What Is Forfaiting?
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What Is Forfaiting?

4 Min.

Exporters can obtain immediate cash through forfaiting, a type of financing that involves selling their receivables to a third party at a discounted price. The forfaiter, often a bank, guarantees the payment amount. Forfaiting also provides protection against credit risk, transfer risk, and risks related to foreign exchange or interest rate changes. The receivables are converted into a debt instrument, such as an unconditional bill of exchange or promissory note, which can be traded on a secondary market. These debt instruments usually mature within one to three years from the date of sale.

Basics

In export financing, Forfaiting emerges as a dynamic tool for exporters seeking prompt liquidity. This financial mechanism allows exporters to quickly turn their outstanding receivables from importers into cash at a discounted rate through an intermediary. Crucially, this arrangement relieves exporters of any liabilities associated with potential importer defaults.

Central to this process is the "Forfaiter," an indispensable actor who acquires the receivables. Subsequently, the importer fulfills their financial obligations by remitting the receivable sum directly to the Forfaiter. Typically, the Forfaiter assumes the role of a specialized financial institution, often a bank or a dedicated export finance firm, uniquely equipped to navigate the intricacies of this economic landscape.

How Does Forfaiting Work?

Forfaiting, as a financial mechanism, expedites cash flow for exporters by enabling a forfaiter's acquisition of receivables. Typically, the importer's bank offers a guarantee for the transaction, solidifying payment assurance.

This purchase process effectively mitigates the credit risk associated with selling goods on credit to importers, offering a viable solution for importers facing constraints on upfront payment. Importantly, the importer's receivables are transformed into tradable debt instruments, often as legally enforceable unconditional bills of exchange or promissory notes. This transformation provides security for the forfaiter or any subsequent debt purchaser.

These debt instruments encompass diverse maturity periods, spanning from as brief as one month to as extensive as a decade. However, the majority falls within the one to three-year range following the sale initiation.

Examining the Pros and Cons of Forfaiting

Advantages

Forfaiting delivers a suite of benefits. Firstly, it eradicates payment uncertainty for exporters. Moreover, it shields against credit, transfer, foreign exchange rate, and interest rate risks. This process streamlines transactions by converting credit-based sales into immediate cash transactions, bolstering seller cash flow, and preventing collection expenditures. Notably, it enables the removal of accounts receivable liabilities from an exporter's balance sheet.

Forfaiting offers versatility, permitting forfaiters to tailor solutions to meet diverse exporter requirements across international dealings. It can even serve as a substitute for credit or insurance coverage in sales transactions. This financial tool proves indispensable in cases where countries, or specific banks within countries, lack access to export credit agencies (ECAs), facilitating business dealings in politically risky environments.

Disadvantages

Despite its advantages, forfaiting can come at a higher cost than commercial lender financing, thereby increasing export expenses, which may be passed on to importers through standard pricing. Additionally, only transactions exceeding $100,000 with extended terms qualify for forfaiting, which is not applicable for deferred payments.

Certain discrepancies emerge in the treatment of developing versus developed nations. Expressly, forfaiting accepts only select currencies with international liquidity. Lastly, the absence of a global credit agency capable of providing guarantees impacts long-term forfaiting transactions.

Forfaiting Example

The Black Sea Trade & Development Bank (BSTDB) incorporates forfaiting within its array of specialized financial offerings, alongside underwriting, hedging tools, financial leasing, and discounting. Founded to finance development initiatives, BSTDB represents a consortium of 11 founding nations: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine.

BSTDB's operational framework underscores the significance of importing parties' commitments, which are substantiated through accepted bills of exchange or promissory notes, subsequently backed by bank aval or guarantees. Notably, BSTDB entertains forfaiting applications commencing at a minimum threshold of €5 million, with repayment periods ranging from one to five years. Furthermore, the bank may impose ancillary fees such as option, commitment, termination, or discount rate charges.

Conclusion

Forfaiting allows exporters to swiftly obtain cash by selling receivables at a discount to forfaiters, often banks. It safeguards against credit and currency risks, streamlining transactions and removing liabilities. Receivables are converted into tradable debt instruments with varying maturities.

Forfaiting
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