Commodity Trade Finance between fraud, pandemic and digitization

The recent much publicised cases of fraud and losses in various trading companies in Asia and MENA (e.g. Hin Leong, Agritrade, Phoenix, Hontop Energy and Zenrock) have left a deep mark on the industry. The “usual suspect” group of financing banks (e.g. HSBC, ABN AMRO, Société Générale, Natixis, CACIB, BNP Paribas, ING, MUFG etc.) was seriously impacted with potential losses in some banks going well over USD 100 million. As a direct consequence some leading banks have decided to completely discontinue the coverage of this sector, others have discontinued their activities in certain geographical regions and let their respective teams go. Furthermore, new business has been frozen and thorough reviews are currently being prepared by other leading sector lenders.

The State’s PRÊT GARANTIE D’ETAT (PGE) is a financing and not an automatic right!

Put in place by the French Government to offer companies easy access to COVID-19 special financial support, the banks are not entirely comfortable with some of the terms and conditions of the measures. They are exercising their normal due diligence, as they would do with any credit applications. Treasury departments should therefore not spend time thinking about the optimal financing structure in the context of more or less rapid economic recovery.

Large caps stay out of the special financing arrangements put in place by governments

Europe’s largest companies are staying away from the special financing arrangements put in place by governments . In France, even before the presentation of the state-guaranteed loan (Prêt Garanti par l’Etat – “PGE”), several large caps had already secured additional liquidity to get them through the first few months of the crisis, such as Airbus, which announced the signing of a €15 billion syndicated loan on 23 March. Other such raising included Schlumberger with a €1.5bn Revolving Credit Facility and Diageo, who launched and priced a USD $2.5bn bond offering.

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