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#511485 - 02/08/16 04:56 PM Santander approaches SSB for 12 million dollar loan
Marty Offline

Santander approaches SSB for 12 million dollar loan

The company was introduced to Belize as Green Tropics; a foreign investment that government said would see the expansion of the sugar industry in the West of Belize and provide much needed economic activity and employment opportunity. But after Spanish Financial powerhouse Santender invested some 50 Million USD in the project and an additional 96 million USD in loans, the project became known as Santender. The project is no small one, with a total investment of 142 million USD of which 96 Million USD is coming from a syndicated loan package, according to sources.

Yesterday, the media learnt that the group has approached the Belize Social Security Board for a 12 Million Dollar loan after an International Bank from the United States backed out of the Syndicated loan package. Interestingly, in a LOVE FM interview with Dough Singh, Chairman of Social Security, he described the loan as QUOTE “… is investing or has invested” begging the question, has Santender already borrowed and spent the 6 million USD and now needs to repay a bank that they say is backing out.

Recently, the wider Caribbean region and in particular Belize, have been labeled as a high risk jurisdiction for financial services by several US organizations, leading to several Belizean Banks being derisked by their Corresponding banks in the USA. Chairman Singh confirmed that the 12 Million Dollar loan was approved last week by the Board after receiving a green light from the Investment Committee of the Institution. The loan to Santender is in the publication stage where members of the general public have 2 weeks to submit their objections or views on the decision.

But already, the backlash has been swift and vocal as callers to talks shows have already been voicing their opposition. The company’s public image has suffered consistently and Santender’s employment practices have come under public scrutiny numerous times. But Chairman Sing indicated in an interview yesterday that Santender already has a shoe in because QUOTE ” Social Security received a significant amount of monies on a monthly basis for Social Security for employees that they hire…” and that SSB stands to benefit. “This loan offers an 8% return in the first two years and a 7% return thereafter which is significantly more and will help to strengthen the fund that helps to benefit Belizeans. In addition to which I think it’s a worthy investment because it helps to develop an industry in Belize that helps to create employment for Belizeans and it helps with foreign exchange for the country. This is not like we are lending overseas we are actually lending for domestic investment so I think overall the loan has many merits in it.”

Investors in the aforementioned syndicated package included several Belize banks including The Belize Bank, Atlantic Bank and Heritage Bank. Questions being voiced is how the Central Bank could allow a foreign investor to source so much local currency from the domestic financial market and now from the worker’s purse; The Social Security Board.

PlusTV


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#511490 - 02/09/16 11:14 AM Re: Santander approaches SSB for 12 million dollar loan [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Concerns Arise over $12M to Santander

On Thursday, February 4 we brought you the story of the twelve million dollar loan that Social Security Board has approved for Santander, an up and coming sugar mill in western Belize. Since we aired the story, it has been garnering some reaction from the public and has been discussed on various local shows. One particular show had the Central Bank Governor of Belize, Glenford Ysaguirre as their guest who spoke on Central Bank’s involvement in the loan facilities to Santander by the local banks. According to Ysaguirre, the syndicated loan could put the country’s financial services at risk should anything go awry with Santander. Because of that risk, Ysaguirre says that measures had to be put in place to mitigate the risks.

GLENFORD YSAGUIRRE

“When the proposal came to us and those banks saw because of the size of the facility they needed approval from the Central Bank and they came; we at the Central Bank in granting our approval sought to put in place certain guidelines to protect the exposure of the banking system knowing that it would be a syndicated loan, several banks lending to the same borrower; that this borrower becomes of systemic importance to the financial system and if that company is to have a problem it can have serious implications to the financials. So we sought to mitigate that by putting in place an arrangement, the condition of our approval to these banks was that there had to be an equal foreign investment from what would have been gotten from the domestic banks and they financed a part of it from outside. In the end there was a slight change in the ratio where the domestic portion was a little bit larger than the foreign portion of the loan and we also put in place measures to make sure that the disbarment of the foreign portion took place in tandem with the domestic so we weren’t going to be the one who were exposed and then the foreign money be delayed and then we end up with the issues. We wanted to make sure that the foreign investor has skin in the game.”

During The Morning Show aired today, businessman Lascelle Arnold had called in expressing further concerns where he spoke of the possible risks and the potential implications to Belize due to the loan to Santander. According to Arnold, SSB is going against the advice of the Central Bank on lending beyond the country’s threshold especially with the available risks.

LASCELLE ARNOLD

“The reason why, the $6million dollars U.S. that they want to borrow which is 12 Million dollars Belize, the reason why they come to Social Security wanting to borrow that money [$6 million USD] knowing fully well that the Central Bank says Belize on a whole cannot lend more than they’ve lent already because of the risk. I would want to ask what your view on it is concerning the Social Security money lending to an institution where risk is involved now, where if you lose that kind of money that something will go wrong. The thing is that we don’t question the other banks. You are talking about de-risking, do we question the other outside banks that the company gets money from, how they stand with the de-risking issue and if there is an issue with that to which one of those banks, do they have a problem with de-risking because we don’t want a bank to be involved from outside that can contaminate the whole loan because then it becomes an issue with all the money from the different banks, which is our money, could contaminate that loan and then now it’s going to Social Security. I would like to hear your views on it because strictly from the Central Bank they cannot borrow any more money but yet they approved $12 million although they said that they are giving this week for the Belizean people to voice their opinions, their approval or disapproval on it.”

Love News contacted Ysaguirre, for some clarification on the matter. He did so by once again assuring the public that certain mitigation policies were effected in the event of unforeseen circumstances.

GLENFORD YSAGUIRRE

“I was asked on the show yesterday if that loan that SSB made to Santander required bank approval and the answer to that is no, it does not. We do not regulate or have any authority over the Social Security Board; I do not understand the comment that you said Mr. Arnold made. The company that the Social Security Board is lending to is actually incorporated locally so it’s not a foreign company; ownership might be foreign but the company is local .They asked me if the commercial banks have loaned to that company and the answer to that is that there is a syndicated loan and those loans require Central Bank’s approval and all the banks that participated in that syndicated loan they all applied and were given approval to make that loan.”

Ysaguirre added that he had no knowledge of SSB’s loan to Santander and that he can only hope that it was done with careful consideration.

GLENFORD YSAGUIRRE

“I wasn’t aware of the Social Security Board component and that was something that has indeed changed the formula and increased the domestic exposure so I would want to hope that those at Social Security Board who make that decision are looking at the wider financial stability implications of it and have put in place their measures to mitigate that.”

Last week we spoke with the Chairman of SSB, Doug Singh, who told Love News that the interest on this loan to Santander will prove beneficial for the Belizean people. Singh told us that Social Security was asked to participate in a syndicated loan put together by Santander, adding that Santander is investing or has invested 142 million US dollars in the establishment of a sugar factory and a number of acres of land in sugar in the west of Belize.

LOVEFM


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#511517 - 02/10/16 11:16 AM Re: Santander approaches SSB for 12 million dollar loan [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Santander Applied for S.S.B. Loan to Bridge Shortfall in Consortium Loan

The airwaves have been consumed with the news that mega-million dollar sugar-cane production and milling facility, Green Tropics, has been given a twelve million dollar loan from the Social Security Board. Green Tropics’ Parent company, the Santander Group, is Guatemalan owned – that’s one immediate concern being voiced, since S.S.B. money is from Belizean contributors. Then there’s the obvious question – if Santander is a Guatemalan company making an investment of more than one hundred and forty million U.S. dollars in Belize, why does it need a loan of twelve million from the S.S.B.? Today, News Five spoke to S.S.B. Chairman Doug Singh provided some answers, and also information which was certainly not public before concerning the actual investment breakdown. First…some background on the loan application which was made back in October 2015.

Douglas Singh, Chairman, Social Security Board

“Their total investment in their business plan was one hundred and forty-two million U.S. dollars at the onset, of which ninety-five or ninety-six million would be funded by debt and the rest would be by equity. I believe their equity portion was in excess of forty-eight million US dollars. The ninety-five million dollars was sought from the financial markets. Some of it came from a bank in Washington, others from a bank in Panama, others from a bank in Guatemala – I think there were two banks in Guatemala and the remainder from financial institutions in Belize. The consortium loan had been fully subscribed for, meaning that they had already gotten commitments from all the banks. In fact I believe that it has already been funded except for one institution. There was a financial institution in Guatemala called Occidente which had some restrictions. I believe I was told that they were acquired by another financial institution that had limitations to its regional lending, so while the previous institution had approved it, after the acquisition Belize was not a part of the region they could lend to and so they had to withdraw that offer. That was a total of seven million dollars. Since then Santander had funded an additional million so they sought the difference to complete their long term financing package of ninety-five million dollars. They approached the Social Security.”

$12 Million from S.S.B. Approved, But Not Disbursed to Santander

Singh reiterated that the Board cannot even look at an investment until the Investment Committee recommends it after due diligence. That was done, and the Board of Directors reviewed it in late January and gave a stamp of approval. That’s where it is at this point…pending a loan offer and an acceptance. But even with all that movement at the S.S.B. level, Singh explained that no move will be made if contributors do not support it.

Douglas Singh, Chairman, Social Security Board

“After a loan has been approved there’s a two week period that you do publication, and that two week period is for several things. It is certainly for transparency so the public is aware of what Social Security is investing in, and also in my mind it gives the public an opportunity to weigh in. Normally we do not issue a letter of loan offer until after that period. I believe that there might have been one or two circumstances when it might have been before – not disbursement but certainly at least a loan offer has gone out. We’re not allowed to disburse any funds until that period has been completed. If there is a fundamental objection on the part of the public who are the contributors to the funds it is the Board’s obligation to review it, to look at it and to make changes if necessary, to revoke it or not to issue an offer at that point in time if that’s the circumstance, and that’s exactly how it will be with this particular loan.”

Mike Rudon

“Do you think the outcry is perhaps a little bit premature or maybe based on less than comprehensive or accurate information?”

Douglas Singh

“I think it might be as a result of lack of information. I wouldn’t say it’s premature. I certainly think that people need to voice their opinion early in any kind of a process so they can be heard, and you certainly need to do it before actions are taken that you may disagree with. You don’t wait until after the fact. I think it’s too late then. So I think people have every right to ask questions. I certainly think that there may be a lack of information but that’s really how the system is designed. Lending is a private business to a great extent. Banks do not disclose information about what they do with their customers. That’s not the circumstances with social Security. This is public money and I think people have a right to get more information. I think to a great extent most people might not be as interested in the details of others. This one though perhaps more so that the rest certainly because the borrowers…while it is a Belizean company most of its shareholders are not Belizeans.”

Belizean Banks Invested U.S. $54 Million in Green Tropics Project

Douglas Singh

We’re not sure the breakdown of monies invested into the Santander facility has ever been public knowledge. The project has been sold repeatedly as a hundred and fifty million dollar U.S. foreign investment. Singh broke it down for us today and the truth is that more than fifty million dollars U.S. is actually being invested through our domestic banking system. 

Douglas Singh, Chairman, Social Security Board

“The total amount loan…what we have is a total of eighty-nine million dollars that has been loan so far to the project; the additional six that was approved by Social Security—and I am speaking in terms of U.S. dollars. Even though this is in U.S. dollars, Social Security cannot lend U.S. dollars; we lend Belize dollars, so it would be the equivalent in Belize dollars. But of the eighty-nine thus far, there are four banks in Belize—one of the banks is an international division and a domestic division—that has lent into the project and combined those add up to fifty-four million U.S. dollars from the banking system in Belize, which includes an international bank and the others domestic banks. There’s a Guatemalan Bank, Bank Colombia, which loan fifteen million U.S. dollars. Banco Aliado, Panama another ten million U.S. dollars and CIFI in Washington DC another ten million U.S. dollars. The remainder of it came from the banking system in Belize.”

Just for a clarification, Singh also noted that there is no connection between this Santander Group and the mega-billion dollar Santander Bank in Spain.

Channel 5


SSB approves $12 mil loan; SSB and Belize banks financing bulk of Santander investment

The Belize Social Security Board (SSB) has approved a BZ$12 million loan to Santander Farms, which operates, among its subsidiaries, Green Tropics in Belize. Since the SSB proposes to release the money from its BZ$450 million fund, the loan will be open to public scrutiny for the next few weeks, before any move can be made to finalize the proposed lending to the Spanish-owned company, whose parent company, Santander Group, also operates a wealthy international bank.

SSB chairman, Douglas Singh, told Amandala that these kinds of investment opportunities don’t come around too often. He told us that the banks are paying the SSB as little as 3% of deposits, down by about half when compared to what they used to earn at the banks 5 years ago, when interest rates were better. Singh said, by contrast, that the Santander loan would be offered at 8% for the first two years, and 7% for the remainder of the 10-year agreement.

Although questions have been raised as to whether SSB money should be lent to foreign investors, Singh said that under law, SSB is allowed to assign 18% to 20% of its portfolio to foreign investment. Singh, who noted that it is not unusual for SSB schemes to make foreign investments, said that two Social Security schemes from the Caribbean had actually invested in Belize’s Super-bond.

What seems to have been creating a buzz, is the fact that the Santander loan is part of a much bigger syndicated loan of US$96 million, involving local and foreign banks, and there is the concern that the addition of the SSB loan would tip the scales, with the majority of the financing (over US$56 million) now coming from locally-based banks rather than foreign banks. This is in the context of the bank having received fiscal incentives, including duty exemptions, from Parliament, which are normally granted to attract foreign direct investment.

We first reported back in June 2015 that Santander had entered a syndicated loan agreement with a group of local and foreign financiers. At the time, we were told that the company had intended to raise over US$110 million for its operations in Belize. Concerns had been raised at the time that a financial package that large could hurt Belize’s financial sector—should anything go wrong with Santander’s operations.

“There is risk in lending; lending is always a risk,” Central Bank Governor Glenford Ysaguirre, told us today, adding that their analysis looked at whether the banks could collectively and individually take that risk.

Ysaguirre said that the individual banks operating in Belize had to each apply for approval from the Central Bank in cases where Santander was asking to borrow more than 25% of the commercial bank’s capital. The SSB loan did not require Central Bank approval because the SSB is not regulated by the Central Bank, he said.

In its review last year, the Central Bank had to look at a number of other factors – such as the level of collateral, the equity from the foreign investor, and the overall exposure of the banks and the Belize banking system. The banks presented their SWOT analyses, and the Central Bank had to look at whether the banks are strong enough to take the level of risk considered.

The SSB has come into the picture months later, and the added financing puts the country’s exposure above what had been originally considered by the Central Bank.

For his part, Singh told us that the Santander loan amounts to less than 3% of the SSB’s fund and the transaction would not singularly endanger the fund. As for concerns that the Santander Group would also place a high demand on the US dollars in our system to be able to make large purchases overseas, we were advised that with respect to the SSB loan, the loan is being given in Belize dollars to replace short-term financing which the company had procured for its investment scheme.

According to Singh, the investment in phase 1 of the Cayo-based sugar mill and sugar plantations was quoted at US$142 million, with the company providing equity investment of roughly US$40 million. He said that three local banks had also bought into the deal: namely the Belize Bank, Atlantic Bank and Heritage Bank. The other financiers are from Washington, Panama, and Guatemala, out of which Santander’s Belize investment is run.

We were told that one of the Guatemalan financiers pulled out after a recent change in ownership, because Belize is excluded from the countries in which they can invest. Santander then turned to the SSB for financing.

Singh said that the proposal was approved by the SSB’s board after a review and recommendation from the SSB investment committee. If there is any strong public objection to the arrangement, the board can review its decision, he said.

According to Singh, Santander employs roughly 200 people and indications are that it intends to hire upwards of 300. There has been criticism in some quarters that the company hires a lot of foreign laborers. Singh said that although the workers are deemed seasonal workers who would not qualify for a pension, they, and Santander, are Social Security contributors, which would enable the workers to access benefits such as employment injury benefits.

As for the security provided to guarantee the SSB loan, Singh told us, when we asked what security had been levied, that there is adequate collateral, which include lands, the factory and other assets. Under the syndicated loan agreement, the Atlantic Bank is collateral manager in Belize.

Singh said that the company has indicated that it intends to add US$36 million in equity investment in 2017.

When the conclusion of the syndicated loan was reported last June, the Central Bank Governor had commented: “This is a significant foreign investment in Belize and provided a much needed shot in the portfolio of the participating Belizean banks given the level of excess liquidity that was in the system.”

He added that, “Syndications of this type for large-scale projects are common occurrences in more mature markets. It spreads risk and promotes competition among banks.”

Ysaguirre further noted, “The portion of the loan financed by Belizean institutions barely put a dent in the amount of excess liquidity currently in the Belize banking system, leaving more than sufficient liquidity for any similar future investments of like magnitude.”

Amandala understands that since last March, even as the Santander syndication was being concluded, the various domestic banks, the Social Security Bank, the Development Finance Corporation and credit unions servicing cańeros in northern Belize, have similarly been in dialogue with the sugar investor, American Sugar Refining (ASR), majority owner of Belize Sugar Industries (BSI), as part of a new strategic development plan.

The argument is that the biggest challenge facing the sugar sector—the export sector which performed the best in 2015—is the need for capital injection to improve production efficiencies and reduce cost, so that Belize can successfully compete on the world market, since it will no longer benefit from preferential prices in Europe. This would require millions in financing, which would be sought for both the farmers, represented by three associations (the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers’ Association, the Progressive Sugar Cane Producers Association, and the Corozal Sugar Cane Producers Association ), and the factory, BSI.

Mike Singh, former CEO in the Ministry of Investment and Trade, has said in an interview with News 5 that with the investments by Santander and ASR/BSI, sugar production would double or triple over the next two, three years.

Amandala


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#511597 - 02/13/16 11:09 AM Re: Santander approaches SSB for 12 million dollar loan [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Santander to SSB: “Keep Yu Money!”

The 12 million dollar loan from the Social Security Board to the Santander group - it's become a political piñata this week -with everyone taking a swing at the controversial investment.

Well - the doubters won out, and Santander backed out, announcing today: "thanks, but no thanks" - they won't be taking the loan because of the political controversy. Chief Financial Officer Andres Ayau explained his company's aversion to political controversy at a Press Conference at the Biltmore this morning:...

Andres Ayau, CFO - Santander Group
"It's sad enough to say that this issue was politicized and it's been a negative connotation and due to this negative media coverage we decided to actually use another lender, an international lender to cover that participation. That being said, we would like to leave the door open for Social Security Board and we are announcing here that we are doing and additional investment around this project for expansion of the factory and the sugarcane fields of 15 million US dollars and we continue our invitation to Social Security to participate in that's transaction. We hope that these issues can go beyond the politics around it and that we can see that these are safe and sound transactions. We will apply again for those funds. Like I say, we remain committed to offering these returns. I think it's a sound investment. I think it's something that the public and Social Security should take a very close look at."

Santander Soon Ready To Crush Cane

And they want that second look taken because they say the project will soon prove its value. Ayau says they will be ready to start crushing cane by early March:...

Andres Ayau, CFO - Santander Group
"At this point our project is ready. We are already in the commissioning phase of the project and we expect to begin crushing sugar cane within the next 3 weeks. That being said any participant to this loan at this point in time sees their risk significantly reduced. We expect if the weather allows for us to begin the crushing season within the next 3 weeks, the cane fields are there."

"This year we have a partial harvest that serves simply to test the factory and to make sure that we can process correctly. Next year we will have full harvest and we expect to crush 800,000 tons of sugar cane - produce about 80,000 tons of sugar and about 50,000 tons of molasses and put energy into the grid."

"Most of our sugar is going to the European market and we already have firm offers for all our volumes this year and part of our volume for next year. What we are doing here and this is said by the consultants is what will be one of the most efficient sugar operations in the world. This operations is going to put Belize on the map as one of the most efficient countries of sugar production in the world."

"All eyes of international lenders and other agro industrial developers are right now in Belize, that have begun to look at this country as an opportunity to invest and that is something that we really need."

Santander Still Courting Social Security

The total investment is 150 million US dollars - and Ayau says one third is financed locally, one third is financed internationally, and the other third is an equity investment. He explains why they turned to Social Security to be part of the financing equation:...

Andres Ayau, CFO - Santander Group
"We thought it would be a good thing effort to invite Social Security Board to participate. Why? Because Social Security have returns for it invertors we can do and 3% currently and this loan offers a return of 7% which is more than twice what you are currently getting and exceeds inflation cost which are not being covered by the current returns you are getting. There was a really strict due diligence done on this project. We had international consulting companies come and do technical financial and environmental and social reports for the loan and all consultants recommended this investments to the banks and to the entities that were reviewing this. It's a world class consultants that come all the way from the Unites States and from England that review this project and determined it as a safe investment. So we would like to make clear that a lot of money from outside has come in and that its customary in these type of transactions to bring in local lenders to provide sort of local validation to the project in this type of transactions."

Santander Not Guatemalan Says CFO

But one of the reasons for the public pushback against the Social Security investment in Santander is because Santander is seen publicly as a Guatemalan company. Ayau says yes there are Guatemalan principals, but that is among many others:...

Andres Ayau, CFO - Santander Group
"Yes there are some Guatemalan investors. We have people from Spain. We have people from the United States. We have people from Dominican Republic and I think we really need to get over this. Our commitment is firm with this country. We've been here for 4 years. Some of the investors actually live in Belize. We believe we are putting our money in a good place. We believe there is a lot of good things to come and if we just work together, there is great things we can accomplished."

Don’t Confuse The Cane Company And The European Bank

And one more public misperception is that this Santander Group is synonymous with, or a subsidiary of the European Santander Bank. Ayau says there's no relationship:...

Andres Ayau, CFO - Santander Group
"The Santander Sugar Group is in no way affiliated or related to the Santander Financial Group from Spain. None of our investors and none of our workers have any relation to the Santander Financial Group. These are separate entities and the reason for the name of Santander Sugar is because the investors, some of the investors are originally are from the Santander region in Spain and that's why they name the group this way."

Santander says it will invite the media to see its operation when it starts milling cane. As we showed you 11 months ago, Santander has set up a sugar cane farming and milling operation behind Valley of Peace.

Channel 7


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