Syndication has been closed by mandated lead arrangers Calyon Corporate & Investment Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and SG Corporate & Investment Banking (SG CIB) for the Ghana Cocoa Board’s (Cocobod) latest US$550mn receivables-backed pre-export finance facility.

RBS and SG CIB acted as bookrunners and Calyon as documentation agent, with information memorandum preparation by RBS.

The facility was oversubscribed by almost 25% with a total of 25 banks joining the syndication. The oversubscription was partly scaled back whilst the launch amount was also uplifted from US$500mn to US$550mn. The margin is 32.5bp over Libor.

Lead arrangers are Absa, DekaBank, Dresdner Bank, and HSH Nordbank.

Arrangers are Bayerische Landesbank, BHF-Bank, LBBW Landesbank Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rothschild. Co-arrangers are ICICI Bank and Melli Bank.

Lead managers are Arab Bank, Bank Sepah, Banque Intercontinentale Arabe, Barclays Ghana, Eco Bank, Ghana Commercial Bank, Ghana International Bank, Mascareignes International Bank, Merchant Bank of Ghana, Mizuho Corporate Bank, Persia International Bank, SG-SSB, Standard Chartered Bank and State Bank of India.

The facility this year seems to have taken on a French flavour, with SG and Calyon and UK-based RBS as the lead arrangers.

Noticeably absent from a lead role was Standard Chartered and Barclays. As one of the arrangers says: “Five pools were in competition; four lost. Note that RBS and SG were not afraid to break their alliance with these two banks as the MLA winning group in 2004. This shows our winning group commitment to true competition to best meet the financial needs of the client.”

One of the French banks involved states: “This is only the result of a very good partnership between the banks. It was commented that RBS constitutes continuity as a MLA and bookrunner from 2003, 2004 and this year. SG represents the company on the ground in Ghana and Calyon is the re-emergent MLA after a few years away. Of course all the banks have strong underwriting, structuring and credit rating credentials. So the MLA group reflected the winning formula for this year that best met the borrower’s sensitivities to maintain a competitive dynamic as well as the most attractive pricing.”

Banque Arabe Intercontinentale is a new participant to the deal. But “perhaps the real story is the new banks stepping up to the challenge at the senior phase,” comments one of the arrangers. “This shows the depth of appetite at competitive pricing and reflects well on Ghana Cocoa Board’s reputation and track record.”

The facility will be used to finance the purchase of cocoa beans for the 2005-06 season secured by the assignment of cocoa export contracts signed with OECD buyers. The new financing follows a 12-year successful track record for Cocobod raising over US$4.5bn including this latest facility.

The mandated lead arrangers state “the success of this syndication confirms once more the excellent professional reputation of Cocobod, its established export track record and the intrinsic quality of the transaction’s structure.”

Cocobod is the public entity in charge of the country’s cocoa industry and its exports. Ghana is the world’s second largest producer and exporter of cocoa. The production forecast for the 2005-06 season is 650,000mn tonnes, an increase of 14% over the 2004-05 season.

Last year, Cocobod raised a record US$850mn with lead arrangers Barclays, Banque Natexis, RBS, SG and Standard Chartered.

A smaller amount was needed this year by Cocobod because of crop yields. One of the arrangers says: “US$850mn was fixed depending on the expectations of Cocobod – they thought that they would achieve the volume and value reached in the record year of 2003-04 (736,000 tonnes/MT).

Unfortunately, for climatic reasons, the crop season yield was lower at about 570,000MT and prices were softer. Consequently the external financial needs were limited to between US$500mn and US$600mn. For 2005-06, expectations are 650,000MT maximum so the amount of the facility at US$550mn is adequate.”