Deutsche-led group in talks over US$975m 1MDB debt


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SINGAPORE (May 13): The financial plight of the debt-laden 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) is set to deepen, as jittery lenders of a US$975 million syndicated loan led by Deutsche Bank plan to ask the troubled state-owned firm to pay up before the loan falls due in less than four months.

The Business Times understands that the offshore loan, led by Deutsche Bank Singapore and syndicated to five Gulf banks including Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, is guaranteed by the Malaysian government.

But the creditor banks have turned panicky - some more than others - as the loan is secured with 1MDB's wholly owned Brazen Sky's US$1.103 billion, which the state-backed firm has said is being kept at Swiss private bank BSI Singapore here.

What seems troubling, sources say, is that the "securitisation document" for the loan has now been
deemed "incomplete", as one of the covenants was not fulfilled. This essentially allows lenders to demand payment on the loan anytime before it becomes due at the end of August.

A source said: "What was earlier construed as a tightly collateralised loan is now making the banks nervous, given this controversy."

The worst-case scenario, say market watchers, is that if the lenders declare the loan to be in default, 1MDB could run headlong into a situation of a cross default on the rest of its debts of RM42 billion (S$15.5 billion). This has been a possibility long flagged by naysayers.

For now, the affected parties are believed to be locked in intense negotiations to avert such a crisis involving the loan, which was used by 1MDB to pay Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) to terminate an option to subscribe for the future listing of 1MDB's power asset, Edra Energy.

Edra's stock offering has since been delayed, and there is no certainty it will take off as planned.
In a recent report, whistleblower site Sarawak Report alleged that BSI Singapore had informed the
Singapore authorities that the documents related to 1MDB's account in BSI were in fact "false bank statements" and "did not represent a true account of the assets of the 1MDB subsidiary".

In short, Sarawak Report alleged that there was "no actual cash" in the account, citing "insider information gained in Singapore".

On its part, 1MDB has said that it would not comment on speculation and market rumour.
Contacted for comments on the matter, a spokesman for Deutsche Bank Singapore said that the bank was "unable to assist".

The unfolding of the 1MDB saga highlights the widening reach of the controversy, which has extended to several banks in Singapore, such as BSI, RBS Coutts and now, Deutsche Bank.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has said that it was providing assistance, within the full ambit of its laws, to Malaysian regulators that are probing 1MDB's accounts and business practices.

Industry sources say that some of the banks here, BSI Singapore being one of them, have hired legal representatives in the event the situation turns serious and potential claims are made against them.

A source said: "If things start to develop and no one is sure what the affected parties might do, the banks need to ensure legal representation is in place to defend their position. It's a normal prudent move on their part."

One of BSI Singapore's officers who may have been involved in 1MDB's dealings with the bank has been on "gardening leave", and is believed to have hired lawyers, in case the need arises.

A lawyer said: "MAS is a prudent and diligent regulator and has a lot of power to obtain information from banks very quickly. The question is whether this saga involving banks in Singapore is about lapses in best practices or breaches that are under the jurisdiction of other regulatory bodies such as the CAD (Commercial Affairs Department) and the police.