Alba financing nears final hurdle

14 March 2003
Four of the five major tranches on the $1,550 million financing package for Aluminium Bahrain (Alba) are scheduled to be signed on 17 March.

Syndication of the $500 million commercial tranche has moved smoothly, with commitments totalling about $125 million having been received, considerably more than the original target of $50 million-60 million set by the 10-strong group of mandated lead arrangers (MEED 28:2:03).

The $300 million metals tranche is also understood to have made reasonable progress in syndication and it is understood that the bulk of the $200 million local currency bond has been successfully pre-placed.

The $250 million Islamically-structured tranche was one of the first aspects of the financing package to be completed.

However, the shape of the final $300 million tranche continues to provoke speculation. Formally tagged as an export support loan from Japan Bank for International Co-operation (JBIC), there has been considerable discussion within the regional and international banking community that the expected award of the main engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract on the power plant expansion to Alstom Power could reopen the door to a Swiss export credits-backed solution.

However, it is now understood that a new option is under consideration which will see the JBIC contribution reduced to $200 million and a new $100 million uncovered tranche introduced. Bankers say Japan's United Financial of Japan Bank (UFJ)is promoting this option with the support of Japanese trading house Nissho Iwai, one of Alba's largest offtakers.

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