Tuesday, March 17, 2009

CL Financial overstretched ( Cracks in an Empire)

Businessman Lawrence Duprey's $100 billion CL Financial conglomerate got into trouble because he continued to borrow money and leverage assets to build an empire while the rest of the world was in economic collapse and had stopped borrowing.

But Government and the Central Bank had to intervene to rescue the CL Financial conglomerate because its fall would have crashed the entire financial system of Trinidad and Tobago.

These were the opinions yesterday of Robert Mayers, a financial consultant and former managing director of CL Financial subsidiary, Caribbean Money Market Brokers (CMMB).

The Lawrence Duprey-led CL Financial, which controls more than 65 companies and has substantial shares in many others, has "financial tentacles" in so many businesses that it affects "upwards of 30-35 per cent" of the local financial system, Mayers said during the Business Breakfast programme on CCN-TV6's Morning Edition yesterday.

Mayers noted that Duprey had vision and drive in building an empire but he also needed to finance it and he chose to fly around the world seeking investments and borrowing and leveraging assets to get them.

"He (Duprey) was flying around the world, looking at what the big boys were doing and he had more flying time than many seasoned pilots," Mayers said.

But by September last year when the US sub-prime mortgage market was in full crisis and international financial companies like Lehman Bros were collapsing, Duprey was continuing his spending on assets and developments around the world, including real estate in Florida and hotels in Africa.

"He was still leveraging (borrowing on the value of assets) while companies around the world were deleveraging," Mayers said.

What hurt CL Financial was when the conglomerate came to a point where it could not meet its financial obligations and had to turn to the Central Bank, he added.

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