HSBC, banks repayment hopes fade with Hin Leong liquidation plan

Hin Leong collapsed last year after the oil price plunge triggered a default that unveiled years of hidden losses and alleged fraud by founder Lim Oon Kuin.
Hin Leong collapsed last year after the oil price plunge triggered a default that unveiled years of hidden losses and alleged fraud by founder Lim Oon Kuin.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - HSBC Holdings and other global banks owed US$3.5 billion (S$4.66 billion) by Hin Leong Trading may recoup less than expected from the collapsed Singapore oil trader after a sale process failed to attract bids for the company.

Hin Leong's court-appointed managers plan to file an application next week to wind up the company after three potential bidders walked away from the process to buy Hin Leong and two related companies as a combined entity, according to a letter PricewaterhouseCoopers sent to creditors this week that was seen by Bloomberg.

Assets of Hin Leong's sister companies Ocean Tankers Ltd. and Xihe Holdings may still draw interest from potential bidders, according to the letter.

Banks including HSBC and DBS Group Holdings were already facing recoveries of pennies on the dollar following one of the largest corporate collapses ever in Singapore. An acquisition of Hin Leong and Ocean Tankers and Xihe Holdings as a combined entity would have eased the pain for lenders and helped them recover more than the firm's US$257 million in estimated assets. The liquidation of a company usually results in a fire sale of its assets, which raises less than a formal bidding process.

Representatives for PricewaterhouseCoopers and HSBC declined to comment. The Lim family didn't immediately respond to a request for comment that was sent to a representative.

Hin Leong, once one of the largest fuel traders in the Asian finance hub, collapsed last year after the oil price plunge triggered a default that unveiled years of hidden losses and alleged fraud by founder Lim Oon Kuin, better known as O.K. Lim. Many lawsuits ensued from the lenders and various trading counterparts of the company, which had sold oil pledged as collateral to other firms.

London-based HSBC has the most exposure at US$600 million, based on estimates in court filings last year. DBS, ABN Amro Bank and Singapore's Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp are next at about US$200 million to US$300 million each.

Lim and his two children also face an asset freeze order after Hin Leong's court-appointed managers filed an application blocking them from asset sales or moving funds with value up to US$3.5 billion out of Singapore.