Back-To-Back Letters Of Credit

Back-To-Back Letters Of Credit
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Back-to-back letters of credit is a reference to the credit facility arrangement rather than to the type of letter of credit. Those used are typical commercial documentary letters of credit.

This type of credit facility grants a possibility to a middle-party or a trader who has limited monetary resources or assets to use their receipt of a letter of credit issued on behalf of the end-buyer, often introduced as a master credit, as comfort to their financier for the issuance of a separate letter of credit to the end-supplier, introduced as a counter credit. The letters of credit do not carry the names 'master' or 'counter'; these names are used to depict and to differentiate their part in the back to back process (Jones S.A, 2018, p.249).

How the master credit and counter credit work

The master and counter credit in facility structure (Jones S.A, 2018, p.249):

  • The master credit, in a back-to-back credit facility structure, is issued by the bank of the end-buyer and collected by the middle-party via an advising bank. After that, the middle-party requests their own bank to issue an independent counter credit in favor of the end-supplier. This will be for a lower expense than the master credit so that the middle-party can realise a benefit between the cost and sales value. On a genuine back to back basis the equipment will be shipped direct by the end-supplier to the place of the end-buyer. Deviating from the subject, there will be substantial differences between the master and the counter credit. which diminish the comfort afforded by mirror or backing Lc's.
  • The counter credit is issued by the bank who must register its full value against a credit facility for sake of the middle-party. Whilst the proceeds of the master credit will grant an identifiable source of repayment for the counter credit, this is subservient upon complying presentation of documents.

Explanation of back-to-back credit

Just like the name hints, a back to back documentary credit is actually two separate documentary credits:

  1. Opened by the buyer who names the seller as the beneficiary;
  2. Opened by the seller who names the supplier of the goods as the beneficiary.

We use the back-to-back credit in instances where the original credit is not transferable and the bank is keen on opening the second credit at the request of the seller, and using the first one as the collateral or a support for the second credit. However, the bank has no obligation to issue the second credit. Most banks usually refuse to open such a credit unless they have full confidence in the seller's creditworthiness and ability to perform. Thanks to the complexity of the transaction, banks view the first credit as less collateral than as an item of support for issuance of the second credit.

As the seller is the applicant for the second credit, he is also responsible to the payment regardless of whether or not be himself is paid under the first credit.

The second credit needs to be precisely worded require all documents (in exception with the commercial invoice) as required under the first credit. Considering the fact that there is a time lag between issuance of the first credit and the second one, the second credit is expected to be worded to require that documents be presented in time to meet the requirements of the first credit (Hinkelman E.G, 1996, p. 38).

Disadvantages of the back-to-back credit

According to Edward G. Hinkelman: Since the first credit names the seller as the beneficiary the buyer is unaware that there is a supplier other than the seller. This credit is generally for use only by more sophisticated traders. The more paperwork and the more parties to the transaction, the greater the opportunity for problems (Hinkelman E.G, 1996, p. 38).


Author: Jakub Winiarski