THE PROBLEM OF DELAYS in Soviet payments to Western suppliers has been ''largely solved," said Hilmer Koffer, spokesman of the board of managing directors of Deutsche Bank AG, Frankfurt.
What's more, the Soviet Union "has given its assurance that all payment obligations arising from loan agreements with foreign banks will be duly fulfilled," Mr. Koffer told a conference in New York organized by the German law firm of Puender, Volhard, Weber and Axster.He said the Soviet Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs "has so far behaved impeccably in the settlement of its payment obligations. But it is doubtful whether the formerly very good credit standing of the Soviet Union can be restored quickly."
German banks "are not prepared to extend loans without federal guarantee," Mr. Koffer said, noting that medium- and long-term financing will only be granted if covered by Hermes, the German export-financing agency.
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U.S. COMPANIES are by far the largest group of foreign investors in Germany, Mr. Koffer said.
He called on U.S. businessmen to "respond to the challenge in Eastern Europe and be on the spot when new markets are emerging."
Referring to the restructuring of the eastern part of Germany, he said, ''rebuilding has already begun, particularly in many small businesses." Between January and August, for example, 170,000 new businesses were registered, he noted, 70,000 of them in July and August alone.
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STATESIDE EXPRESS LTD., New York, is investing more than $5 million to install state-of-the-art knitting and bleaching equipment in a 101-year-old textile mill in southern Hungary at Hodmezovasarhely, near the Romanian border.
Michael Smolens, Stateside's president, said the new equipment will enable the venture to produce high-quality knitted fabric for T-shirts at comparable prices to fabric from China and Pakistan, which is of "inconsistent quality."
The cutting and sewing of the fabric will be done in Hungary and Malta, Mr. Smolens said, and the finished T-shirts will be sold in Europe and the United States. "Within two years, we expect to become a major factor in the T-shirt market," he said.
Trading Alliance Corp., New York, a partner in the venture, will provide financing to customers, enabling Stateside to "sell to smaller companies who can't afford letters of credit but who are credit-worthy," Mr. Smolens said.
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MARKHAM INTERNATIONAL INC., Boston, one of the few firms that specialize in brokering West African debt, is helping U.S. companies solve foreign exchange and financing problems in Africa.
Trina K. Waniga, founder and managing director, said Markham International is helping a U.S. multinational in the food industry to recover "blocked
funds" in Nigeria. The funds were paid into a Nigerian account, but the government stopped allowing them to be converted into foreign exchange.
Markham International can pair a Nigerian company that needs local currency with a foreign company that will accept goods in trade but has no use for non-convertible local currency, Ms. Waniga said. "We see what each one can bring to the table," she explained.
Markham International's clients include U.S. and European companies and several large London banks. The company has expertise in Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, Ivory Coast, Zaire and Tanzania.
"You must know the key players, customs and the special characteristics of each market," Ms. Waniga said.
Many of the countries of West Africa are interested in U.S. goods and business partnerships, she added. While U.S. banks and companies have traditionally dealt in Latin American debt, "they are missing many opportunities in Africa."