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China and Africa’s most unscrupulous middleman has been detained

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A secretive Hong Kong tycoon that has been at the forefront of China’s push into Africa’s resource markets has been detained in Beijing, according to the Chinese business news magazine Caixin.

Sam Pa is the mysterious founder of a complex corporate network known as “the 88 Queensway Group” or “the Queensway syndicate,” after the office address of its main companies in Hong Kong. Pa, a stocky, bespectacled man who uses at least seven aliases—most of his business associates refer to him as just “Mr. Sam”—is believed to have forged ties with African elites while working in Chinese intelligence.

Analysts say that the Queensway companies, connected to China’s ministry of foreign affairs, operate in politically isolated, resource-rich African countries (pdf) like Angola and Zimbabwe where business and government dealings are more opaque. Pa has been accused of bribing African officials, smuggling diamonds, and trafficking illegal arms. He was sanctioned last year by the United States for allegedly supporting Zimbabwe’s long-time ruler Robert Mugabe.

Pa’s detention may be linked to the investigation of the governor of Fujian province, Su Shulin, according to Caixin. Su is the former chairman of the state-owned oil company Sinopec. He has been detained for “serious violations of discipline” as part of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s sweeping anti-corruption crackdown. Su was the head of Sinopec when it partnered with a Queensway company to develop its oil business in Angola.

It’s not clear how closely Pa is still linked to Queensway or how its operations in Africa will be affected if he is felled by the Chinese communist party. (The company says that he is now only an adviser.) JR Mailey, an analyst who has been tracking the company for over seven years, told the Financial Times (paywall) that the sprawling corporate empire remains “dependent upon Sam Pa and his connections in Beijing and other capitals.”

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Russia Without BS (Beware of Bad Samaritans)

In the war against Ukraine there is one weapon more frightening than anything in the entire Russian arsenal. Sneakier than “hybrid warfare,” it is a weapon which is designed to be wielded by the Ukrainian people against themselves, and it helps the Putin regime both maintain influence in Ukraine while sustaining itself at home. That weapon is neo-liberal economic theory, and as Sean Guillory points out in this superb article, Ukrainians ought to think twice about heeding the advice of neo-liberal bad Samaritans, in this case Arthur Laffer.

There is an idea among some Ukrainians and Ukraine supporters that Russia is the biggest threat to Ukraine and the be-all, end-all when it comes to survival or defeat of Ukraine as a country. This is woefully incorrect. For one thing, Russia has managed to keep its thumb on Ukraine for so long largely due to the poverty and other effects of the collapse of the Soviet Union. When Russia’s economy soared in the mid-2000’s, plenty of Ukrainian citizens, mainly from the east, could look to Russia and see higher salaries and pensions, so that as one refugee from Donetsk told me, some locals thought annexation by Russia would bring “paradise.” It matters not whether they were wrong because the Russian system wasn’t sustainable, or if those economic benefits came at the cost of losing political freedoms. Poor people with few prospects are likely to embrace any system or regime that appears to be able to reliably put food on the table, and in the case of Russia, put iPhones in pockets.

Hanging out in Kyiv, and particularly in the center, it was always easy to miss the economic reality that faces Ukraine, especially now. It’s obvious when you go out to some place like Donetsk oblast, but in the capital it’s far more subtle. One clue is the increased presence of homeless people and people asking for money in and around Maidan Nezalezhnosti. In my most recent trip this was impossible to ignore. But there were other signs as well.

I don’t mean to sound like Thomas Friedman here, but on my last trip I had a long discussion about the local economy with a cab driver who drove me into the city from the Boryspil airport. The story is the same- lack of work, low wages, etc. I met another expat who explained to me how his friends in Odessa were now living on or below the poverty line. Now I don’t mean to level any accusations against any specific people, but this kind of poverty and desperation is vital for Russia to maintain control over Ukraine by other means. Just as how the Russian government can easily stifle dissent by paying people to support the government in public or harass dissidents, desperate people in Ukraine are a pool of cheap, willing agents for sabotaging progress. If one thinks that some sense of patriotism will keep these people from carrying out the work of the Kremlin, think again. For one, the Kremlin’s motives are not always obvious, nor do they always seem logical from the outside. The origins of the money used to pay these “agents” may be murky, if not totally obscure. Putin’s designs might be carried out by men claiming to be Ukrainian patriots. In fact, bet on it. Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, after all.

Getting back to the economy, this is yet another reason why people should be more up in arms about the decommunization law. Proponents of this law essentially preach a sort of voodoo politics, whereby removing symbols and in some cases rewriting history will suddenly make all Ukrainians into patriotic citizens. Patriotic citizens, who, for example, will be less likely to resist in the face of coming austerity. You see, if trade unions and workers band together to protest austerity for them while the rich continue to live in luxury, the oligarch-controlled media can just tar them as Communists or Communist-like. They’ll be accused of wanting a return to the Soviet Union and Moscow rule. A good Ukrainian patriot endures the inequality and poverty, and in return gets flags, slogans, and fairy tales about “national ideas.” Same as the Russian patriot, incidentally.

Does that sound far-fetched? Well it’s already happened in America of all places. Nearly a quarter of a century after the fall of the USSR, America’s Republicans and conservatives have been screaming about Communism, socialism, and Marxism more loudly than ever, lobbing this accusation against a neutered Democratic party which long ago went full-on neo-liberal. Even during the Cold War they were less shrill than they have been since the election of Barack Obama. Take a look at this GOP poster from 1956, for example. That’s a Republican pro-labor union poster. These days the GOP portrays unions as at best, shiftless and lazy, and at worst, “thugs.” If, in America, the idea of requiring private citizens to buy health insurance from private providers can be repeatedly labeled “socialist” or “Communist,” it stands to reason that any significant push back against austerity in Ukraine will inevitably be similarly tarred with the same labels. I guarantee it.

To the people of Ukraine I will make this as blunt as possible. Not everyone in Ukraine is “Ukrainian”, which is to say you are not on the same side. It is not only the top oligarchs you have to suspect either. This has nothing to do with their nationality, their religion, what language they speak, or their sexual orientation, but rather their relation to the means of production and their ownership of capital. These people’s interests are irreconcilable to those of the vast majority of Ukrainian citizens, and they are veryreconcilable to those interests of their business counterparts in Russia. Some of them are having a spat at the moment, and their are some minor differences concerning Russia’s neo-feudal incarnation of capitalism, but capitalists are capitalists.

As these people continue to squeeze you more and more, they will crow more and more loudly about the horrors of “Communism,” and shed mighty rivers of tears for people who died decades ago. They will do this because mourning the dead costs them nothing, whereas actually caring about the Ukrainian people today, and those yet unborn, does cost them. Make no mistake- Ukraine is not a poor country. It possesses the land and resources to provide for the basic needs of every citizen and ensure a positive birth rate as well. Russia is even more endowed with such resources. But what Ukraine cannot do is provide that lifestyle for its citizens while simultaneously providing a life of opulent luxury for a small minority who are unwilling to earn by their own labor, and who use the political system and its monopoly on violence to maintain a system that denies people the means to obtain the necessities of life save for at the mercy of a capitalist.

Those in Ukraine who exploit their fellow Ukrainians have an incentive to keep people’s minds focused on the past and not present, and the effects of this distraction are extremely useful to the Kremlin as well. More equality means a stronger, more inclusive community, and that means a much smaller pool of potential agents for the Kremlin. By contrast, post-Maidan Ukraine’s circus of populism, far-right politics, and patriotic circle-jerks give Putin’s political technologists and intelligence operatives little reason to worry about losing influence in Ukraine.

Finally, it is high time to chuck the politics of opposites, whereby people in Ukraine and other Eastern European countries enthusiastically embrace anything that appears to be the opposite of what they think their enemies represent. Bad Samaritans like Arthur Laffer may seem like the polar opposite of the Kremlin, which presides over a much more restricted capitalist system. Do not be fooled, however. The Kremlin system is capitalist through and through, and what is more it is a system that thrived off of the 90’s and 2000’s amoral neo-liberal, let-the-market-decide mentality. The crisis of 2008 showed much of the West that the capitalist system is inherently flawed and cannot be fixed. Today, there are even progressive capitalists who envision an alternative system, that some are referring to as post-capitalism. There are many flaws in their vision, but they are onto something. With the rest of the modern world waking up to this reality, there is no good reason for Ukraine to listen to outdated dinosaurs like Arthur Laffer and the rest of the neo-liberal cultists.

Alright, I’m stepping down from my soapbox. As a related note though, I think Ukraine can take inspiration from another country that emerged in the 20th century after centuries of domination. I leave you with a key passage from Ireland’s Democratic Programme of the First Dail and a simple question:

“…we declare that the Nation’s sovereignty extends not only to all men and women of the Nation, but to all its material possessions, the Nation’s soil and all its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth-producing processes within the Nation, and with him we reaffirm that all right to private property must be subordinated to the public right and welfare.”

So, people of Ukraine, to whom do your nation’s soil, resources, and wealth producing processes belong to?

*The title of this post is inspired by one of the books of South Korean economist Ha Joon Chang, which can be found here.

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Consumers improve finances as interest rate hike looms

The much-anticipated and long-delayed Federal Reserve hike in interest rates could slow the economy a bit when it finally comes. But Americans generally appear to be in better shape to handle higher borrowing costs than even a few years ago.

Not everyone would be adversely affected anyway. A lot of people just don’t do much borrowing, from affluent seniors who have no need for loans to low-income individuals who couldn’t qualify. About 27% of Americans are unbanked or underbanked, according to Federal Reserve research, meaning they’re outside the financial system or tangentially connected to it, and thus not applying for conventional loans.

Nor would all types of loans feel the pinch. For example, 30-year mortgages are tied to yields on Treasury notes, which the central bank doesn’t directly affect. Their yields move more in response to inflation and inflationary expectations.

And more to the point, Americans gradually have been getting their finances in better shape, making them more resilient to a rate increase.

“I think people are better prepared than, say, five years ago,” said Bruce McClary, a spokesman for the the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, which represents 75 credit-counseling agencies around the nation. “Even though wages are relatively flat, people are doing a better job managing their finances.”

Probably the biggest reason for improvement is that more people are working than when the recession was in full swing. Job losses are key catalysts that push people over the financial edge. As employment has risen, bankruptcies have dropped sharply in recent years — nationwide filings in September were down 54% compared with September 2010, report the American Bankruptcy Institute and Epiq Systems.

Many newly hired individuals aren’t making much more money than they were years ago — personal incomes remain sluggish — but at least they’re drawing paychecks. After shedding 8.8 million jobs in the wake of the recession, the economy has added 13.2 million since then.

And there are other heartening signs. FICO credit scores have reached a 10-year high. Credit scores reflect both a willingness and ability of consumers to handle debt payments.

The most recent score of 695, on a scale of 300 to 850, is up from 687 five years ago. Perhaps of more significance, fewer people are scoring at the low end, below 550. That’s an encouraging trend that suggests consumers are managing credit responsibly, the company said in a blog. And more people are creeping into FICO’s top tier, with scores above 800.

And while it doesn’t always seem like it — and the gains haven’t been shared equally — Americans are doing a better job accumulating assets. Household net worth, which bottomed during the recession below $57,000, currently stands around $85,700, the Federal Reserve reports. Overall consumer debt payments now eat up 9.8% of personal income, down from 13.2% when the recession hit.

People with adjustable-rate loans would feel the impact of a Fed rate hike more than others. Credit cards are a good case in point, since cards generally come with variable rates. Yet credit card delinquencies have dropped significantly, with just 2.5% of bank cards 30 days or more past due, below the long-term average near 3.8%, reports the American Bankers Association. On eight other consumer-loan categories tracked by the association, delinquencies of 1.4% are down from a 15-year average of 2.3%.

“By paying off credit card debt, consumers have reduced their costliest debt burden and one that is set to become costlier when interest rates start to rise,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com.

Credit card reform legislation enacted in 2009 limits certain rate hikes on existing credit card balances while giving borrowers more advance notice. These changes could ease the bite from rising interest rates.

McClary cautions that credit card balances have risen significantly this year, but he also sees that as a sign of rising consumer confidence. Besides, he feels financial literacy has improved, with fewer distressed individuals seeking help from consumer-counseling agencies. “Definitely, there’s an increased awareness,” he said. “People are very much in tune with their budgets.”

Like mortgages, auto loans are another type of borrowing where fixed rates are more prevalent. That’s important because Americans have been adding auto-loan debt at a robust pace — the $932 billion in balances as of June 30 was up 24% over the past two years, reports credit bureau Experian. Nearly 86% of new vehicles are purchased with a loan, and the financed amount and average term have been creeping higher — to a recent average $28,500 finance amount and 67-month average term, Experian said.

Yet consumers so far have been up to the challenge. A modest 2.3% of vehicle loans are 30 days or more past due and just 0.6% are past due by 60 days or more, Experian added. Those figures have held steady over the past year.

Higher fixed rates on auto loans wouldn’t make that much of a difference to the typical budget anyway, assuming the change is modest. An increase of one-quarter of a percentage point would add just $3 to the monthly payment on a $25,000 loan, McBride said, referring to someone who waits until after a rate hike to buy.

Student loan costs eventually could push higher, but that won’t happen for a while. Several types of college loans are pegged to 10-year Treasury notes, with rates resetting each July 1. For the 2015-16 school year, undergraduate loans now carry a rate of 4.29%, down 0.37 of a point from the prior year. Rates on loans for graduate students and Plus loans taken out by parents also dipped by 0.37 of a point. Though fewer people are seeking credit counseling help for credit card debt, student loan inquiries are rising, McClary said.

​With memories of the housing meltdown still fresh, anything that might unsettle real estate could prove worrisome. Sharply rising rates could dampen prices by discouraging potential buyers, but a big rate uptick isn’t likely. Home buyers with adjusted-rate mortgages would face higher payments, but these loans represent only a tiny slice of the market these days — about one in 14 new loan applications, reports the Mortgage Bankers Association. Fixed-rate loans dominate.

Housing affordability remains positive from a long-term perspective, and rates would need to rise a lot to discourage potential home buyers. The typical mortgage payment consumes 12.4% of household income, well below the 40-year average of 19.6%, according to JP Morgan Funds.

“By paying down debt, paying off debt and refinancing into fixed rates, Americans have reduced their monthly debt burdens as well as their sensitivity to rising interest rates,” McBride said.

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The Brazilian real is sliding down a painfully familiar path

Brazil’s real hit its lowest level since it was introduced in 1994 to rescue the country from economic doom.

The currency closed at a historic low of 4.18 real to the US dollar yesterday (Sept. 23) as Brazil struggles with some of the same problems of the early 1990s era: high inflation, budget deficits and a faltering economy.

It may be little consolation to Brazilians, but the economic ills back then were much, much worse. In some years, inflation exceeded 2000%.The exchange rate for the real’s predecessor, the cruzeiro real, was nearly 1,800 per US dollar in 1994.

To restore Brazilians’ faith in their currency, a group of economists established a make-believe currency that was linked to the dollar and remained stable in spite of the jittery cruzeiro.

It worked. The fake currency was later replaced with the real, which started its life at near parity with the dollar.

Given Brazil’s ongoing currency woes, it might be time for another confidence booster.

What is a Bank Guarantee (BG)?

What is a Bank Guarantee (BG)?

The term “bank guarantee” has no precise definition, particularly in international law. Some use the term exclusively to describe a transaction in which one party makes an independent guarantee commitment in respect of another party’s liabilities, regardless of the latter’s form and enforceability. Others describe guarantees as all transactions in which security is offered; from letters of comfort (which often are morally binding at most) to surety bonds and abstract payment undertakings.

A Bank Guarantee can be described as a Letter of Guarantee issued by one bank to another bank to guarantee the performance of an obligation on the part of the applicant, guaranteeing the beneficiary.

A Bank Guarantee is where one Bank (the Issuing Bank) issues an indemnity to another Bank (the Beneficiary Bank) or directly to a Beneficiary, on behalf of its account holder. The Issuing Bank will expect its account holder to pledge ‘assets’ to the bank for its issue.

Bank Guarantee’s take many forms.

Some Guarantees are written to guarantee rental payments, some are written to guarantee payments upon the meeting of certain conditions. Some are even issued to guarantee loans and credit lines. All of them are written for a specific purpose to a specific party.

Each Bank Guarantee will be worded for the purposes it is intended. Some may be ‘callable upon demand’ or some may only be ‘callable’ when the Beneficiary provides notice of satisfaction of a pre-determined condition.

Currently, under the new Uniform Rules for Demand Guarantees (URDG 758) an underlying contract should be provided that states clearly the purpose of the Bank Guarantee and forms part of the Guarantee, for example a Rent Agreement or Payment Obligation.

In international trade dealings, buyers and sellers often experience problems of trust within each other to honour their payment obligations. A seller may find it difficult to ascertain the buyer’s willingness and ability to make payment, whilst the buyer may not be convinced that the seller genuinely intends to perform his side of the agreement or has the necessary financial and technical resources to do so. Just as the buyer needs protection against non-performance, so the seller will want to minimize or insure against the risk of non-payment. Documentary credits are generally used in such cases, yet various other forms of bank guarantees are available.

The common element in all these arrangements is that the guarantor undertakes to be answerable for the payment of a debt or the fulfilment of a payment obligation in the event of default by the party that is responsible for it.

LOANS & AND INVESTMENTS LIMITED is a direct provider of bank Guarantee (BG), SBLC, DLC and All other types of Letters of Credit. We are legally registered Financial Firm with good reputation. We only work with Top Prime rated global banks.

We deliver with time and precision as set forth in the Deed of Agreement (DOA). All our customers can engage our leased bank instruments into trade programs, Business expansion projects, Aviation projects, Agricultural projects, Petroleum/Oil/Gas, Telecommunication, Construction Projects and any other turnkey project. Our terms and Conditions are reasonable.

DESCRIPTION OF INSTRUMENTS:

1. Instrument: Bank Guarantee (BG)/SBLC

2. Total Face Value: Eur/Usd 1M MIN and Eur/Usd 50B MAX).

3. Issuing Bank: HSBC, Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered, Citibank or AA rated Bank in Western Europe or USA.

4. Age: One Year, One Day

5. Leasing Price: 4% of Face Value plus 1% brokers commission (only if there is a broker involved in the transaction)

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8.. Hard Copy: Bonded Courier within 7 banking days.

All relevant information will be provided to any serious customer upon request.

Please forward all your inquiries & consultations to our contact details as follows:

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COMPANY ADDRESS: 247-249 GRAYS INN ROAD, LONDON WC1X 8QZ, UNITED KINGDOM.

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