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Marianna Ohe 202-565-3200

American Furnishings International, Inc. (AFI), a small company in Research Triangle Park, NC, is selling $3 million of hotel furniture and equipment to Russia, backed by financing from the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank). The sale will affect hundreds of jobs at AFI and at suppliers in North Carolina, Connecticut, Tennessee and Virginia, and give the American furniture industry a toehold in an important emerging market where they face competition from European manufacturers.

This one transaction will affect hundreds of American jobs in the manufacturing sector, at U.S. suppliers such as American of Martinsville in Martinsville, Virginia, a division of the Ladd Companies in Highpoint, North Carolina, said AFI President Doc T. Hamm. Without Ex-Im Bank participation, it is very difficult to find the financing to make these types of deals happen. Hamm said other suppliers on the contract are Howe Furniture Corp., Trumbull, CT, and Shelby Williams Industries Inc., Morristown, TN.

This is a wonderful opportunity for companies from North Carolina to Trumbull, Connecticut, to expand their business into the Russian market and create more jobs here in the United States. I am grateful for assistance Ex-Im Bank has provided in making this initiative possible, said U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT).

Howe Furniture, a small family-owned banquet table manufacturer in southwestern Connecticut founded 70 years ago, sees the sale as a chance to break into the Russia market. Doing business in Russia is tough, and this deal helps us get into that market, said Paul M. Voland, director of International Business Development. We expect this to lead to additional business. Howe, inventor of the folding banquet table, is looking to foreign sales for growth in the face of a tightening domestic market. Voland said the transaction would help sustain jobs at Howe`s Trumble headquarters and at its manufacturing facility in Maywood, NJ.

AFI was founded last year with the main purpose of addressing market opportunities in Russia and the Newly Independent States. Most commercial banks are unwilling to extend longer-term financing for exports to Russia without official export credit agency support. AFI won the hotel furniture contract in the face of competition from European manufacturers, which enjoy lower freight costs and shipping times due to proximity. The sale could lead to substantial follow-on business for U.S. furniture makers, according to AFI.

AFI will export hotel, office and restaurant furniture to Joint-Stock Company Leasing and Financial Services (LFS), Moscow. LFS will lease the furniture to the Grand Hotel Moscow, a Marriott-franchised, Russian-operated hotel. Ex-Im Bank will guarantee a loan from Nationsbank Corp., Charlotte, NC to Innovation Commercial Bank Alfa Bank (Alfa Bank), Moscow, which will on-lend the funds to LFS. Repayment will be made in six semi-annual installments starting July 15, 1998. With this transaction, Alfa Bank becomes the fourth Russian bank with which Ex-Im Bank has done business. Alfa Bank is Russia`s 18th largest bank measured by assets

Ex-Im Bank is an independent federal government agency that supports American jobs by financing U.S. exports around the world. In the past five years Ex-Im Bank has authorized $65.6 billion of financing in over 10,000 transactions. Annually, the Bank sustains an estimated 200,000 U.S. jobs directly, and another one million jobs indirectly.