SCF receivers report milestone

South Canterbury Finance's receivers say they have reached a milestone with the sale of $100 million in commercial loan assets to the world's biggest finance company, GE Capital.

Kerryn Downey and William Black, of insolvency experts McGrathNicol, said the sale of South Canterbury Finance's subsidiary, Face Finance, was the first unconditional deal to be done.

South Canterbury went into receivership owing $1.6 billion last August.

GE Capital's NZ Equipment Finance is a major player on the local scene, competing with the banks and the likes of ANZ National's UDC Finance in "big ticket" financing to the transport and infrastructure sectors.

GE Capital, the world's biggest finance company, is part of the New York-based conglomerate General Electric, which is ranked by Forbes magazine as the world's second-biggest company.

The already announced sales of the South Canterbury units, Helicopters New Zealand, for $160 million, and Scales for $44 million, are conditional and yet to be settled, but Mr Black said the Face Finance sale was a done deal.

"We actually signed and settled on the same day, so it's the first of the major sales processes to have been completed," he said.

"We are pleased with the outcome and it is a very big milestone in this particular receivership." Face Finance, which loaned money to the infrastructure and transport sector, represented the higher-quality end of South Canterbury's loan book.

It has operated on a largely stand-alone basis from the rest of South Canterbury since establishment, with a separate distribution network and customer relationships.

Mr Black said he believed the acquisition by GE Capital would provide increased certainty for Face Finance's customers.

The deal consolidated GE Capital's position as a specialist financial service provider and complemented its equipment finance offering in the New Zealand market, said Mitchel Booth, New Zealand general manager, Equipment Finance.

South Canterbury Finance, before going into receivership last year, was split into a "good" bank and a "bad" bank. Face Finance was part of the good bank.

The remainder of the good bank includes South Canterbury's consumer book, the business and rural books, and Southbury Insurance - a small insurance company attached to the consumer side of the business.

Then there is the bad bank, which the company has contained within its asset management unit. Mr Black said he expected the sale of the "good" bank assets to be completed within the coming months.

"What will take longer to realise is the bad bank side of the business but it's very difficult to put a time frame on it," he said.

Aside from the lending side of the business, the receivers have reached an agreement with four other shareholders in Dairy Holdings to jointly market a combined 62.5% shareholding in the company, which owns and operates 58 South Island dairy farms.

The Government spent $1.6 billion bailing out South Canterbury investors last year. The receivers have so far paid back $175 million.

The sale of Face Finance followed a competitive process, Deutsche Bank New Zealand acting as sale adviser.


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