Daily Archives: January 21, 2010

Is Dubai in for a Downfall? And will it take the Middle East Economy With It?

A recent article over on Knowledge @ Wharton last month asked if Dubai World’s Debt Default Could Spark a Crisis in the Middle East and Beyond after Dubai World announced in late November that it wanted a six month delay on payments on 26 Billion in debt. In other words, it’s asking for a delay on a loan amount that is greater than the annual GDP of over 110 countries! And, according to the article, that’s just the debt it attributed to it’s overly ambitious real estate subsidiary, Nakheel, which, not satisfied with the construction of Islands in the shape of Palm Trees (Jumeirah, Jebel Ali, and Deira) had to go and construct a massive Waterfront, The World (Wikipedia), and, now, The Universe (Wikipedia).

Needless to say, the announcement threw the markets for a loop. As per the article, the Dow Jones Industrial Average quickly fell 1.5% (155 points), European stocks plunged, and oil prices plummeted. Between the end of November 25 (when it hit Bloomberg) and December 9th when the K@W article appeared, a flurry of news articles hit the wire trying to understand what it all meant, which so far has been very little beyond the initial shock. But given that negotiations are still ongoing and nothing has been finalized, a bigger shock could be coming, especially since Dubai World as a whole has debts totalling 59 Billion, which is an amount greater than the annual GDP of over 130 countries! The detailed analysis from the K@W article was that Dubai World’s lenders will work out a restructuring and will supply funds needed to complete the real estate projects that have stalled, because the buildings will be more valuable finished, quoting the burst real estate bubble that Florida suffered in 1926 (and how the excess building eventually drew people to Florida from around the US), but nothing is set in stone. There’s no guarantee that, in this economy, the lenders can even afford to wait six months for their structured payments, yet invest even more money in very expensive (and egotistical) projects that will take quite some time to sell. After all, how many people left can afford to pay 15 Million to 50 Million for their own island? With the major studios shelving scripts left and right, even “A” list actors are having trouble getting steady work at their usual pay rates! (And if the doctor had 15 Million to invest, he’d be launching new companies offering useful software and services [as they’d have revenue potential], not buying an over-priced man-made piece of real estate that really wasn’t needed in the first place.)

Now, while it’s likely that Wharton Finance Professor N. Bulent Gultekin is right in that problems arising from Dubai World will for the most part be contained in Dubai rather than affecting the region, largely because Dubai is the most highly leveraged country in the area, it’s important to note that if Dubai World did fail, it would be the largest government default since the approximately 100 Billion Argentine debt crisis of 2001 and that could spark a chain reaction (like there was during the Russian default crisis of 1998) as there has been a very big jump in government debts around the world as of late. And if a country like Greece, which has a lot of debt mostly held by lenders outside the country, fell, we could be saying goodbye to a quick recovery and hello to a nice, long depression. I just hope the financial decision makers think about this before they raise national debt limits again and risk plunging the world markets into turmoil.

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Invoice and Asset Based Lending Goes Mainstream

Venture Finance, the UK’s premiere independent Invoice Finance and Asset Based Lender with 20 years of helping thousands of businesses under their belt, just released a white paper on the evolution of invoice and asset based lending that is definitely worth a read. The white-paper, which resulted from a roundtable discussion among UK industry leaders in London late this summer, addressed the evolution of invoice and asset based lending and how it addresses today’s business needs in times of recession and growth.

Today, the UK Invoice and Asset Based Lending (ABL) Industry stakes a strong claim for a place at the commercial finance executive table, growing from £ 7.3B and 13,669 clients at the end of 1995 to £ 46.7B and over 46,000 clients halfway through 2009. This represents a strong, and consistent, growth in an industry which provides security and flexibility when compared with more traditional funding choices, which have proven to be quite fragile over the past 18 months as many banks called in loans and lines of credit with little, if any, notice as a result of the failure of the traditional banking system that started with the collapse of Lehman Brothers. According to research done by Venture Finance across 1,000 UK accounts, in the last year, 58% have had their clients refused credit from banks. As a result, payment times have increased to horrendous levels. Over a third of accountants are now suffering an average payment delay of 14 extra days, and over a quarter are now having to suffer an average payment delay of 30 extra days, which puts a tremendous strain on cash flow when you’re waiting an average of 60 to 75 days to have an invoice paid.

It’s important to note that ABL is not a new concept, having been around in some form or another for centuries, with a history that can be traced back to the glory days of Rome. A few centuries ago, in colonial times, it was common for British merchants to make use of factors to sell goods in the Americas. The industry has evolved significantly in the last 40 years. Whereas its modern beginnings consisted solely of basic factoring and invoice discounting forty years ago, in the 1990’s, we saw the introduction of true ABL that leveraged against stock and plant.

ABL is important because it provides value above and beyond traditional financing. This value includes:

  • direct link to business performance
    if your invoices are strong, so is your credit availability
  • flexible and responsive
    you can decide how many of your receivables you want to leverage, how much funding you want to ask for, and if your business improves, so does your credit availability
  • superior service levels
    in ABL, it is the norm to ensure face-to-face visits occur at least every six months in order to establish a productive and lasting relationship; this allows a relationship manager to pre-empt any upcoming issues in conjunction with the client and ensure that capital remains available; compare this to the banking industry where visits can be yearly at best from a manager with a large client portfolio

When you consider that ABL has grown during the recession, and that it can take as many as 13 quarters for a full recovery if we use previous recessions as a guide, it quickly becomes clear that, for many firms, ABL is a much better financing option than the local bank. In other words, if you’re not doing it, maybe you should. If you’re in the UK, you can start with Venture Finance and if you’re in the US, you can start with The Receivables Exchange.

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