Bank fees are a sign of the times

04 July 2008
Banks are becoming more frustrated that the work they do in support of bids often adds up to nothing.

It is not just contractors who find they have wasted time and effort when they drop out of a bidding race for major engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) projects. It is also causing concern further down the chain.

Banks in particular are becoming more and more frustrated that the work they do in support of bids often adds up to nothing when contractors do not even bother to table a bid.

In an attempt to bring at least some money in, and put them on an even footing with lawyers and financial advisers who already charge fees, banks are considering charging for the work they do on bids. This shows just how worried project bankers have become over the state of the market in 2008.

For the first half of the year, the only major deals involved tying up the loose ends from 2007, such as the $6bn Saudi Kayan debt, $3.9bn in financing for Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Maaden) and the recent syndication of the $6.5bn Emirates Aluminium debt. Few new project finance deals have emerged.

In the face of the slowdown, bankers are fretting about the work they have been doing that does not generate income.

The prospect of extra fees will be unwelcome for contractors already struggling with rising raw materials costs and skills shortages. But while some banks may get away with charging fees this year, the charges are unlikely to be too onerous and the trend will only last as long as the slump in project financing.

With about $30bn in project debt expected to be needed for six projects in Saudi Arabia alone over the next 12 months, banks will soon find that contractors quickly lose what little sympathy they might have.

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