Ivorian Banks Are Said to Seek Halt to Cocoa Shipper Liquidation

(Bloomberg) -- Lenders in Ivory Coast are lobbying the government to help turn around the liquidation of one of the country’s biggest cocoa exporters that has left banks exposed to more than $260 million in unpaid debt, according to three people familiar with the matter.

An application for the liquidation of Saf-Cacao was granted last week in a court in the western town of Sassandra, said the people, who asked not to be named because they’re not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. Industry regulator Le Conseil du Cafe-Cacao applied for the order because of unpaid debts totaling 7 billion CFA francs ($12 million), they said.

Ivory Coast’s banking association has now asked the government to intervene as its members stand to lose as much as 150 billion francs in unpaid loans, said the people. The association is arguing that lenders stand a better chance of recuperating losses if Saf-Cacao is allowed to continue to trade, they said.

Fading Fortunes

Saf-Cacao Chief Executive Officer Ali Lakiss and government spokesman Sidi Toure declined to comment when contacted by phone. Liquidator Alain Guillemain didn’t answer calls or respond to a request for comment sent by text message. Mariam Dagnogo, a spokeswoman for the cocoa regulator, didn’t answer calls seeking comment.

Saf-Cacao’s liquidation signals a major turnaround in fortunes for the shipper which accounted for the second highest volume of cocoa exports from the world’s top producer two years ago. The shipper slipped out of the top ten exporters by size for the main harvest that ended in March, and was cited by KPMG in an audit commissioned by the regulator for 22,425 metric tons in contract defaults during the two years through September.

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