Lease Financing Lease is a contract between the owner and the user of assets for a certain time period during which the second party uses an asset in exchange of making periodic rental payments to the first party without purchasing it. Under lease financing, the lessee regularly pays the fixed lease rent over a period of time at the beginning or at the end of a month, 3 months, 6 months or a year. At the end of the lease contract the asset reverts to the real owner.
However, in case of long-term lease contracts, the lessee is generally given the option to buy the leased asset or renew the lease contract. The three major types of leases are the operating lease, financial/capital lease and the direct financing lease. The operating lease is a short-term lease contract where the lessor bears all operating and repairing costs of the asset and the lessee pays periodic rental payments to the lessor, and where the lease is cancelable, and there is no bargain purchase option. Financial/capital lease is a long-term lease contract where the lessee bears all operating, repairing and maintenance costs, and makes periodic rental payments to the lessor. The lease is not cancelable and the lessee has the option for bargain purchase or renewal of lease contract at the end of the original lease period. In a direct financing lease, the lessor leases the asset by manufacturing or by purchasing from the manufacturer to the lessee directly and the lessee makes regular rental payments to the lessor. The lessor holds the ownership of the asset until the end of the lease period and the lessee holds the possession of the asset. In addition to these major types, there are some other types of lease such as sale and lease and leveraged lease.
Legally, a leasing company is defined as one having the business of hiring plants or equipment or of financing their hire by others. The International Finance Corporation promotes leasing as a method of financing industrial development in the developing countries as a part of its capital market development strategies.
Lease financing was first introduced in Bangladesh in the early 1980s. Industrial Development Leasing Company of Bangladesh Ltd. (idlc), the first leasing company of the country, was established in 1986 under the regulatory framework of bangladesh bank. It was a joint venture of the Industrial Promotion and Development Company of Bangladesh Ltd. (ipdc), International Finance Corporation, and Korea Development Leasing Corporation. Another leasing firm, the united leasing company Ltd. started its operations in 1989. The number of leasing companies grew quickly after 1994 and by the year 2000, rose to 16. The leasing business became competitive with the increase in the number of companies and wider distribution of their market share. There are, however, 6 other companies conducting leasing business in the country, although they do not use the word leasing in their names. In terms of money value, the leasing business in Bangladesh increased from Tk 41.44 million in 1988 to Tk 3.16 billion in 2000.
The leasing companies now operating in the country are Industrial Development Leasing Company of Bangladesh, United Leasing Company, GSP Finance Company (Bangladesh), Uttara Finance and Investments, Bay Leasing and Investment, Phoenix Leasing Company, Prime Finance and Investment, International Leasing and Financial Services, Union Capital, Vanik Bangladesh, Peoples Leasing and Financial Services, Bangladesh Industrial Finance Company, UAE-Bangladesh Investment Company, Bangladesh Finance and Investment Company, and First Lease International.
Lease financing, as organised in Bangladesh, operates with the following objectives: (a) to assist the development and promotion of productive enterprises by providing equipment lease financing and related services; (b) to assist in balancing, modernisation, replacement and expansion of existing enterprises; (c) to extend financial support to small and medium scale enterprises; (d) to provide finance for various agriculture equipment; and (e) to activate the capital market by operating as managers to the issue, underwriters, or portfolio managers.
The functions of a lease business include lease financing, short-term financing, house building financing, and merchant banking and corporate financing. In this last group of functions, the leasing business in Bangladesh moved away from regular leasing activities and is now involved in stock-market related activities such as issue management, underwriting, trust management, private placement, portfolio management, and mutual fund operation. Broad capital market operations of the lease financing institutions include bridge financing, corporate counseling, mergers and acquisition, capital restructuring, financial engineering, and lease syndication. Prominent among the sectors of the economy that now receive lease financing services are textiles, apparels and accessories, transport, construction and engineering, paper and printing, pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, chemicals, agro-based industries, telecommunications, and leather and leather products.
Commercial banks and development finance institutions (DFIs) have been the traditional lending institutions in Bangladesh. In fact, the concept of lease financing is a relatively new one in the country. Initially, leasing companies had to adopt the role of educators to make Bangladeshi entrepreneurs aware of the benefits of leasing. However, as DFIs demonstrated poor recovery and fund recycling performances, leasing got the opportunity to develop as an alternative source of funding. A few other factors also contributed to development of the leasing business in the country. For example, the commercial banks have been keener in providing trade financing and foreign exchange dealings rather than long-term loans because of the risks involved and their longer gestation period. The selection of lease proposals is relatively free from extraneous pressure and is subject to a quality level appraisal. Under lease agreements in the private sector, projects are sanctioned and implemented expeditiously, resulting in benefits in time and cost savings. Private leasing companies also attract clients by providing relatively better services. The down payments in leasing are not high and the gestation period is low. Also, in case of lease financing, incidental costs incurred in the process of import clearing, installation, and commercial production are capitalised, which substantially reduce the initial investment.
Leasing companies, however, face some problems in conducting their business in the country. The relatively slow growth of the demand side compared to the fast growth of the lease business is one such problem. This leads many leasing companies to operate in partial capacity. The culture of loan default that prevails in the country is also a deterrent. Leasing companies often find it difficult to raise funds through short- or long-term borrowing from money and capital markets. They are hard pressed to deal with the financial assets because of the present laws of the country, which are also not fully enforceable.
Leasing business is gaining increased importance in the economy of Bangladesh with its gradual transformation from an agrarian to industrial one. The government periodically revises the trade and industrial policy to create a liberal business environment both for domestic and foreign investment. Increased investment in the energy sector as well as in power, transport, telecommunications, water and sanitation, and safe disposal of wastes is expected to bring further opportunities for leasing industries. [Mosaraf Hossain Hawladar]