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01 November 2002

Banks have been chastened by the dismal performance of utility-related project loans. Market sentiment is that there is nothing like running a power plant to sharpen the mind. By Christopher Perry.

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As creditworthiness among energy companies vulnerable to their unregulated arms continues to take a thrashing, bankers predictably tend to put the best face they can on the situation. But they cannot deny the devastation and admit they are trying everything possible to limit the damages to their portfolios underneath a landslide of refinancings and worse. While new utility project lending is off the agendas of project finance bankers, particularly if merchant-related, selective lending for transactions that hone to fundamentals remains feasible ? if few and far between.

?We tend to be more fortunate than others because we're not in every bad deal, we're only in a few,? says Bruno Mejan, head of structured finance at NordLB's New York branch, with a resigned laugh. A ?selective? approach toward energy deals helped, and ?we were not as aggressive as some of our competitors,? Mejan says. Most of the assets in NordLB's portfolio are completed or almost so, unlike...

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