bidding for the lead arranging mandate on a proposed $750 million bond issue has been drawn up by Ras Laffan Liquefied Natural Gas Company (RasGas). The shortlist is understood to include Credit Suisse First Boston, Goldman Sachs, JP Morganand Merrill Lynch.
Meetings were scheduled to take place between the banks and RasGas in London on 5-6 November.
'It is moving very quickly,' says a banker interested in the transaction. 'We're expecting a mandate to be awarded by mid-November. As it has limited the competition to very capable institutions, the two main issues are whether it goes for a single or a joint mandate and whether it wants a full underwriting commitment. This is what we'll find out over the next few days and this is probably what will determine which bank wins the mandate.'
The request for proposals issued to a total of eight banks in mid-October suggested that one of the primary aims of the bond issue is to broaden Doha's creditor base and, in particular, to place the bonds with institutional investors rather than commercial banks (MEED 24:10:03).
'It wants broad distribution away from the conventional bank market because it has an aggressive borrowing programme and there are other deals it wants to place in this market,' says one of the bidders. 'RasGas is a good story - it's not quite a simple corporate story as there are project finance components, but it is a good story - and Qatar is a good story: there should not be a problem attracting interest in these instruments.'
Proceeds from the $750 million issue will be used to retire some of RasGas' existing commercial debt and the pre-payment penalty clauses point to the bond issue being in place by mid-March 2004. Bankers are expecting the issue to have a tenor of five years, matching the remaining maturity on the commercial debt, which stretches out to 2009.