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Sri Lanka non-bank lender plans US$100mn syndicated loan
05 Dec, 2012 06:39:53
Dec 05, 2012 (LBO) - Sri Lanka's People's Leasing and Finance Plc, the country's largest non bank lender is planning a 100 million US dollar syndicated loan to fund future expansion, officials said.
Chief executive D P Kumarage said the lender was in talks with a Middle East based party to syndicate the loan, which could have tenor of up to four years.

People's Leasing and Finance Plc has a 'B+' international rating from Fitch and Standard and Poor's. Fitch has given a it a 'AA-' domestic rating.

Kumarage said the loan was a continuation of the same process.

People's Leasing is also eying a separate 10 million dollar foreign borrowing. In a budget for 2013 Sri Lankan firms were allowed to borrow up to 10 million US dollars abroad with no approval required from exchange control authorities.

Last year the lender was mulling a 150 million US dollar bond issue, but did not go through with it. Domestic loan growth also slowed after interest rates rose and the rupee depreciated in the first half of 2012.

The rupee fell from 110 to 130 to the US dollar after the state took large volumes of bank credit to manipulate energy prices, which were then effectively accommodated by the Central Bank through sterilized foreign exchange sales when it tried to suppress interest rates.

Interest rates rose and the rupee fell from February 2012 after authorities took corrective action including an energy price hike.

Sri Lanka's vehicle imports, plunged in 2012 after the rupee fell and interest rates rose. Car purchases fell over 70 percent partly due to a prohibitive tax hike.

Kumarage told reporters that in previous cycles of instability interest rates were much higher. He said the commercial vehicle sales, which was the focus area of People's Leasing was less affected than cars.

Previously known as People's Leasing, the firm was re-branded People's Leasing Finance after it got a finance company license from the regulator. It will also merge with a finance company subsidiary it took under its wing during the last credit cycle.

Deputy general manager Sanjeewa Bandaranayake said monthly new lending has fallen from peaks of about 5.0 billion rupees in 2011 to about 3.0 billion in 2012 but the lending environment was stabilizing and demand was recovering.

People's Leasing would also make use of a lifting of withholding tax on listed corporate bonds to raise money next year. The firm is already a big player in debt markets and is an active seller of leased backed securities and commercial paper.

Kumarage said the firm planned to hedge about one third of the forex risk in syndicated loan through a swap, one third by borrowing in rupees against a dollar deposit. It would carry a position on the balance one third.

Sri Lanka's rupee is expected to strengthen in 2012 if the Central Bank does not print money and steadily trims its Treasury bill portfolio by outright sales.

Sri Lanka's rupee has fallen from 4.66 to the US dollar to 130 since a money printing central bank was created in 1951 abolishing a currency board which could not print money and kept the exchange rate fixed from 1880s.

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