For infrastructure financing, 2022 was an extremely busy year. Global project finance institutions had to work at full capacity to keep up with the series of bank debt and capital market deals across sectors ranging from wind and solar to LNG, from road and rail infrastructure to data centres and battery gigafactories.
For the project sponsors’ section of The Asset Triple A Sustainable Infrastructure Awards 2023, the winner for LNG is Venture Global, which has emerged as one of the key players in the booming LNG export market of the United States, as global supply chains have adapted in the wake of sanctions on Russia. Venture Global operates or is developing a vast series of LNG gasification terminals on the Louisiana coast, sourcing gas for export from the US pipeline network. Last year, the company put project financing into place for its next megaproject, the Plaquemines LNG facility and Gator Express pipeline in Louisiana. A series of 20-year sales purchase agreements, including Asian customers, were signed early in the year, allowing for a final investment decision in May. The huge US$$13.2 billion term loan was successfully syndicated to a global group of banks.
The global Power/Water/Utilities Sponsor of the Year is Dubai Electricity & Water Company (Dewa), which took a major strategic step in 2022 with its initial public offering on the Dubai Financial Market. The 22.3 billion dirham (US$6.1 billion) flotation, led by Citi, Emirates NDB Capital and HSBC Bank Middle East, was the biggest-ever IPO out of the United Arab Emirates. The offering was met with overwhelming local, regional and international demand. Dewa is one of the leading players in Dubai’s net-zero 2050 strategy, key to which is the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. In addition to being a member of sponsor consortia on projects, Dewa is also the main offtaker, providing electricity, desalinated water supply, and district cooling.
The Sponsor of the Year for Renewable Energy – Global is Saudi Arabia-based Acwa Power. It has a series of large-scale power, desalination and green hydrogen projects in its home country, but last year also saw the acceleration of its push to become a dominant renewables player across Central Asia and North Africa. Solar projects are on the way in Egypt, and wind and battery storage energy systems (BESS) projects in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The company has very sizeable ambitions in the green hydrogen sector. And as a key player in reaching net-zero targets, it has the strong support of ECAs and multilateral development banks. In October 2022, it signed a memorandum of understanding to finance sustainable infrastructure projects with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative Forum, which took place in Riyadh.
Data centres, renewables
The Project Finance House of the Year award goes to Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC). In addition to its activity in Asia, the bank was involved in a wide range of transactions in EMEA and the Americas. Alongside Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), it co-financed a loan for the Ontario Line subway project in Toronto, and closed a US$1.28 billion financing for QTS Realty Trust to design and construct a new US data centre campus. And in the capital markets, it acted as a financial adviser and sole green bond coordinator on a bond offering to refinance a portfolio of renewable assets in Chile. In Europe, SMBC was a lender on the NeuConnect subsea power transmission line running from the United Kingdom to Germany. In Abu Dhabi, it was an arranger on the Lightning subsea cable, which will connect the offshore operations of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) to the national grid. The bank was also a mandated lead arranger on one of the highest-profile US deals of the year – the US$6.6 billion bank loan for the New Terminal One at JFK Airport in New York.
The ESG Bank of the Year – Global is Standard Chartered, which arranged a series of green and social loans. The bank was the green loan coordinator and global ECA (export credit agency) coordinator on the €1.24 billion (US$1.33 billion) financing for a new high-speed rail line in Turkey. In Africa, it arranged a social loan for the Cote d'Ivoire to upgrade a critical stretch of road connecting Abidjan and San Pedro, and was the ECA coordinator and green loan coordinator on a €1.2 billion green loan for a rural electrification project in Angola. And in Saudi Arabia, the bank acted as green loan coordinator on a limited recourse financing for the Shuaibah 3 water desalination plant.
In the regional categories, Société Générale is the winner in Europe. The bank is very strong in offshore wind, both in an advisory capacity and as a lender, and is already working on projects expected to close in 2023. It acted as the sole financial adviser to NeuConnect on the £2.4 billion (US$2.96 billion) non-recourse project debt for the power transmission line. The bank was also a mandated lead arranger on the financing for 430 new electric buses (e-buses), helping the UK and Ireland transition to a green road transport system. And it co-structured a transition framework based on the Loan Market Association’s Sustainability-Linked Loan Principles for Mitsui OSK Lines, financing the first LNG bunkering vessel to be deployed in France on long-term charter to TotalEnergies. In the rail sector, Société Générale was on the syndicate for the €2.4 billion green loan for the 503-kilometre high-speed rail project which will connect the Turkish capital Ankara to Izmir, with the UK Export Finance as the lead ECA. It was also a mandated lead arranger on the US$2 billion multi-ECA covered green facilities for the battery gigafactory being built in Hungary by South Korean firm SK On.
The winner for North America is MUFG Bank, which has built up a strong presence in areas such as renewable power, battery storage and transmission, as well as roads and light rail projects. In the transmission space last year, it was one of four underwriters on the US$5.2 billion Champlain Hudson Power Express loan. In addition to complex project loan structuring, MUFG Securities Americas had another busy year arranging bond financings, including for NextEra Energy Transmission Holdings and the Indiana Toll Road. In the US LNG export sector, the bank was a lead arranger on very large debt packages for Corpus Christi Stage 3 and Plaquemines, two major projects underpinning the new US role as a global LNG supplier. It was also a mandated lead arranger on another big US deal of the year, the JFK New Terminal One loan, and arranged a facility for JFK Terminal 6 project.
The Project Finance House of the Year award for Latin America also goes to SMBC, for arranging a long list of high-profile infrastructure financings across the region. Improving connectivity remains a priority for many governments, and the bank acted as structurer and a mandated lead arranger for a Mexican peso-denominated loan for Autopista Mante Tula, under the Mexican PPP Law. It was also a mandated lead arranger on another peso financing for Metro Linea 1 in Mexico City, equivalent to US$644 million. Renewables are a major area of focus for the bank, and it was the buyside adviser and lead placement agent on the green loan signed by Innergex of Quebec for its takeover of Aela Generation in Chile.
The winner in the Middle East is Standard Chartered, whose project and export finance team in the region had another exceptionally busy year in the booming MENA infrastructure sector. Among the high-profile deals were an ECA-backed Islamic finance facility for the Saudi Electricity Company to support the Saudi-Egypt interconnector project, and a loan for the Lightning connector which will bring clean energy to Adnoc’s offshore facilities. It was a mandated lead arranger on the US$672 million green loan for the Amunet wind project in Egypt, and led the financing for the Barka V desalination plant in Oman. As a major global arranger of ECA-backed loans, the bank in May refinanced itself via an offering of ECA loan-backed covered bonds.
In Africa, Standard Chartered wins with a series of deals, including socially-oriented projects such as hospitals, roads and electrification. The bank arranged a €104 million ECA loan in accordance with the Social Loan Principles to restore road infrastructure in Cote d’Ivoire, and a €133 million ECA loan for a road project in Cameroon. It had a particularly busy year in Angola, where it was appointed by the Ministry of Finance to act as ECA coordinator on a green loan in support of its rural electrification project, and arranged an ECA-backed social loan for a new hospital, and an ECA-backed loan for the renovation of a stretch of the national highway EN140.
The Multilateral Agency of the Year – Global is the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which offers long-term financing and industry-leading expertise to develop infrastructure projects that provide essential services, including electricity, telecommunications, transportation, water and sanitation – in partnership with the private sector. It was one of the anchor lenders in the Zarafshan wind project in Uzbekistan, alongside the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and EBRD. The project’s pioneering role supports low-carbon transition as the first utility-scale, privately financed wind IPP (independent power producer) in the region. In Asia-Pacific, IFC was involved in telecom tower projects in the Philippines and Sri Lanka, solar projects in India, and a landfill-gas-to-energy project in China.
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