face challenges in reaching its strategic targets in 2019, in particular with respect to improving its profitability."
(Reporting by Tom Sims; Editing by Keith Weir)