HOW AFRICAN CLIENT PAYS

HOW AFRICAN CLIENT PAYS

Getting paid is a major concern for U.S. companies wishing to do business in developing countries.

Chicago-based Brost International Trading Co., which has elbowed its way into the European-dominated consumer market in West Africa, has come up with a payment system tailored specifically for Africa."In Europe, you can use sight letters of credit," said David Brost, president of the company, describing a bank-issued document that authorizes a seller to draw a specified sum of money on the buyer's account when the seller presents that document to the bank.

"You can't use the same procedure for Africa. It's a whole new ballgame. If you can offer your client 90 to 120 days, you can rest assured you will have a good relationship," Mr. Brost said.

Here's how he gets his money:

Mr. Brost's client in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, opens a letter of credit (also called a "note" or "banker's acceptance") with Eco-Bank Transnational Inc., a regional investment bank owned by the governments of the 15 countries that form the Economic Community of West African States.

The letter of credit authorizes payment to Brost International 120 days after the company ships the goods. It is confirmed (guaranteed) by Midland Bank in Britain, which, in turn, opens the letter to Midland in New York.

Although the note is for 120 days, Mr. Brost is paid at sight by Midland in New York.

"Once we received the letter of credit (and verified) that it was confirmed for 120 days, we sold the note to the bank after we shipped the merchandise," he explained. "The bank discounted the note at a percentage, gave us our money immediately, and they held the note.

"We negotiated on the price with the bank. We set our price at a level where everything will click," he said. "There are ways that you can have your cake and eat it, too."