APP puts up another US$40m to keep talks alive

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 September, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 September, 2002, 12:00am

Embattled Indonesian conglomerate Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) has agreed to pay a further US$40 million into an escrow account by Monday to keep debt-workout talks on track and take funds held in the special account to US$100 million.

The financial arrangement is controlled by the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (Ibra), one of APP's many creditors.

APP, the largest debtor in emerging markets, also confirmed it would pay US$20 million into the Ibra-controlled account each month both as a sign of 'good faith' and to pave the way for an eventual settlement.

'This [money] will provide assurance for creditors during the discussions going forward and is a positive launching pad,' chief executive Teguh Widjaja said.

APP, which has its headquarters in Singapore, defaulted on US$13.9 billion in debt in March last year. On-off talks with its creditors have failed to yield an agreement on repayment terms, but the pace of negotiations appears to be intensifying.

Monday was chosen by Ibra as the deadline for a comprehensive debt-workout. It was also identified by Singapore's High Court as the date that it expected to see concrete progress between the Widjaja family-controlled group and its frustrated creditors.

Two of them - Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas - tried and failed last month to get the city-state's courts to appoint judicial managers to run APP in place of the Widjajas. Deutsche last week said it would appeal against the decision.

Confirmation of the escrow account payments came as the Jakarta Stock Exchange said that trading in the shares of two APP subsidiaries, Indah Kiat and Tjiwi Kimia, could resume from yesterday.

The pair were suspended on August 1 after the exchange received last year's accounts with disclaimers from their auditors for the second consecutive year.

A statement from APP said: 'Meetings in respect of debt-restructuring plans are scheduled to continue this week under the leadership of Mr Syafruddin Temenggung, the chairman of Ibra.'

Earlier APP executives had suggested that a deal could be struck with Ibra this week, a development that now appears to be overly optimistic.

Ibra, which is owed about US$1 billion by APP and its parent, Sinar Mas Group, has taken the lead role in trying to hammer out a debt deal. But the agency's actions have left some creditors dismayed.

In its case against APP, Deutsche argued Ibra was not fit to lead the debt talks as it was also a creditor, creating a conflict of interest for the body.

Although APP has its headquarters in Singapore, most of its principal operating subsidiaries are located in Indonesia and China. APP said the escrow payment mechanism was to assure creditors and its operating subsidiaries of its good faith.