Rabobank Joins Major Lenders Reviewing Commodity Trade Finance

Rabobank Group is reviewing its commodity trade finance business, joining other major lenders in reconsidering their roles in an industry upended by recent trading scandals and the novel coronavirus.

The Dutch bank, best known for financing food and agricultural traders, is analyzing clients in its current portfolio, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. While it has no plans to exit the sector, it may choose not to finance some customers when facilities come up for renewal, the people said.

“We continuously review the underlying business of trade and commodity finance,” Rabobank spokesman Eric Lagerwey said by phone.

Some of the biggest commodity and trade-finance lenders, including ABN Amro Bank NV, BNP Paribas SA and Societe Generale SA, are scaling back or even completely pulling out of the sector. The move comes after a series of scandals involving commodity traders from Asia to the Middle East and Argentina, while many trading houses faced financial stress as the pandemic hit commodity demand.

Rabobank took a hit from its exposure to companies including Argentina’s bankrupt soy-export giant Vicentin SAIC. Lawyers representing Vicentin creditors, including the Utrecht-based bank, earlier this year asked a New York judge to subpoena the company, saying they suspected about $400 million of funds had been siphoned to sister firms, court papers showed.

“In terms of our international activities, Rabobank is a unique bank in the world that primarily focuses on serving the food chains,” Chief Executive Officer Wiebe Draijer said on a Aug. 13 conference call with journalists. “We do see that it is a volatile business where you also see an impact over the cycles, but we have long-term commitment to the food chain and the developments that are associated with it. What it specifically means for the product offering and the type of service provided is of course an ongoing part of a review.”

Rabobank recently appointed Esther Berkelaar, one of its trade finance bankers in the Netherlands, to a newly created position as head of risk for the unit. The bank is being more cautious with its clients and while there’s no official ban on taking on new customers, its preference is to use available funds to provide liquidity to current clients, the people said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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