The management of the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) has defended its policy of financing both government and privately-owned development projects across the country. The Bank’s management has maintained that it won’t shy away from providing resources to help rebuild Liberia and create jobs for its people.
According to the management, development financing is the core objective of the LBDI which became a hybrid bank prior to the civil war in 1989. Addressing a crowded news conference at the Bank’s Corporate Headquarters on 9th Street yesterday, the president &CEO Mr. John B. S. Davies, III, insisted that LBDI will not renege on its fiduciary responsibility of financing road infrastructure, housing, and manufacturing projects, amongst others.
The LBDI boss was reacting to media reports suggesting that the Bank is near insolvency due to the failure of borrowers, the government of Liberia, mainly, to pay their debt to the Bank. In their Monday, January 13 editions, the Concord Times and the News newspapers alleged that LBDI was on the verge of applying to the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) for insolvency.
The two papers also alleged that the CBL’s US$10 million mortgage financing scheme with LBDI was intended to rescue the Bank from collapse. The papers also published that LBDI is applying to the CBL for the bailout because most of the Bank’s borrowers, mainly the government of Liberia, have failed to repay debts owed the Bank.
But Mr. Davies denied these claims and clarified that during the time of the CBL’s US$10 million mortgage initiative, LBDI’s cash balances were in excess of US$40 million. He explained that given the long- term nature of the resources required for financing mortgages and the fact that LBDI’s resources (deposits) are short term, the CBL’s intervention to provide a stimulus for mortgage lending was prudent and necessary.
Touching on the Bank’s transaction with the government, Mr. Davies noted that LBDI and GOL through the CBL entered into a two-year bridge financing agreement for the placement of US$10 million for infrastructure lending to enable GOL road contractors to be bridge-financed by LBDI for the successful execution of those contracts.
“This approach to infrastructure financing,” the LBDI CEO said “is not new in development financing and Liberia is no exception.”
He emphasized that some of the locally generated resources will be needed to finance critical infrastructure projects in the country “and the local banking industry must play its role.” “We will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure that infrastructure development continues unhindered, as the benefits to our country are immense,” the CEO stated.
On the financial soundness of LBDI, the CEO disclosed that as of December 31, 2013, LBDI’s minimum reserve holding at the CBL was US$23.71 million and L$1.29 billion.
According to him, the minimum liquidity ratio set by the CBL is 15%, but LBDI’s liquidity ratio as at December 31, 2013 was 47% and reflects a liquidity surplus of 32%.
Mr. Davies also clarified that the CBL’s capital adequacy ratio (CAR) requirement is 10%; but the CAR of LBDI is 19%, meaning it is 9% in excess of the minimal capital requirement. The LBDI boss declared that LBDI’s onshore and offshore cash position as at December 31, 2013 is US$53.5 million, while the Bank’s balance sheet grew by 17% last year.
“In the writers’ flawed understanding of the relationship between the LBDI and the regulator (CBL), they incorrectly suggested that the US$10 million placement done by the CBL to stimulate the home mortgage sector was meant to rescue the Bank from liquidity problems. But the writers failed to note that LBDI’s cash balances were in excess of US$40 million at the time of the initiation of the mortgage stimulus.”
He described the publication as “planted adverts loaded with a barrage of misinformation intended to cause panic and create confidence crises by causing a ‘run on the Bank.’” In the meantime, the LBDI CEO disclosed that the Bank is considering commencing a legal suit against the two papers. He, however, clarified that the Bank’s management will first meet with the management of the two media institutions in order to ascertain (find out) the motives behind the publications.
Mr. Davies has meanwhile assured the Bank’s shareholders, customers, investors, and the public at large that LBDI remains strong, viable, and solvent, and is compliant with the requisite financial soundness indicators governing banking in Liberia.