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OPEN LETTER: Firestone Chief Explains Credit Crisis, Interest Rate Hike To Industry

Posted On: 10/8/2008

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NEWTON, MA -- In an open letter to operators, distributors and factories, Firestone Financial chief David Cohen warns that the industry is likely to experience a slowdown in the fourth quarter of 2008. He also said Firestone has money to lend and will not be impacted by the credit crunch. He cautioned, however, that loans everywhere will cost more; while the Federal Reserve cut its interest rate today (Oct. 8, 2008), the LIBOR market has increased 150 basis points in the past several weeks. As a result, the industry's biggest commercial finance company will be raising its rates on new loans.


The London Interbank Offered Rate, or LIBOR, for overnight dollar loans jumped to 5.38% from 3.94% on Tuesday. For three-month dollar loans, LIBOR rose to 4.52% from 4.29%Tuesday. A month ago, three-month LIBOR was at 2.81% -- this rise is important because many consumer loans, including adjustable-rate mortgages, are tied to LIBOR.


Here is the Firestone chief's letter to the coin-op amusement and vending industry:


An Open Letter to Firestone's Coin-Op Amusement and Vending Industry Customers:


During this challenging period of time, while the Nation is experiencing a significant credit crunch, a real estate mortgage meltdown, continued bank failures, the investment banking collapse, a $700 Billion Government Rescue Plan and Wall Street's continued decline, I want to communicate a commitment from Firestone to our customers in the Coin-Op Amusement and Vending Industries.


Why is this happening? What does it mean to me? How will it affect my business? And when will this settle down?   I wish we had the answers and more, but the events of the last month and recent days have proved to be eye opening and unpredictable.


On behalf of the management team at Firestone, I want to thank you for your business and your continued confidence in our Company.


As we enter the 4th quarter of 2008, I want to assure you that Firestone will not be in the headlines of The Wall Street Journal or the Business Section of your local newspaper.  We are glad to report that we are not in a credit crunch and there is no meltdown happening at Firestone.   We are focused and ready to continue to support our customers.


This financial crisis has crippled many institutions and the downstream effects are beginning to be felt by the rest of our economy.  Yet, we know that you must continue to manage and grow your businesses very carefully in order to be successful.


Fortunately, Firestone is in a favorable position during these challenging times. Firestone is a commercial finance company and is not a broker.  We lend money, which is sourced from a credit facility through a group of banks, subordinated debentures from a group of note holders and equity capital contributed by the owners of Firestone.   Our bank group is led by Bank of America and includes Citizens Financial Group, TD Bank North and Brookline Bank.


Bank of America is one of the most stable financial institutions in the country.   They have been a solution provider that the government has been looking to in recent months, and have been taking advantage of the opportunities that this economic state has provided for them.  I am speaking with all member banks of our bank group on a recurring basis and as recently as this week, they all have reiterated the strength of their financial position, their confidence in Firestone and our management team.  Their commitment and confidence allows us to reiterate our recent communication --


     "Yes, we have money to lend.  Isn't it nice to hear "Yes" from your lender?"


 Due to the economy, your business may be experiencing a slowdown.  We feel that this condition is a part of this economic business cycle.  I encourage any of you who are experiencing challenges in your business and need advice or assistance to pick up the phone and speak to one of our experienced staff.   It is our corporate philosophy to be a solution provider when our customers have challenges.  I know that sometimes customers are reluctant to discuss their financial situation, but if there isn't two-way communication, Firestone cannot be part of the solution.  Our talented employees are ready and willing to work with you through these difficult times to find solutions that work for you and Firestone.


Wikipedia defines a credit crunch as a sudden reduction in the general availability of loans (or credit), or a sudden increase in the cost of obtaining loans from banks.   We are clearly in the midst of a credit crunch.  The general availability of loans has diminished, and interest rates have already increased dramatically in the LIBOR market.  LIBOR is the benchmark rate which many financial institutions use to borrow money.  While the Prime Rate of interest has changed today, the LIBOR market has increased 150 basis points in the last several weeks.   Fortunately, Firestone has readily available funds.  However, as our cost of funds increases and just as other financial institutions will be forced to adjust rates to market, we will need to raise rates on any new loans.  Any credit request that you make will be carefully reviewed and may require that you provide additional financial information; please be prepared to provide the necessary information to our credit analysts.  It is important for us all to remember that we have gone through credit crunches and recessions cycles before.  History shows that our financial system will stabilize and eventually recover.


Firestone has a pledge to the coin-op amusement and vending industries as follows:


  • Assist our manufacturer partners to sell products through the use of promotions.
  • Assist our distributor partners to sell inventory and provide liquidity for their receivables.
  • Provide our operator customers the ability to grow their businesses with financing to purchase the latest equipment that manufacturers and distributors have to offer.
  • Provide all of our customers with solutions to work through financial challenges.


All of us at Firestone pledge to work tirelessly to do our part to provide capital for equipment distribution in our industries.  We will not waver in our promise to provide you with financing in a timely and efficient manner. 


Firestone Financial Corp.


David S. Cohen

President & CEO