(Adds details on size and timing of the deal in paras 12, 13, 16 and 17)
By Kane Wu
LONDON, March 24 Commodity trader Gunvor has reassured lenders the firm will avoid U.S. sanctions under its new ownership structure as it presses ahead with plans to raise what bankers said would be a$665 million syndicated loan.
Gunvor told lenders in a conference call on Friday that U.S. sanctions against one of its founders, businessman Gennady Timchenko, will not affect its finances or debt, because he no longer owns any shares in the company.
Timchenko, one of Russia's businessmen most loyal to President Vladimir Putin, sold his 43 percent stake in Gunvor to Chief Executive Torbjorn Tornqvist on March 19. The sale was announced hours after U.S. sanctions were imposed.
Tornqvist now owns 87 percent and holds 100 percent of the voting rights, while employees own the remaining, non-voting shares, according to a company statement last Thursday.
Gunvor said its connection to Timchenko had been completely cut off after the stake sale to Tornqvist.
"Therefore, it (Gunvor) said its finances or debts would not be affected," one banker said.
Existing lenders also received an email on Monday from Gunvor with the minutes of an internal meeting about the stake sale, the sources said.
Although some of Gunvor's lenders remain unconvinced by the rapid change of ownership, Gunvor still has access to the bank loans that supply most of its debt.
On Monday banks allowed the company to make a scheduled drawdown on an existing $850 million revolving credit for Gunvor Singapore. The deal was signed in May last year.
"The company (Gunvor) did not breach any covenants or default, so there is no reason for us not to let them draw the funds," one of the participants in the 2013 loan one.
"However, we need to watch how the situation evolves before we decide to join the upcoming refinancing."
U.S. sanctions were imposed days after Gunvor told lenders the dates for the roadshows for the new loan, which is to refinance the existing $850 million, dual-tranche loan signed in May 2013.
Gunvor has not publicly disclosed a specific figure for the deal, which could total anything from $500 million to $700 million, people familiar with the situation said.
Like many commodity trading companies, Gunvor relies primarily on the syndicated loan market for debt to finance its daily trading activities.
Loan bankers last week said they were concerned the new loan could fall through if the sanctions against Timchenko were to have any implications for the company.
Bankers said that Gunvor's refinancing was scheduled to launch in early April, with roadshows scheduled for April 7 in Shanghai, April 9 in Singapore and April 11 in Taipei.
Those dates have not been finalised, but an early to mid April launch looks likely, a person familiar with the matter said.
The pricing on Gunvor's new loan has not been revealed, but terms and conditions could change to reflect the company's new circumstances, bankers said. (Additional reporting by Jacqueline Poh; Editing by Tessa Walsh and Jane Baird)