Options still open on Alba finance

10 February 2003
Two tranches of the $1,550 million financing package for Aluminium Bahrain (Alba)have been launched to general syndication and progress is being made on other tranches.

Syndication of the $500 million commercial tranche opened in late January. Due to the large number of lead arrangers on the tranche - 10 banks were mandated - only a comparatively small portion is being offered in syndication.

'The MLAs [mandated lead arrangers] of the commercial tranche only really need to shift $50 million-60 million to be comfortable,' says one lead arranger. 'There is enough regional appetite to place such a small amount easily.'

It is understood that the basic ticket is for $20 million and offers fees of 85 basis points (bp). The bookrunners are Gulf International Bank (GIB), HSBC, Mizuho Financial Groupand National Bank of Bahrain. The other lead arrangers are Saudi British Bank(which has joined the transaction alongside HSBC), Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, Bank of Tokyo- Mitsubishi, Bank of Bahrain & Kuwait (BBK), Qatar National Bankand National Bank of Abu Dhabi(MEED 6:12:02). The facility has a step-up pricing structure that starts at 80 bp over Libor for years one-three, rising to 90 bp for years four-six and then to 105 bp for years seven-10 (MEED 17:1:03).

The $300 million metals tranche is also in syndication, but is seeking much higher levels of participation. It is understood that the lead arrangers, Goldman Sachsand GIB, are looking to place up to $230 million. Basic tickets offered on this tranche are understood to be for $25 million, paying 75 bp in fees.

Syndications of both the metals and the commercial tranches are scheduled to close by the end of February, but with the Eid holiday limiting the time available the likelihood is that the process will stretch into March.

Some of the other tranches on the deal are expected to be launched before the end of the month. A $200 million local currency bond is expected to be placed over the next two weeks.

'It was primed to come earlier, but the authorities chose to wait until the sovereign bond had safely cleared the market,' says a banker involved in the transaction. 'That has now taken place and the Alba bond has a clear run.' Securities & Investment Company (Sico), Gulf Investment Corporation (GIC), NBB and BBK have been mandated to manage the issue.

Also due to be closed by the end of February is the Islamically-structured tranche lead-arranged by ABC Islamic Bank, Dubai Islamic Bank, HSBC Amanah Finance, Riyad Bank, Islamic International Arab Bank, BBK and GIB. 'Alba wanted to get $200 million-250 million from this tranche. It has got $200 million on a take-and-hold basis already and could try to raise another $50 million,' says a banker.

The final tranche in the $1,550 million facility is still expected to be sourced from Japan Bank for International Co-operation.

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