Breaking with a longstanding embargo on granting commercial loans to Russia, Chase Manhattan Corp. has arranged a $400 million revolving credit facility for Russian companies, Russian-American joint ventures, and Russian subsidiaries of U.S. companies.
Tom Butler, vice president in Chase Manhattan's global management division, said the bank plans to issue loans of between $1 million and $25 million for up to 12 months, much of which will probably be used to finance U.S. exports to Russia.
Half the $400 million is being guaranteed by the Overseas Private Investment Corp., a federal agency that assists private investment in developing countries. Chase Manhattan is also exploring the possibility of having other banks participate in the facility.
Chase Manhattan has been steadily stepping up its operations in Russia, where last year it opened a Moscow-based subsidiary called Chase Manhattan International.
The expansion in activities comes despite ongoing economic uncertainty and a lack of any rating from credit rating agencies for Russian investment.
Mr. Butler said Chase Manhattan planned to work within these constraints by doing its own due diligence on the Russian companies it extends credit to. He also observed that a number of Russian companies are moving to adopt Western accounting standards.
"There is a limited universe of Russian companies which have mandated major accounting firms to do their financials," Mr. Butler said. Chase will also use its own credit review staff to examine Russian language books, he added.
"It's a market that's going to grow," Mr. Butler said. "Obviously banks, including Chase, have been cautious and conservative, but lending has already started and this is intended to help prime the pump."