* Islamic loan arranged in 2011 for Indonesian unit
* STC wants to restructure loan; banks unwilling to take
* Indonesian arm in sale talks with Axiata - sources
* Business valued at $600-$800 mln, much lower than loan
By Dinesh Nair
DUBAI, Aug 12 Lenders including Deutsche Bank,
HSBC and China Development Bank are resisting calls by Saudi
Telecom (STC) to restructure a loan that could potentially leave
them with losses of up to $600 million, banking and industry
The tussle over the $1.2 billion loan highlights the risks
banks face extending loans to state-owned companies in the
Middle East, where billions of dollars of debt had to be
renegotiated in the wake of the crisis. It also shows banks,
facing tougher capital rules, are less willing to accept losses.
STC backed the Islamic loan for Axis Telekom, its Indonesian
arm, in 2011. But Axis' performance has deteriorated and the
company is now in breach of some of the loan's terms, four
sources aware of the matter said.
STC, which owns 84 percent of Axis, has asked
banks to restructure the debt to reflect its true value of
between $600-$800 million. This means the banks face potential
losses of up to $600 million on the loan, the sources said.
The lenders, led by Deutsche Bank, are refusing
to take a loss and are considering alternatives to recover their
money, the sources added.
"On the one hand, you have a big exposure that you cannot
let go and on the other side, you have to be careful of your
business relationships in the kingdom," one Dubai-based banker
The impasse complicates STC's plan to sell Axis Telekom to
its rival, PT XL Axiata .
STC needs the consent of the creditor banks before it can
sell the business.
STC declined to comment on the loan negotiations but in an
emailed statement confirmed it was in talks to sell Axis as its
financial performance has been poor. HSBC and Deutsche Bank
declined to comment. Hasnul Suhaimi, CEO of XL Axiata declined
A source with direct knowledge of the deal said the two
companies are yet to agree on the valuation. STC is demanding
$800 million to $1 billion for Axis, while Axiata wants to buy
the STC arm for $500 million to $600 million.
The problems with the loan started about three months ago,
when STC's new management asked banks to restructure the loan.
STC has seen the resignation of its chief executive officer,
and the departure of the heads of its international and domestic
HSBC and Deutsche each have around $250 million
exposure to the loan, while China Development Bank has
about $350 million, according to two of the sources familiar
with the loan discussions. China Development Bank was not
available for comment.
Even a 10 percent haircut may result in losses of about $25
million each for HSBC and Deutsche, wiping off almost all the
money they earned in fees from the region in the first half.
Deutsche was the top fee earner among investment banks in
the Middle East for the first half of the year, earning $27.4
million in fees, followed by HSBC, with $24.4 million, according
to Thomson Reuters data.
Among other banks, Citigroup Inc is said by two of the
sources to have an exposure of less than $100 million. A
spokesman for Citigroup in Dubai was not available for comment.
The Axis loan included a $450 million sharia-compliant
murabaha facility arranged by Deutsche Bank and HSBC and
underwritten by Deutsche Bank and HSBC's Saudi affiliate
. A murabaha is a cost-plus-profit arrangement.
(Additional reporting by Chris Mangham in London and Janeman
Latul in Jakarta. Editing by Carmel Crimmins and Louise Heavens)