Author: Ronald Fink


Facing a need to refinance a significant amount of debt while banks grow leery of lending, many corporate treasurers must diversify their banking relationships, a recent report by the Netherlands-based consultancy Zanders recommends.

The report notes that more than €130 billion ($177 billion) in corporate debt is likely to mature this year in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) alone. Globally, Standard & Poor’s estimates in a June 15 report that companies must refinance a total of $60 trillion during the next five years.

The resulting need for refinancing, combined with profit pressure on banks, the Zanders report authors contend, will lead to what they call “a challenging corporate-to-bank relationship” for companies used to dealing with few banks.

The authors, Laurens Tijdhof and Pieter Sermeus, note that banks’ profits on corporate credit are dwindling, in part because new global regulations require that they hold more capital in reserve. But corporate credit remains “core” for many of those banks, the authors add, even as the banks seek to cross-sell other services such as cash management, trade finance and currency risk management. For that reason, they argue, it behooves borrowers to develop a larger selection of banks than they traditionally have put in place.

“Pre-crisis, a multinational corporation could have [had] few or even one ‘house’ bank that would take care of all of its regional and/or global banking requirements,” the authors write. “This situation,” they state, “is no longer acceptable.”

In addition, the authors contend that capital markets in the EMEA region have developed to the point where bonds may represent a viable alternative to bank credit.

Companies in the region have been slower than those elsewhere, particularly in the US, to diversify their sources of credit. But Zanders contends that’s likely to change in the current environment. “As banks are deleveraging and credit is becoming scarce, corporates are looking for alternatives,” said Sermeus and fellow Zanders analyst Mark van Ommen in an interview with Global Finance. The two analysts note that European corporate bond issuance increased dramatically in 2013, especially among high-yield issuers.