Sam Permutt, Express Trade Capital
A back-to-back letter of credit (LC) is a common, but often overlooked, form of trade financing.
In a typical back-to-back LC scenario, an intermediary trading company receives an inbound LC from the buyer’s (applicant’s) bank and, using that first LC as collateral, issues a second, outbound LC in favor of the supplier (beneficiary).
Back-to-back LCs are surprisingly simple to coordinate, as both LCs are nearly identical. The only differences between the two LCs in a back-to-back LC model are the credit amount vs. the unit price and the expiry date/period for presentation/latest shipment dates. The unit price is how much the product will cost the final customer, whereas the credit amount accounts for the wholesale costs. The timing of the two LCs must be staggered to allow time for each party to process and transport the shipment.
The additional layer of security that back-to-back LCs provide comes not only from the presence of two separate, albeit nearly identical LCs, but also from the fact that both LCs are available at the intermediary’s bank. This centralized method of monitoring reduces risk and secures all parties involved in the multi-tiered transaction at hand.
Back-to-back LCs therefore help build trust between buyers and sellers of goods around the world, reduce credit risk, and speed up cash flow. They’re beneficial to the intermediary trading company insofar as the company does not need to disclose to its supplier the details of the ultimate buyer of the goods or even the price at which they were sold.
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