Getting Ukraine to become Fluent in EXIM.

How can US Exporters increase their exports to Ukraine and what do the latest developments mean for US EXIM programs there?

Featured Image -- 4182  Since the original Fluent In EXIM post was published on February 11th, several important events took place, which potentially may have an effect on how exports to Ukraine are financed by the Export Import Bank of the United States (US EXIM).

  • New President of Ukraine was inaugurated a few days ago, potentially putting the country on a different political course.
  • New, closer, date has been set for the elections of People’s Deputies into Ukrainian Rada
  • US Congress confirmed three new Board members thus opening the  way for US EXIM to finance  projects over $10 million with a duration of financing  longer than seven years

Although not on the same level of importance as the above events, in March, in partnership with the US Ukraine Business Council (USUBC), our Firm held a financing workshop in Washington DC to help participants learn about available government financing programs, with the US EXIM  representative and its authorized broker prominently prominently featured on the agenda.  We have also received numerous EXIM financing inquiries from Ukraine, particularly in the areas of agriculture, renewable energy, transportation and healthcare. A second workshop for USUBC members and invited guests will take  place in Lviv later this month.

In this post, we will examine what, if any, effect these changes shall have on the US EXIM’s programs currently in place for that country. We will  also look at the ways Ukrainian importers and US exporters can best take advantage of these programs.

Currently, US EXIM is only open in Ukraine for short (financing of trade up to one year) and medium-term (financing of $10 million per project up  to seven years)  programs. Thus reopening the US EXIM for the long-term programs will not have any effect on Ukrainian export transactions.

Election of  the new President and upcoming Rada elections also are  not expected to  affect the US EXIM programs for the foreseeable future.

Yet despite the absence of the long-term programs, US EXIM bank remains an effective tool for US exporters wishing to export goods and services to Ukraine. Under its short-term program, the Bank will insure against buyer non-payment and political risks up to 95 percent of the foreign receivables’ invoice value, thus allowing exporters to safely extend open account terms to foreign buyers (both private and  government) for periods up to one year, with 90-day, 120-day terms being most prevalent.  This is done by putting in place either a Single Buyer, or Multi-Buyer credit insurance by the exporter and then qualifying and insuring individual importers under these policies. Depending on the policy limits sought, EXIM employs different underwriting standards and requires increasingly deeper credit checks and financial documentation.IMG-1cae7e700ec217303b52f13cd14e1c96-V

Most qualified US exports, other than sales to of alcohol, tobacco and adult content, as well as sales to foreign military, may be insured; even equipment and services related to nuclear industry.  In Ukraine, larger private transactions will require a repayment guarantee from one  of the  five or so top banks and on the government side a sovereign guarantee is needed. Since it is almost impossible to obtain a UA government’s guarantee for smaller transaction amounts, the US exporters should focus selling their wares to the private sector.   The credit insurance may be obtained either from the Bank directly, or at no additional cost, through a cadre of US EXIM approved insurance brokers whose list is found on the exim.gov site.

Under its medium term programs, US EXIM can cover up to 85 percent of qualified US exports, including eligible freight and duty costs. As mentioned above, financing limit is $10 million per distinct transaction, and repayment terms of up to seven years apply.  For projects, which require local construction or installation (ex solar farms, grain silos), up to 30 percent of the financed amount maybe used to cover local costs performed by Ukrainian companies.

Depending on the project, repayment of the financing may be structured as interest only for up to two  years, with the balance of principal and interest paid out evenly over the remainder of the loan term.  Services such as engineering, architecture, design, legal and financial, all may be financed under this program.

Although US EXIM can lend funds directly at what is commonly known as a CIRR  rate, more often it  issues a its AAA rated guarantee and the exporters then approach an approved bank to secure financing rates, which are  usually more advantageous, as they are based on LIBOR and can either be variable, or fixed depending on the borrower’s preference.  Underwriting requirements of bank guarantee  for the private transactions, or sovereign guarantee for government purchases also apply. Many borrowers choose to finance the remaining 15% percent through those same  local banks  thus effectively securing 100% financing for their projects.

Since the process of securing financing and insurance coverage  through any government agency, or an international financial institution is quite complex, we always recommend  that clients engage a qualified and experienced financial adviser and a very competent law firm with extensive experience working with the US EXIM Bank.

To get more information on the upcoming Fluent In EXIM workshop in Ukraine, please  contact MorganWilliams at mwilliams@usubc.org

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Senate vote restores full financing capabilities of the US EXIM Bank

(story by CC Solutions)

The U.S. Senate confirms three EXIM board members, thus allowing the Bank to restore all its financing programs

Companies in Berlin, Germany; Shanghai, China; Melbourne, Australia, and Delhi, India have long enjoyed the full support of their export credit agencies, which have helped them reach new markets, grow, prosper, and increase employment in their respective countries.
Today, exporters in Berlin, Connecticut; Shanghai, West Virginia; Melbourne, Florida; Delhi, New York; and thousands of other cities and towns in the United States can finally say that they have the full support of their own export credit agency. This morning the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to confirm Kimberly Reed as President of EXIM, and Spencer Bachus III and Judith DelZoppo Pryor, as Members of the agency’s Board of Directors. With the confirmation of these officials, EXIM now has a board quorum, and is now able to approve financings larger than USD 10 million and longer than 7 years, something it has not been able to do since 2015.

For those companies interested in learning more about long-term  US-EXIM programs please contact Broad Street Capital Group at info@broadstreetcap,com

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Financing projects in Ukraine – USUBC round-table announcement

INVITE:  “FINANCING FOR BUSINESS” – US EXIM OPEN FOR UKRAINE, EBRD, OPIC ROUND-TABLE IMG-1cae7e700ec217303b52f13cd14e1c96-V

               Tuesday, March 12, 2019, 3 p.m to 5 p.m. Law Offices of McCarter & English,   
1301 K St., NW, Suite 1000 West Tower, Washington DC 20005

INVITATION: The U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC), www.USUBC.org, invites you to attend a “FINANCING FOR BUSINESS – US EXIM OPEN FOR UKRAINE, EBRD, OPIC ROUND-TABLE, on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., with a light reception, in the offices of USUBC member, McCarter & English, 1301 K St., NW, Suite 1000 West (10th Floor), Washington, DC 20005.  The following panel of experts will make presentations followed by a discussion/Q&A session.

PROGRAM: PANELISTS FOR THE ‘FINANCING FOR BUSINESS’ ROUND-TABLE INCLUDE:

(1)  Douglas Frye, Senior Business Development and Loan Officer, Global Infrastructure, Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM)
          (2)  Alexander Gordin, Managing Director, Broad Street Capital Group, merchant bankers, specialist in US EXIM & OPIC type project transactions
(3)  Bruce Drossman, Senior Vice President, Global ECA Advisory and Execution, General Electric, GE Energy Financial Services/Global Capital Advisory (with US EXIM for four years)
(4)  Michelle Small, Head of North American Representative Office, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)
          (5)  Kenneth Angell, Managing Director, Project Finance & Tara Blake, Director, International Project Finance, Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) 
          (6)  John Strayhorn, President, Global Insurance Services, EXIM approved insurance broker
(7)  Morgan Williams, President, U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC), Moderator

RSVP:  Registration is required for attendance at the USUBC Financing for Business Roundtable. Please register by sending an e-mail to mwilliams@usubc.org. There is no charge for the meeting. Photo ID is required. USUBC thanks McCarter & English law firm, a new member of USUBC, for hosting the USUBC Business Luncheon in Washington.

“FINANCING FOR BUSINESS” – US EXIM OPEN FOR UKRAINE, EBRD, OPIC ROUNDTABLE
Featured Image -- 4182Tuesday, March 12, 2019, 3 p.m to 5 p.m. Law Offices of McCarter & English,
1301 K St., NW, Suite 1000 West Tower, Washington DC 20005. followed by a light reception

Fluent In EXIM

(or how to realistically obtain US EXIM financing for emerging markets such as Ukraine)

61ae8-exim-bank1 Recent re-opening of US EXIM Bank’s programs in Ukraine has caused a stir and a flurry of activity among US exporters, Government Agencies responsible for trade promotion, Ukrainian importers and non-governmental agencies working in that market.  Following more than a five-year hiatus, everyone has been excited to expand US-Ukraine’s trading relationship and to increase the quantities of much-needed US exports with the aid of the Bank’s financing.  After all, US exports support US jobs and help Ukraine obtain advanced goods and services needed to grow its economy.

Yet, the early results of all those efforts thus far been negligible due to a dearth of local buyers able to qualify for the Bank’s financing, or trade credit insurance programs. Similar situation has been observed in a number of Central Asian markets, which have recently experienced economic resurgence and thirst for imported goods and services.

In order to enhance the ability of the US Government’s agencies to assist in export promotion and financing and most importantly in order to maximize the ability of US companies to export goods and services to emerging markets, it is vital to understand what are the services provided by the US EXIM and what external components are needed to help grow the numbers of qualified buyers and therefore real exports.

Export Import Bank of the United States (US EXIM) is the official Export Credit Agency (ECA) of the US Government, whose mission is to support export of US-manufactured goods and services with a set of export financing and trade credit insurance tools.16ae9-ex-im2bbank

Open for business in over 120 countries, the bank has been in continuous operation since 1934 and for a good number of years of its existence has been contributing profits to the US Treasury, rather than spending the US Government’s budget funds.  Although over the last several years, the Agency has become a victim of political wrangling and its long-term financing programs, those involving terms over 7 years and single transaction amounts over US$ 10 million have been temporarily crippled, the bank’s short and medium programs have continued and are fully operational.

However, when trying to finance, or insure exports to emerging and frontier market countries using US EXIM’s programs, American exporters often face additional hurdles. One of the most severe of those, is finding sufficient number of qualified, or as we call them “bankable” buyers for US goods and services. The second hurdle is often lack of the so-called “15%”, a minimum amount of funds needed from the buyer to supplement the up to 85% of the qualified export amounts financed through the US EXIM’s support.

Here are a couple of typical export frustration scenarios:

a. A large US manufacturer of agriculture equipment with an established distribution network in Ukraine seeking to supply its distributors with $5-6 million dollars in equipment to be sold to Ukrainian farmers prior to the planting season. The US supplier needs to extend open terms of 6 months to its distributors, but needs to insure its risk of non-payment. The US EXIM offers fantastic trade credit insurance products, which after assessing and accepting the buyers’ financials would insure  the US manufacturer for non-payment of up to 95% of the supplied goods.

Yet, for purchase contracts of over $1mil., US EXIM requires the buyers to present  GAAP/IFRS audited financials and in this case none of the distributors audits their financials and doing so may either be not feasible, or cost prohibitive.  Since the distributors appear very financially and reputationally solid, yet unable to meet EXIM’s cursory requirements, the question becomes how to structure the transaction in order to enhance US EXIM’s product and not lose millions of dollars in sales for the US manufacturer?

b. An established Ukrainian agri company is seeking to replace its fleet of machinery and upgrade its grain storage capacity with US manufactured equipment. Size of the transaction is $15 million. To preserve much needed operational cash, the company would like to arrange 100% financing of the acquisition for a term of six years.  The company does audit its financials to IFRS standards, but due to a fairly small transaction size and lack of knowledge of the Ukrainian market by US banks, the company is having a very difficult time, obtaining the 15% co-financing it needs. Once again, $15 million of US exports are in potential jeopardy, what does one do in a situation such as this?

To answer the above questions and to realistically address the issues, which hamper successful export financing in markets such as Ukraine, a task force consisting of a US merchant bank, international law firms, local banks, non-profits and insurance brokers has been created and effective tools developed to truly assist US exporters convert potential opportunities into real exports. Starting later this month in Washington DC, these tools will be presented in a series of workshops called “Fluent In EXIM”. The workshops also will take place both in key Ukrainian and US cities. Given the importance of the US exports to jobs creation and since US EXIM bank is operated under the the supervision of the US Congress, the workshops, in addition to expert panels, will feature members of Congress, as guest speakers. US Ukraine Business Council, a leading non-profit involved in promoting US-Ukraine economic cooperation, will be coordinating these workshops and helping to make US companies trying to export to Ukraine – Fluent In Exim(tm).

 

 

 

 

U.S. EXIM BANK reopens for transactions with Ukraine

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 “A strong international voice for business in Ukraine”U.S. EXPORT-IMPORT BANK (EXIM) NOW OPEN FOR UKRAINE

U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC), Wash. D.C., Tues, Jan 8, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) is now open for Ukraine. “This is great news for U.S. exporters of goods and services and for business in Ukraine. EXIM being open for Ukraine provides an additional and important tool to expand U.S.-Ukraine business relations in 2019,” said Morgan Williams, President, U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC), www.USUBC.org. The Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM), www.EXIM.gov, is the official export credit agency of the United States. EXIM is an independent Executive Branch agency with a mission of supporting American jobs by facilitating the export of U.S. goods and services. The EXIM country limitation schedule now includes Ukraine, https://www.exim.gov/tools-for-exporters/country-limitation-schedule

“At the end of December, the Export Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) reopened its short and medium term programs in Ukraine for both private and public sector Ukrainian borrowers,” said Alexander Gordin, Managing Director, Broad Street Capital Group, www.BroadStreetCap.com, a long-time member of USUBC. “The reopening  of EXIM’s programs in Ukraine, after more than five years, sends a terrific signal to U.S. companies seeking to supply the Ukrainian market with U.S. goods and services. It also sends an encouraging message to investors on the improving economic condition in Ukraine,” according to Gordin. “The U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC) will be working the Broad Street Capital Group and the law firm of Brown Rudnick (www.BrownRudnick.com), both members of USUBC, to organize and conduct a series of workshops titled “Fluent In EXIM” in the near future in the USA and Ukraine,” said USUBC President Williams. “These workshops will feature experts from the public and private sector who will present the most effective strategies for structuring export transactions, submitting applications for export credit insurance and financing, as well as passing due diligence and compliance procedures,” Williams announced. 

ABOUT: EXPORT-IMPORT BANK OF THE UNITED STATES (EXIM) —– The Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM), www.EXIM.gov, is the official export credit agency of the United States. EXIM is an independent Executive Branch agency with a mission of supporting American jobs by facilitating the export of U.S. goods and services.
When private sector lenders are unable or unwilling to provide financing, EXIM fills in the gap for American businesses by equipping them with the financing tools necessary to compete for global sales. In doing so, the Bank levels the playing field for U.S. goods and services going up against foreign competition in overseas markets, so that American companies can create more good-paying American jobs.

Because it is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, EXIM assumes credit and country risks that the private sector is unable or unwilling to accept. The Bank’s charter requires that all transactions it authorizes demonstrate a reasonable assurance of repayment; the Bank consistently maintains a low default rate, and closely monitors credit and other risks in its portfolio.==========================================================
NEWS: For the latest news about Ukraine go to the KYIV POST website: www.KyivPost.com.The Kyiv Post is a member of the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC). 
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U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC) 
1030 15th Street, N.W., Suite 555 W, Washington, D.C.  
Morgan Williams, mwilliams@usubc.orgwww.USUBC.org
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Power Corrupts..Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

Broad Street Capital Group to lead an international Trade Mission to Uzbekistan.

For Immediate Release

BSCGLogoNew York, August 26, 2018. Fresh from its success of developing a pioneering $250 million, 20-year OPIC insured, capital markets financing, Broad Street Capital Group announced today that it will lead an international Trade Mission to Uzbekistan between September 5th and 9th, 2018.

The goal of the Trade Mission is to identify and engage large project development and financing opportunities in the areas of health care, distributed and renewable energy generation, agriculture, ICT and aerospace

With its proven ability to develop and structure complex financing solutions ranging from $100 to $500 mil., and utilizing support of Export Credit Agencies (ECAs)such as US EXIM Bankand of US government development institutions,
such as Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), Broad Street Capital Group is uniquely positioned to bring low-interestlong-term financing to projects to be developed by the Trade Mission participants and supported by the Government of Uzbekistan.

The mission participants will also introduce an innovative Grey2White™ initiative designed to assist local companies in becoming more bankable and transparent to western partners and international financial institutions.

Joining Broad Street Capital’s team during the upcoming Mission will be representatives of US, UK and Israeli companies, international law firms and professional organizations. The delegation will be led by Mr. Alexander Gordin, Managing Director of the Broad Street Capital Group and will meet with a number of federal and local Government Officials, project sponsors and company owners in Tashkent.

Uzbekistan represents a tremendous opportunity for international project development and international business cooperation,” said Alexander Gordin. “Policies implemented by President Mirziyoyev have been very effective in attracting foreign investment, supporting technology transfer and focusing on growing key areas of the Uzbekistan’s economy,” added Gordin.

About the Broad Street Capital Group

Based in the heart of New York City’s Financial District, Broad Street Capital Group (www.broadstreetcap.com) is an international private merchant bank, which since 1988 has served several foreign governments, multiple state-owned companies, as well as SMEs in emerging markets. Through its member companies, the Group focuses on developing project financing in the $100 million to $1 billion range, providing political risk mitigation, export management services and cross-border market development advisory. The Firm maintains a permanent presence in Astana, Kazakhstan and Kyiv, Ukraine.  Since its founding, Broad Street Capital Group has done business in over 35 countries, spanning the emerging markets landscape from Bangladesh to Ukraine.

The Firm works closely with all trade and development agencies of the U.S. Government and Export Credit Agencies of several European and North American countries. Since its inception, Broad Street Capital Group has been involved in multiple high-profile cross-border transactions in IT/telecom, aerospace, health care, energy generation, food security, nuclear safety, hospitality and franchising sectors. The firm’s current advisory and export management portfolio exceeds $900 million and expected to exceed $1.5 billion by November 15th, 2018.

For more information contact: Rustem TursynRepresentative for Central Asia
+1 212 705 8765 ext. 707, or via email rtursyn@broadstreetcap.com

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Grey2White Initiative – the journey continues (parts I and II)

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(Part I of the article reprinted from the June 2017 issue)

Hypothesis:

Given Ukraine’s current economic and geopolitical situation, one of the most beneficial  steps the US government, business and NGO community can take, is to encourage significant external and internal direct investment into the country’s economy.

Although the US Government has had some success in attracting and supporting American direct investment into Ukraine, those investment amounts are far from sufficient. US investors new to the Ukrainian market are wary of the country’s reputation for corruption, difficulty in doing business, threats from Russia and lack of financing options.

A second and much more viable economic development option, would be to support and enable direct investment by the successful Ukrainian business people who have amassed sufficient capital and are much more comfortable and adept in investing in their home market.

One problem with pursuing that option are high Western standards, which often preclude US government development agencies and public US investors from working with this potential class of investors.  This is due to the fact that for the last twenty-five years, practically all business people in Ukraine had to operate under a certain set of conditions widely considered “grey” and in many cases “black” in the West.

Some of these “grey” conditions are lack of financial transparency, inadequate corporate governance, use of yellow press, use of cash, as well as offshore accounts to conduct operations, bribery and use of adverse political influence.

In their attempts to succeed, some folks in Ukraine went beyond previously acceptable business norms and crossed the proverbial line even further by engaging in criminal “black” behavior – graft, extortion, corruption, tender rigging and illicit drug trade.

To date, these grey conditions have presented significant challenges for the IFIs, development agencies and regulated financial US investors. Yet, it is vital to recognize the necessity to find an acceptable solution that allows Ukraine’s economy to reap significant benefits from the anticipated increase in direct investment and low-cost, long-term financing.

It is also very important to understand that the proposed Grey2White (G2W)™ initiative aims to broaden and scale up very important development and capacity building work already undertaken over the last quarter century by IFIs, such as IFC and EBRD, USAID; development agencies such as OPIC and USTDA and financial investment communities. Those initial efforts, although quite effective, focused on a relatively small sample of Ukrainian companies and were undertaken during a different stage of the country’s development.

Initiative

The G2W™ initiative will only work with those companies and individuals, who will be able to create meaningful economic impact in Ukraine, after undergoing the conversion process.  G2W™ will not in any way target those convicted of the “black” behavior, as their reputation gap is un-bridgeable within the scope of the project.

Thus the question becomes, is it possible for US stakeholders to create an environment and a broad platform from which so-called “grey” Ukrainian businessmen seeking to utilize US financing, equipment, services and franchises, as part of their major investment programs, become “bankable” under Western standards? If the answer is “Yes.”This type of conversion will provide hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars in direct economic benefit and enhanced geopolitical security to Ukraine and to the US.

If the answer is “No,” these businessmen will either be forced to forgo the planned capital investments, or seek alliances with other grey, or black global actors in countries like Russia, China, Brazil, Iran, etc.

It is the fundamental belief by the creators of the proposed initiative that given a concerted effort by the US and Ukrainian stakeholders to develop and implement realistic procedures to increase corporate transparency, introduce financial standards, address any existing reputation issues head-on and provide reputable outside management and board oversight, it is possible within short to medium time-frames to bring these so called “grey” businessmen and their respective projects up to elevated western standards, mitigate investment and reputation risks and affect substantial economic growth in Ukraine.

Thus we hereby propose the following:

Select three-four financially viable projects sponsored  the “grey” Ukrainian actors and use them as a pilot to develop, refine and implement an effective conversion strategy to bring that project up to acceptable Western standards.

From the government side, we propose to involve the US Commercial Service, USTR, US Embassy, Ukrainian Embassy, Cabinet of Ministers of UA, members of the US Congress focused on UA issues, OPIC, regional Governors and local administrations in Ukraine, IFC, USTDA and the US EXIM Bank (when that Agency resumes its activities in Ukraine).

Among the NGO stakeholders we would like to see US-Ukraine Business Council (USBC), AMCHAM, Transparency International, Freedom House, Atlantic Council and US Ukraine Foundation. Additionally, reputable international law firms, audit firms, press, appropriate private individuals, corporate off-takers, financial market regulators, as well as relevant providers of US goods and services should be involved.

The framework of the proposed initiative shall be as follows:

  • Initial Sponsor/Project assessment and preliminary due diligence
  • Project selection and stakeholder awareness and involvement
  • Project G2W™ Team building (attys., directors, advisers, auditors, suppliers, investors etc.)
  • Full due diligence and implementation plan for the Western financial, FCPA and governance standards
  • Investor cultivation and underwriting of the financing package
  • Project development and implementation
  • Monitoring and compliance

To kick off the proposed initiative, we propose an intensive education and awareness-building campaign designed to simultaneously involve all the stakeholders.

After the initial buy-in into the initiative is secured, work will begin on developing the pilot projects.

During the pilot project phase, the G2W pilot project team will be seeking to achieve specific and tangible goals:

  • Fully assess the existing reputation risks, possible political influence issues, suitability for OPIC/IFC financing and Political Risk Insurance for the US project participants
  • Prepare a legal due diligence report by a world-class law firm
  • Recruit highly reputable and competent outside board members to the Project’s Board
  • Design a comprehensive PR/IR strategy to inform stakeholders of the project and its ongoing developments
  • Design and implement transparent financial audit, reporting and management accountability standards
  • Develop ways to tangibly measure economic effect of the pilot project
  • Continue to promote the initiative and seek to move it from the pilot project phase to full-blown implementation.

(to be continued)

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Part II  (April 2, 2018)

In the nine months since the above article was first published, a number of events took place, which not only validated the concept behind the Grey2White™ initiation, but also expanded its scope and attracted top notch global professionals to the program.

Although initial premise of the program to convert grey actors in Ukraine to white bankable actors, whose economic contribution will greatly outweigh any possible transgressions they may have committed up to this point remains intact, the program has been expanded to include other emerging market countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The program also grew to allow so-called grey companies to unlock their value through financial and legal transformation in order and become more bankable in the Western capital and financial markets. Part of this transformation involves tools, which on one hand provide increased political protection to the current management and to foreign investors, and on the other hand allow western companies to lock up predictable valuations and to observe the transformation process first hand.

A first rate international “scrub team” has been assembled as a multidisciplinary team consisting of former US Government prosecutors, forensic accountants, legal and financial experts and last but not least, former high-level grey operator with deep expertise in shadowy government and business dealings in Ukraine and several other  post-Soviet countries.

A pilot company and its owner have been selected, as the first of four pilots companies to undergo Grey2White™ transformation in order to make them bankable by US Development Agencies for a $150 million project slated to create over 200 new jobs and to generate significant economic impact in Southern Ukraine.

In the next 60 days. key members of the G2W™ Team are expected to travel to Latvia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine to conduct additional screening and selection of the pilot companies and individuals.

In the subsequent parts of this article, we will examine the different case studies and watch the pilot candidates undergo the first steps of the Grey2White™ transformation.

(to be continued…)

 

Trump scrambles Ex-Im Bank politics

The politics around the Export-Import Bank just got much weirder.

President Donald Trump is reaching for a compromise in the debate raging around the bank, aiming to keep the agency open while putting an outspoken, ultra-conservative opponent of the institution at the helm.

In doing so, Trump has confused the politics around the export credit agency, which had been a major boost to American manufacturers such as Boeing, GE and Caterpillar before Republicans took steps to crimp the flow of financing.

The formerly anti-Ex-Im Trump abruptly changed his tune on the bank last week when he called it “a very good thing” and announced plans to nominate two board members. That was a major step toward bringing the agency back to its full working capacity.

Then, two days later, he nominated for the chairmanship former Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), a vocal foe of the bank who has also come under fire in the past for his comments about homosexuality. That set up a political tightrope that both supporters and detractors of the agency may have trouble navigating.

Democrats who champion the agency because they say it creates jobs and promotes manufacturing are uneasy about supporting a social conservative who might try to hamstring the bank from within. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a member of the Banking Committee, which will vet the nominees, said appointing Garrett as chair would put thousands of American jobs at risk.

Then there are conservative Republicans who have been critical of the bank and are now cheering Garrett’s nomination.

“For too long, the bank has been a clear example of corporate welfare run amok — benefiting special interests and foreign companies at the expense of U.S. taxpayers,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who also sits on the Banking Committee. “I am confident that Congressman Garrett will chart a new course for the bank that puts U.S taxpayers first.”

The result is a 180-degree flip-flop, where lawmakers and interest groups who had expended significant resources and political capital to rein in the bank could shift to support Trump’s nominees, while its biggest champions could be left behind.

“We’re encouraged and optimistic that [Garrett] would be able to substantively reform the Export-Import Bank, make it work better in the meantime,” said Chrissy Harbin, vice president of external relations at the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity. “And then when the reauthorization comes up again … we’d encourage D.C. to have the same conversation about the possibility of letting it expire once and for all.”

Democrats on the Banking Committee have reservations about Garrett, including Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.).

Cortez Masto said she was pleased that Trump was committing to making the bank functional. Still, she has concerns about Garrett, “given his past opposition to Ex-Im’s mission, not to mention his divisive rhetoric toward LGBT families.”

“This Garrett nom is a Catch-22,” one Senate Democratic aide said. “We need to confirm him to have a quorum, but he could be a cancer inside the agency.”

Last November, Garrett lost a seat he had held since being elected to Congress in 2002. A key moment in the race came in 2015, when POLITICO reported that he told fellow GOP members that he wouldn’t support the National Republican Congressional Committee because it backed gay candidates.

Financial companies that had been campaign backers during his years as a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee pulled back.

Garrett later denied that he objected to gay candidates and said his problem was with support for same-sex marriage.

He lost to a well-funded Democratic challenger, Josh Gottheimer, but stayed plugged in to the emerging Trump team. While in Congress, Garrett served with Vice President Mike Pence and is said to be close with the former Indiana congressman. He also counted White House counselor Kellyanne Conway as a constituent and campaign donor. A December meeting at Trump Tower was well-publicized.

Garrett could not be reached to comment on this story.

Beyond Congress, his nomination also puts big American manufacturers in an awkward spot. They need more board members at the bank to provide a quorum that’s necessary to approve deals with more than $10 million. Yet they are unsure what changes might be in store given Garrett’s past comments and promises from senior administration officials like White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to put “reformers” at the helm.

For now, major users of the bank are focusing on the fact that Trump has put forward any nominees rather than worrying about who they are.

“Generally speaking, between the president’s comments and naming of two nominees, it’s really encouraging,” said Kate Bernard, a Boeing spokeswoman. Boeing, she added, has experienced the loss or delay of three satellite sales since the bank first fell victim to political crossfire in 2015, so giving the bank back its quorum to “shake loose” projects that remain in the pipeline is the most crucial step at this point.

There’s no question, however, that the Garrett nomination “raises some eyebrows in the business community” and “sends some mixed messages given his previous history in the House,” said one bank proponent who asked not to be named.

Garrett established himself as a consistent and outspoken opponent of the bank while in Congress, twice voting against its reauthorization in the past five years. In 2014, he expressed skepticism that attempts at reform would ever be successful, and he pushed hard the following year to let the charter expire.

“We have the opportunity to save capitalism from cronyism and to fulfill a promise to the American people to work for them instead of a select few with special connections in Washington,” Garrett said in May 2015.

“For the sake of the American taxpayer and the preservation of the free enterprise system, Congress should put the Export-Import Bank out of business.”

The White House noted that history of opposition toward the bank in discussing his appointment, saying Trump chose him “to both usher in reforms and prioritize small businesses.”

“Former Rep. Scott Garrett has passionately spoken out on some of the problems that the Bank’s previous activities created,” a White House spokeswoman said in an email. “He will be a key voice for reform.”

61ae8-exim-bank1The current nominees represent only a temporary fix: Garrett and former House Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), who Trump picked to sit on the board of directors, would both have to be approved to restore the bank to full working capacity. What’s more, they’ll provide a quorum that will only last until July 19, when acting Vice Chairman Scott Schloegel’s term expires. At that point, the bank would lack a quorum once again if no additional members have been confirmed before then.

But in the meantime, major users of the bank fear that the administration is trying to reshape the agency in a way that would hurt large companies that have traditionally benefited from it. Various administration officials have hinted at their own ideas for reform.

Mulvaney, who was a critic of the bank while a member of Congress, told CNBC last week that Trump’s nominees would make sure the bank “sticks to its knitting.” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told the network in a separate interview that he wanted a reformed bank to “help small businesses more.”

Some reforms will be put into place as soon as Garrett and Bachus — or any two nominees — are confirmed and a board with at least three members votes to approve them. The bank’s 2015 charter included a slate of changes for the bank, and while a majority have been completed, a handful require a board quorum to be implemented — something the bank has lacked since its reauthorization was passed almost a year and a half ago.

Two of the outstanding requirements involve appointing a chief ethics officer and chief risk officer. A third involves the bank’s lending to small businesses and “increases the authority of staff to approve applications for up to $25 million in export financing for small business working capital and insurance products.”

But beyond that, bank observers say there is little a chairman can do on his own to change the bank’s operations.

And while he could attempt to direct export credit assistance more often to smaller businesses, “there’s not a ton of discretion,” said Peter Cohn, an analyst with Height Securities.

“So I don’t know that we’re going to see a whole lot more than window dressing on that front,” he said.

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Shutdown of U.S. Ex-Im Bank Puts Companies in a Financing Bind

IT-USExportsReprint_Page_2
Ethiopian Airlines had to scramble at the last minute this summer when it needed to pay for a plane it ordered from Boeing Co. MMBAMM years ago.

The East African carrier got the aircraft last month but, instead of owning it, the airline is leasing the plane from a bank, said Chief Executive Tewolde Gebremariam. It couldn’t secure a loan for the purchase because it lacked a financing guarantee from the U.S. Export-Import Bank.Amid a clash over spending priorities, congressional Republicans effectively shut down the U.S. Ex-Im Bank by failing to reauthorize the agency at the end of June. That means the bank can’t make new loans or provide loan guarantees to foreign companies so they can buy American products and services. And American companies can’t renew their export-credit insurance policies.

The shutdown was a blow to many companies in the U.S. and abroad that are fighting for revenue in a sluggish global economy. Many foreign companies like Ethiopian Airlines are looking to do business with trusted American suppliers, while U.S. companies are searching abroad for new customers.

A strong dollar and weaker growth hamper those efforts. U.S. exports of goods and services were down 3.5% from a year earlier in the first seven months of 2015. Exports fell 3.2% in August, according to the Commerce Department.Declining exports, combined with a lack of U.S. Ex-Im Bank funding, is “a double-whammy,” said David Ickert, finance chief of Air Tractor Inc., which makes small aircraft for the agriculture industry. Softer prices for crops such as soybeans have growers in places like Brazil and Argentina ordering less equipment, he said.Air Tractor, based in Olney, Texas, typically uses export-credit insurance from the U.S. Ex-Im Bank. Foreign customers typically account for over half of the company’s sales, but Mr. Ickert expects that figure to drop to 30% this year. “There are definitely some multiple headwinds we’re facing right now,” he said.

Many foreign companies say they can’t secure financing from commercial banks without some kind of government-backed financing or guarantee, which most developed countries offer through their own Ex-Im banks.Ethiopian Airlines’s Mr. Gebremariam said he hopes to buy more than two dozen planes from Boeing in coming years, but will consider going to European rival Airbus Group SE if the U.S. Ex-Im Bank stays out of business.“There’s definitely an impact on our expansion and growth,” he said. “Some economies in Africa are considered high risk, so banks wouldn’t be able to finance us directly without Ex-Im backing.”

In a letter sent to Boeing officials last week, Comair Ltd., an aviation company based in South Africa, said a continued lack of U.S. Ex-Im Bank support would force the airline to borrow in foreign currency. But doing so, given the volatility of its local currency, the rand, would “expose Comair to too great an exchange-rate risk on its balance sheet,” said CEO Erik Venter.Boeing said such sentiments reflect private conversations it has been having with customers for months. “They want to keep buying American, but the uncertainty over the future of the Export-Import Bank is forcing them to consider other options,” said a company spokesman. Boeing, a strong proponent and major beneficiary of the bank, expects it to reopen. But an extended shutdown would prompt Boeing to consider moving work offshore to compete for contracts that require Ex-Im backing, Chairman Jim McNerney said last month.General Electric Co. MMGEMM is already doing so, to make it easier for its customers to use Ex-Im funding from other countries, such as Canada, France and Hungary. In Hungary, where GE has manufacturing facilities, the export-import bank is providing a loan to Bresson AS Nigeria Ltd., a power-generation company, to buy GE turbines for new plants in Nigeria, said Barakat Balmelli, a financial adviser to Bresson on the deal.

Hungarian officials are looking to increase their level of new export-import-related lending to €1 billion, or about $1.1 billion, by the end of the year. Last month the government expanded agreements between its Ex-Im Bank and local Hungarian commercial banks.

Ms. Balmelli said Bresson chose to work with Hungary’s Ex-Im Bank partly because of the U.S. shutdown. “You have other countries changing their policies to accommodate these new business opportunities while the U.S. is just fiddling about,” she said.61ae8-exim-bank1

Last week, the U.S. Ex-Im Bank’s Republican supporters moved to bring the bill reauthorizing the bank to a vote. The procedure would force a vote on the bill, which is backed by nearly all Democrats and many Republicans, later this month.

Meanwhile, small U.S. companies, which can’t relocate or move jobs overseas, are feeling the brunt of the bank’s closure. W.S. Darley & Co., a maker of firetrucks and related gear, said the shutdown already has cost it a contract worth about $7 million.

The customer’s loan didn’t get final Ex-Im Bank approval, and since W.S. Darley’s contract was contingent on that financing, “that sale could just be gone,” said Chief Operating Officer Peter Darley.

With projects falling out of the pipeline, employees at the Itasca, Ill., company are worried about their jobs, he said. “It hurts us. We had a lot of good momentum,” he said, referring to building firetrucks for foreign cities and towns.

Featured Image -- 2741“We might be losing projects we’re not aware of,” he said. “If a buyer knows that Americans don’t have an open Ex-Im, they might not even knock on the door, or invite us to the bid table.”

Write to Kimberly S. Johnson at Kimberly.Johnson@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/shutdown-of-u-s-ex-im-bank-puts-companies-in-a-financing-bind-1444093160

U.S. Export Weakness Hampers Growth

Strong dollar and global economic strains undermine foreign trade in goods and services

Hopes for an American export boom are wilting under the weight of a strong dollar and global economic strains.

U.S. exports are on track to decline this year for the first time since the financial crisis, undermining a national push to boost shipments abroad. Through July, exports of goods and services were down 3.5% compared with the same period last year. New data released Tuesday by the Commerce Department showed that exports of U.S. goods sank a seasonally adjusted 3.2% in August to their lowest level in years.
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The weak trade performance is restraining overall economic growth, a sign of how troubles in China and other major economies are dinging the U.S. economy.

“Foreign demand remains the weakest part of the economy,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at consulting firm High Frequency Economics.
It didn’t seem that way in 2010, when President Barack Obama set a goal of doubling exports over five years. Some big cities took up the challenge, including Portland, Ore.

Facing a battered economy at home, Vanessa Keitges, president of Portland-based Columbia Green Technologies, lined up sales in Belgium and New Zealand. In Canada, she chased public-building projects and Wal-Marts. Within three years, one-quarter of the green-roofing company’s sales were outside the U.S.

But that proved to be a high-water mark for the company’s foreign ambitions. Ms. Keitges is now focusing on the strengthening domestic market for the company’s rooftop planters as weak growth abroad tempers demand and a strong dollar creates pricing problems.

Exports seemed a golden opportunity as Portland and the rest of the nation emerged from the 2007-09 recession. Foreign sales were a major contributor to U.S. economic growth in 2010 and 2011, outstripping past recoveries. Political leaders hoped selling goods and services abroad would offer a sustained boost to the job market at home.

But the dream of an export boom has faded.

As unemployment has declined, American consumers have reasserted their dominant role in driving economic growth. And a strong dollar and weakness overseas have helped turn international trade into a drain on overall economic growth in four of the past six quarters.

The Federal Reserve worries exports will be a persistent drag on the broader economy going forward. Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer in August said it was “plausible to think that the rise in the dollar over the past year would restrain growth…through 2016 and perhaps into 2017.” If the Fed begins to raise short-term interest rates later this year, that could provide new fuel to push the dollar’s value even higher.

Exports of goods and services grew 80% from 2003 to 2008, but then expanded only 48% from 2009 to 2014, according to Census Bureau data.

A Commerce Department official described President Obama’s export-growth initiative as “catalytic and a success,” driving exports “despite strong global economic headwinds and macroeconomic factors outside our control.”

The administration is looking to spur trade growth through agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Senior officials from around the world are meeting in Atlanta, trying to complete the expansive trade deal after talks stalled earlier this year.

It isn’t just the U.S. where exports have been a disappointment in recent years. Globally, growth in trade volume is set to trail the pace of economic growth for the third year in a row, and trade growth has been averaging just half its pre-financial crisis pace. In the immediate aftermath of the recession, confronted by weakness in the domestic economy, U.S. policy makers saw opportunity in global markets.

Following Mr. Obama’s lead, the Portland metro region in 2012 set its own goal to double its exports in five years. “This is how we fight for jobs in the next economy,” then-Portland Mayor Sam Adams declared. In the past year, Portland has quietly shelved that aim. The value of Portland-area exports actually declined slightly between 2012 and 2014, according to tallies from the Commerce Department and the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

After Portland set its goal, economic conditions started to shift. The value of major currencies declined relative to the dollar, making American-made goods more expensive for foreign customers. Growth slowed in key markets such as China and Canada. At home, the U.S. economy regained its footing.

Over the past year, Portland first was caught up in a labor dispute that caused gridlock at ports along the West Coast, then it lost regular ocean-bound container service. Local officials also came to realize export growth depended overwhelmingly on chip maker Intel Corp., MMINTCMM which has extensive facilities in the Portland suburbs.

Exports of computer and electronic products helped drive a more than doubling of the metro area’s exports between 2003 and 2008, according to Brookings. But Intel has suffered from a slowdown in demand for personal computers.Measurable gains from smaller companies are likely to take years to materialize. Federal estimates show only about 5% of U.S. firms export, with nearly two-thirds of the annual value concentrated among 500 companies.

Hand-tool maker Astro Tool Corp. in the Portland suburb of Beaverton has seen many of the challenges up close. Over the past year, general manager Mike Barnes dedicated half his time to chasing foreign customers, while still overseeing day-to-day operations of the 30-employee company. He faced a steep learning curve. “We, A, didn’t know how to do it, and B, we didn’t have the money to do it,” he said. “You can’t just go to the Internet and say, ‘Where do we find foreign opportunities?’ ”

He eventually landed a small grant to hire a consultant and tapped connections for advice. The share of Astro’s business coming from overseas climbed over the past year to 25% from 15%. But he also watched at a trade show as a foreign competitor sold a cheap, knockoff version of a product similar to his.

The Portland region is trying to court foreign companies that already incorporate exports into their business model. But those companies aren’t immune to global pressures.

Two years ago, exports were nearing 70% of the sales of Shimadzu USA Manufacturing Inc., a subsidiary of the Japanese maker of instruments to test everything from wine fermentation to the urine of Olympic athletes. Now the plant in an industrial park at the far southern edge of metro Portland is getting closer to 50-50 as domestic growth outpaces sales gains abroad.

Foreign customers “can get it cheaper from Japan now than they can from the United States. We’re not as competitive as we were,” said Joe Shaddix, vice president of operations and manager of the factory, referencing the strong dollar.

At the same time, domestic demand for test instruments is developing among marijuana growers as states move to legalize the drug. The factory has expanded what it can make, becoming U.S. Food and Drug Administration registered.

Mr. Adams, the former mayor, remains a strong advocate for the goal of doubling exports—if not by 2017, then eventually. He worries the Portland economy isn’t keeping up with the quality of life that draws twenty- and thirty-somethings at an enviable rate.

“Obviously the timeline will move, but keeping that goal front and center is key,” he said.
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Write to Mark Peters at mark.peters@wsj.com and Ben Leubsdorf at ben.leubsdorf@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-export-weakness-hampers-growth-1443576283

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