The concept and history of leasing

Leasing as financial service is a contractual agreement where the owner (lessor) of equipment transfers the right to use the equipment to the user (lessee) for an agreed period of time in return for a rental. At the end of the lease period the asset reverts back to the lessor unless there is a provision for the renewal of the contract or there is a provision for the transfers of ownership to the lessee. If there is any such provision for transfer of ownership, the deal is treated as hire purchase. Therefore, a lease could be generally defined as

“A contract where a party being the owner (lessor) of an asset (leased asset) provides the asset for use by the lessee at a consideration (rentals), either fixed or dependent on any variables, for a certain period (lease period), either fixed or flexible, with an understanding that at the end of such period, the asset, subject to the embedded options of the lease, will be either returned to the lessor or disposed off as per the lessor’s instructions”.

Leasing was prevalent during the ancient Sumerian and Greek civilizations where leasing of land, agricultural implements, animals mines and ships took place. The practice of leasing came into being sometime in the later half of the 19th century where the rail road manufacturers in the U.S.A resorted to leasing of rail cars and locomotives.

The equipment leasing industry came into being in 1973 when the first leasing company, appropriately named as First Leasing This industry however remained relegated to the background until the early eighties, because the need for these industry was not strongly felt in industry. The public sector financial institutions – IDBI, IFCI, ICICI and the State Financial Corporations (SCFs) provided bulk of the term loans and the commercial banks provided working capital finance required by the manufacturing sector on relatively soft terms. Given the easy availability of funds at reasonable cost, there was obvious no need to look for alternative means of financing.

The credit squeeze announced by the R.B.I coupled with the strict implantation of the Tandon & Chore committees’ norms on Maximum Permissible Bank Finance (MPBF) for working capital forced the manufacturing companies to divert a portion of their long – term funds for their working capital.

History and development of Leasing:

The history of leasing dates back to 200BC when Sumerians leased goods. Romans had developed a full body law relating to lease for movable and immovable property. However the modern concept of leasing appeared for the first time in 1877 when the Bell Telephone Company began renting telephones in USA. In 1832, Cottrell and Leonard leased academic caps, grown and hoods. Subsequently, during 1930s the Railway Industry used leasing service for its rolling stock needs. In the post war period, the American Air Lines leased their jet engines for most of the new air crafts. This development ignited immediate popularity for the lease and generated growth of leasing industry.

The concept of financial leasing was pioneered in India during 1973. The First Company was set up by the Chidambaram group in 1973 in Madras. The company undertook leasing of industrial equipment as its main activity. The Twentieth century Leasing Company Limited was established in 1979. By 1981, four finance companies joined the fray. The performance of First Leasing Company Limited and the Twentieth Century Leasing Company Limited motivated others to enter the leasing industry. In 1980s financial institutions made entry into leasing business. Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation was the first all India financial institution to offer leasing in 1983. Entry of commercial banks into leasing was facilitated by an amendment of Banking Regulation Act, 1949. State Bank of India was the first commercial bank to set up a leasing subsidiary, SBI capital market, in October 1986. Can Bank Financial Services Ltd., BOB Financial Service Ltd., and PNB Financial Services Limited followed suit. Industrial Finance Corporation’s Merchant Banking division started financing leasing companies as well as equipment leasing and financial services. There was thus virtual explosion in the number of leasing companies rising to about 400 companies in 1990.

In the subsequent years, the adverse trends in capital market and other factors led to a situation where apart from the institutional lessors, there were hardly 20 to 25 private leasing companies who were active in the field. The total volume of leasing business companies was Rs.5000 crores in 1993 and it is expected to cross Rs.10, 000 crores by March 1995.

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