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Monday, August 10, 2009

Markets in Receivables

Here's an interesting article in the WSJ from a while back (7/16) titled "CIT's Woes Prompt Surge In Activity At Receivables Exchange".

CHICAGO (Dow Jones)--The turmoil surrounding finance giant CIT Group Inc. (CIT) is driving a surge in new business for a New Orleans-based company that runs a market in receivables.

The Receivables Exchange, which lets small- and mid-sized companies auction their accounts receivable to buyers that include hedge funds and commercial banks, on Wednesday recorded its busiest day ever and is fielding a flood of calls from businesses searching for financing alternatives.

"These people want to do their own underwriting and do their own credit determination," said Justin Brownhill, co-founder and chief executive of The Receivables Exchange, or TRE.

Events this week have shown that "they can't rely on others like CIT to do it," Brownhill said.

New York-based CIT, among the biggest U.S. lenders to small and mid-sized businesses, disclosed this week that it could face bankruptcy and won't be able to get help from the U.S. government.

The company is among the biggest names in the factoring marketplace, a $125 billion sector that functions as a middleman for short-term financing - paying vendors for goods up front and collecting full payment from retailers later.
It's a pretty neat example of how markets can be used as a solution to an old problem. Factoring companies have been around for quite a while, but typically dealt with firms with working capital needs on a one-to-one basis. Exchanges like these allow those companies to better diversify their portfolios and reduce their risk. At the same time, since it makes for multiple bidders, it could also extract some of the factoring companies' surplus and transfer it to firms selling their receivables (i.e. they get a higher price for their receivables).

Read the whole thing here (online subscription required, unless you find it through Google News).

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