LEGAL PERSPECTIVE: Forfaiting a Lucrative option, by Dr AbdelGadir Warsama, Legal Counsel

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Dr AbdelGadir Warsama, Legal Counsel

Forfaiting started in the middle of last Century in Europe and it is taking shape all over the globe to promote trade finance and boost relationship between exporters and importers. In this context, the ICC Rules for Forfaiting (URF 800), aimed to create a standard set of rules to be applied within the forfaiting market worldwide, moreover, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNICITRAL) endorsed (URF 800). Needless to say, this is good work for ICC, as this rule and the UCP 600, URDG 758, etc., show the ICC commitment to promote international trade.

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Forfaiting is a method of trade finance that allows exporters to obtain cash by selling their medium and long-term foreign accounts receivable at a discount on “without recourse” basis. Forfaiting can be undertaken by banks or finance firms that perform non-recourse export financing through the purchase of trade receivables. “Without recourse” or “non-recourse” means accepting the risk of non-payment. Forfaiting eliminates risk of non-payment once the goods have been delivered to the foreign buyer, in accordance with the agreed sale terms. Advantages of forfaiting include, inter alia, elimination of all risk to the exporter with full financing of contract value, exporters can offer medium and long-term financing in markets where the credit risk would otherwise be high, forfaiting works with bills of exchange, promissory notes, or a letter of credit, foreign buyers provide bank guarantee, letter of guarantee or LCs and financing can be arranged on a one-shot basis at fixed or floating interest rate.

Once forfaiter commits to the deal and sets the discount rate, the exporter can incorporate the discount into the selling price. The exporter then accepts a commitment issued by the forfaiter, signs the contract with the importer, and obtains, if required, a guarantee from the bank of the importer that provides the documents required to complete the forfaiting. The exporter delivers the goods to the importer and delivers the documents to the forfaiter who verifies them and pays as agreed in the deal. Since this payment is without recourse, the exporter has no further interest in the financial aspects of the transaction and it is the forfaiter who must collect the future payments due from the importer.

The cost of forfaiting to the exporter is determined by the agreed rate of discount for the tenor of the receivables and a margin reflecting the risk being sold. In addition, there are certain costs that are borne by the importer that the exporter should also take into consideration. The degree of risk varies based on the importing country, the length of the loan, the currency of the transaction, and the repayment structure. The higher the risk, the higher the margin and therefore the discount rate. However, forfaiting can be more cost-effective than traditional trade finance tools because of many attractive benefits it offers to the exporter. We believe, it is a beneficial advisable tool to interested parties to promote trade finance.

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