Ivory Coast creditors of SAF-Cacao praise clean-up by buyer SACC

ABIDJAN, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Ivorian banks saddled with unpaid debts of around $250 million by the bankruptcy of former top exporter SAF-Cacao are pleased with progress after the acquisition of its assets by Societe Agricole du Cafe-Cacao (SACC), sources at the banks said.

SAF-Cacao, formerly the largest cocoa exporter in southwestern Ivory Coast, was liquidated in mid-2018 after defaulting on debt in the wake of a disastrous 2016/17 season, when world cocoa prices fell 40%.

At the time SAF-Cacao owed around 150 billion CFA francs ($253 million) to a dozen banks, which have been closely monitoring Ivorian firm SACC since it acquired SAF-Cacao’s assets in early January.

Reuters spoke with executives at five of these creditors, who all expressed satisfaction with the outlook. The persons spoke on condition of anonymity.

“The sale of the assets to SACC led to a restructuring that helped clean up the accounts and generate good prospects,” said the director of one bank’s cocoa department.

SACC is eyeing exports of up to 100,000 tonnes in the 2019/20 season compared with just 15,000 tonnes the previous season after receiving adequate funding from banks and export contracts from the CCC cocoa marketing board.

SACC General Manager Guy Roger Coulibaly said he was confident the company would honour its commitment to banks and the CCC.

“The SAF-Cacao case is behind us now. We enjoy the confidence of the banks and the CCC and we are working to repay all of our debts within 10 years as per the agreement,” Coulibaly told Reuters.

“At the moment our target is lower than those of the former SAF-Cacao in terms of volume but we’re aiming for 150,000 tonnes within three years,” he added.

At its peak, SAF-Cacao purchased 200,000 tonnes per season. Its creditor banks included the local branches of SocGen, BNP Paribas, Ecobank, BGFI and NSIA. ($1 = 594.0000 CFA francs) (Reporting by Ange Aboa in Abidjan Editing by Alessandra Prentice and Matthew Lewis)