Steady progress on Alba debt

17 January 2003
Commitment letters were signed on 8 January for the commercial tranche of the $1,550 million finance package for Aluminium Bahrain. Banking sources say that commitment letters on the other four tranches are expected to be signed before the end of January.

The $500 million, 10-year commercial tranche will be launched to syndication in mid-January. 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 basis points (bp) over Libor for years one-three, rising to 90 bp for years four-six, and then 105 bp for years seven-10.

'The syndication should not be too difficult as the large leading arranging group means there is not too much to shift,' says one of the lead arrangers. 'However, it would be easier if there was proper co-ordination with the syndication of the metals tranche. Regardless of its structure, the regional banks will be looking at the metals tranche the same way as the commercial loan.'

The $300 million metals tranche is being lead arranged by Goldman Sachs and GIB. It is structured around a 'black box' of hedging handled by Goldmans with both GIB and Goldmans syndicating the underlying debt. The facility has a 12-year profile collapsed into 10 years with a sizeable bullet payment.

'The average margin on the metals tranche will be about the same as the commercial tranche but, because there is no step-up it will have a higher initial headline. This might appeal to some regional banks,' says a lead arranger. 'This is why the two syndications should have been properly co-ordinated.'

The Islamic tranche is essentially being managed on an extended club basis with $250 million being supplied by ABC Islamic Bank, Dubai Islamic Bank, HSBC Amanah Finance, Riyad Bank, Islamic International Arab Bank, BBK and GIB.

Four institutions have been appointed to arrange a $200 million, Bahraini dinar-denominated bond, which is expected to be launched to the local market by the end of January. They are Securities & Investment Company (Sico), Gulf Investment Corporation (GIC), NBB and BBK.

The final tranche - and the last to be put in place - is the $300 million import loan expected from Japan Bank for International Co-operation (JBIC). Bankers say JBIC is expected to sign a letter of intent before the end of January.

Taylor-DeJonghof the US is Alba's financial adviser, while the UK's Norton Roseis acting as legal adviser. The fifth potline will produce 307,000 tonnes a year of aluminium.

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