Singapore Technologies

In a tough enviroment Barclays breaks into the Singapore market
In 2002 BA Asia won the mandate to arrange a S$500 million ($280 million) three year fundraising for Singapore Technologies Holdings. This deal struggled through syndication and was eventually pulled in the early part of 2003. Banks shied away from the tight pricing offered on the credit - just 48bp at the top level. This made it all the more surprising when Barclays sent out invitations for a $300m five year loan for ST Treasury services in May. Market observers questioned the validity of the new deal, especially considering the pricing was only a shade above the earlier transaction at just 52bp all-in for a longer tenor. In addition they suggested that the impact of Sars in Asia on an already struggling Singapore loan market was likely to impede syndication. Not all bankers, however, expressed such scepticism over the financing as many agreed that there were differences between the two deals that made this facility more attractive. Furthermore the very absence of new transactions in the market - just $700 million worth of loans had been signed by the beginning of May - was bound to ignite some interest among Singaporean bankers. The borrower's directives were to achieve an aggressive pricing benchmark while regaining credibility following the collapsed BA deal. To achieve these goals the pricing was left constant while all other facets of the syndication were examined to tailor the transaction to these requirements. Barclays first step was to offer a tight security package with a number of covenants attached including consolidated interest cover, minimum net worth and gearing ratios. This is something that is not normally associated with Temasek linked entities who have depended upon name lending in the past. The British house also structured the facility to include a guarantee from the group head. This again was breaking away from traditional structures, and it provided further comfort to lenders as the nerve centre of the operation was backing the deal. Finally the facility was denominated in US dollars rather than Singapore dollars. This countered any funding issues that may have arisen for foreign banks lending in the domestic currency. A five strong group of banks were signed up pre-general including BNP Paribas, Credit Lyonnais, Credit Agricole, ING and SG. These joined as equal status arrangers - a level not offered on the original facility. Syndication was hit with a blow when C2C - a joint venture between a group of Asian Telco concerns including SingTel - collapsed on massive unsold capacity of its network. While the credits are from totally different spectrums, market confidence took a further knock after the Sars crisis earlier on in the year. Despite this threatening to derail the loan, Barclays was able to attract commitments from five further banks with contributions totalling $90m. This was especially encouraging given that no domestic banks joined due to exposure aggregation issues. Proceeds partly refinanced a bridge that was put in place by Barclays in December 2002.

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