GTR Best Deals 2021 | Global Trade Review (GTR)
Each year, GTR’s editorial team selects the market’s Best Deals from the previous 12 months.
The winning deals are chosen from submissions sent to GTR, and feature a mix of trade, commodity, supply chain and export finance, as well as fintech-led transactions.
Congratulations to those behind these 11 deals, which were chosen as the top transactions from 2020.
- Deal name: Beitbridge border post
- Borrower: Zimborders
- Amount: US$194mn (senior debt facility), US$21.9mn (mezzanine debt)
- Mandated lead arrangers: Absa, Nedbank, RMB, Standard Bank
- Lenders: Absa, Afreximbank, Emerging Africa infrastructure Fund, Nedbank, RMB, Standard Bank
- Insurers/ECAs: Afreximbank, ECIC
- Law firms: Bowman Gilfillan; Gill, Godlonton & Gerrans; Herbert Smith Freehills South Africa; Manokore Attorneys
- Tenor: 11 years (senior debt), 12 years (mezzanine debt)
- Date signed: November 2020
Beitbridge border post, a crossing that connects Zimbabwe and South Africa, is known for its ageing infrastructure that acts as a chokepoint for the movement of goods and people.
Delays at the post are common; truckers carrying goods can wait as long as five days to cross the border, states RMB in its deal submission.
Upgrading the crossing is paramount to ensuring a more efficient trading system in Southern Africa because the border post is “not only the gateway to Zimbabwe but also to Zambia, Malawi and the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo]”, says the bank.
This deal will provide Zimborders, a border facilities provider, with the finance to rehabilitate the crossing. With improved infrastructure and increased capacity, the region’s exporters can expect to benefit from reduced waiting times. The project will also extend to the upgrade of local trading stores, and the construction of staff housing, water pipelines, sewage treatment plants and electrical supply lines. As such, it will also contribute greatly to local job creation.
The complex transaction took nearly three years to structure and negotiate with the various public and private entities involved.
The senior debt facility makes up the majority of the US$296.9mn project cost, with the outstanding balance obtained via a mezzanine debt of US$21.9mn and through equity.
The Export Credit Insurance Corporation (ECIC), the South African export credit agency (ECA), acted as a commercial and political risk insurer for the senior debt facility and, alongside Afreximbank, was a political risk provider for a portion of the shareholders’ equity and loan investments.
By structuring tranches with ECAs, the banks were able to deliver competitive financing terms through longer tenors and lower interest rates.
“In the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic, the oil crash, the various country downgrades in Sub-Saharan Africa, S dollar funding shortages, and the Zimbabwe currency crisis, the project managed to bypass these hurdles and reach financial close,” says RMB.
- Deal name: Cairo monorail
- Borrower: Egypt’s National Authority for Tunnels
- Guarantor: Egypt’s Ministry of Finance
- Amount: €1.87bn
- Mandated lead arranger: JP Morgan
- Lead arrangers: CaixaBank, Crédit Agricole, Credit Suisse, KfW Ipex-Bank, NatWest, Société Générale, UBS Switzerland
- ECAs: Cesce, Sace, UKEF
- Law firms: Ashurst; White & Case
- Tenor: 16.5 years
- Date signed: August 2020
The Cairo monorail system is the longest in the world and the first project of its kind in North Africa.
The project involves two monorails, which will be constructed by 2023; a 54km line will connect East Cairo to the New Administrative Capital and a 42km line will link the 6th October City to Giza.
Cairo has set itself the ambitious goal of improving public transportation for its citizens, as well as reducing traffic congestion. When operational, the monorails will carry 45,000 passengers per hour, each way.
An unconsolidated consortium comprising Bombardier Transportation UK, Bombardier Egypt, Orascom Construction and Arab Contractors will build the two lines.
Having been appointed by the borrower in November 2019, JP Morgan arranged the UK Export Finance (UKEF)-guaranteed loan, launching the syndication of the facility the following April.
“Due to the size of the transaction, UKEF was unable to assign €1.87bn of Egyptian country limits to a single project and therefore UKEF and JP Morgan worked in conjunction with two additional ECAs, Sace and Cesce, which provided substantial re-insurance,” reads the deal submission, sent in by JP Morgan.
UKEF states: “This was a complicated contract in which UKEF was the lead ECA. The single EPC contract was split between different scopes of work for each consortium member who therefore have procurement plans pertinent to their individual scope and local content restrictions.”
Despite a turbulent market amid the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, JP Morgan and the Egyptian authorities were able to successfully syndicate the facility to seven other lenders at pre-Covid-19 pricing in August.
- Deal name: Dogger Bank wind farm
- Borrower: Dogger Bank Offshore Wind Farm
- Amount: £5.5bn
- Mandated lead arranger: BNP Paribas
- Hedge execution banks: Lloyds Bank, NatWest, Société Générale, Santander
- Documentation bank: Société Générale
- Intercreditor agent and security trustee: MUFG
- ECA agent: Santander
- Account bank: Barclays
- Lenders: ABN Amro, AIB, Barclays, BBVA, BNP Paribas, Bank of China, Crédit Agricole CIB, Caixabank, CIBC, CIC, Danske Bank, DNB Bank, ICBC, ING, Korea Development Bank, Lloyds Bank, Mizuho, MUFG, Natixis, NatWest, Norinchukin Bank, OCBC, Rabobank, Santander UK, SEB, Shinsei Bank, SMBC, Société Générale, Standard Chartered
- ECAs: Bpifrance, EKN, GIEK
- Law firms: Linklaters; Norton Rose Fulbright
- Date signed: November 2020
With the UK government setting a target of making Britain carbon neutral by 2050, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson talking up the prospect of the country becoming the “Saudi Arabia of wind”, there will need to be a significant expansion in offshore wind farms in the coming years.
In this winning deal from the final months of 2020, a diverse group of lenders comprised of three export credit agencies (ECAs) and 29 banks clubbed together to provide a sizeable debt package to one such project off the north-east coast of England.
In all, the lenders supplied a total of £5.5bn to SSE Renewables and Equinor for phases A and B of their joint venture Dogger Bank wind farm, which promises to be the biggest offshore wind farm in the world once fully operational.
Further billed by Santander as the “largest offshore wind project financing to date”, the bank’s submission says that the deal raised £4.2bn in capex and £1.2bn of ancillary facilities.
On the basis of underlying export contracts awarded to GE Renewable Energy, Bpifrance insured a portion of the ECA debt financing, marking the first insurance cover from the French export credit provider for an offshore wind farm project.
Separate debt facilities structured by the project co-sponsors are supported by the Norwegian and Swedish ECAs, GIEK and EKN.
Santander notes in its submission to GTR that the project secured long-term financing of 19 years during a “challenging Covid environment”, with the financial institutions and ECAs working collaboratively to offer a range of multiple products – including project finance, term loans and ECA-covered loans.
The wind farm is expected to reach full commercial operations in 2026 – once phase C of the project is finished – at which point it is expected to power up to 6 million homes annually in the UK, equivalent to 5% of the nation’s electricity demand.
- Deal name: EdM
- Borrower: EdM
- Amount: US$10.6mn
- Lender: TDB
- Tenor: 12 months
- Date signed: May 2020
Madagascar’s vanilla business is one of the country’s most important sources of foreign exchange earnings, and the country supplies approximately 70% of the world’s vanilla. But one of the challenges faced by Malagasy vanilla exporters is access to pre-export finance, which this winning deal seeks to address.
The transaction involved the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank (TDB) extending a US$10.6mn revolving pre-export structured trade commodity finance facility to local company EdM to support its exports of Fairtrade vanilla.
EdM is a woman-owned Malagasy family business and a certified Fairtrade trader for vanilla. It employs more than 1,000 people in peak season, the majority of which are women.
The facility provides EdM with the working capital needed to purchase raw materials and cover processing, storage and transportation costs, enabling it to scale up its exports and better compete in the global arena.
“The Fairtrade certification ensures that EdM’s vanilla business puts people and planet at par with profits in terms of priorities, by periodically assessing it against various social, economic and environmental standards,” says TDB.
The fact that the facility has been extended to a female-owned business contributes to the reduction in gender inequality in a country where the majority of women are excluded from the social, economic and political spheres, it adds.
The bank has been working closely with various Malagasy public and private sector stakeholders to identify key priority areas since the country became a TDB member state in 2018. This facility marks its first transaction in the country.
Deals such as this have the potential to help unleash greater productivity and income gains along the value chain, while at the same time relieving some of the additional, more recent, liquidity pressures brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Deal name: Enel
- Borrower: Enel Green Power Mexico
- Amount: US$20mn
- Lender: Bank of America Mexico
- Date signed: March 2020
This timely deal comes as Mexico’s energy market approaches a crossroads. With the country’s population growing rapidly, and with a surge in economic activity expected over the coming years, authorities are braced for a boom in demand for electricity.
Mexico’s energy mix is dominated by oil and gas. As Bank of America’s (BofA) Mexico branch points out in its deal submission, oil accounts for a higher share of the country’s power than in the Middle East.
Italy-based Enel has had a presence in Mexico since 2008, and today runs nearly two dozen wind, hydro and solar power plants, generating nearly 2.8GW in carbon neutral energy.
However, Enel has become increasingly keen to encourage sustainable practices across its supply chains, and examined the possibility of incentivising sustainable activity through a supply chain finance (SCF) programme.
Having selected BofA as the provider for this SCF programme, uptake was rapid. It covers five suppliers involved in installation and maintenance of solar and wind farms, across six buyers, supporting multi-currency electronic payments.
Enel initially feared the Covid-19 pandemic would prove an obstacle to the programme’s launch, but all suppliers were onboarded quickly, and programme utilisation reached over 70% in the first six months of its operation.
The firm now believes that liquidity concerns stemming from virus containment measures mean that the programme was finalised at a “critical juncture” for suppliers in terms of working capital.
“Our initial concern that Covid-19 could delay the launch of this programme was unfounded,” says Hanna Bolio Montes, Enel Green Power’s head of treasury for Mexico. “Bank of America took pains to help us move forward with the launch and we are pleased with the progress and reception to the programme.”
- Deal name: FENC
- Borrower: Far Eastern New Century Corp
- Amount: US$100mn
- Arranger: Crédit Agricole
- Lenders: Crédit Agricole, Grand Bills Finance Corp, Taiwan Finance Corp
- Law firm: Baker McKenzie
- Tenor: 3 years
- Date signed: September 2020
A landmark transaction for sustainability-linked finance, this working capital facility provides US$100mn in support for Far Eastern New Century Corp (FENC), one of the world’s largest polyester recycling companies.
Compared to using raw materials deriving from petrochemicals, FENC says the use of recycled polyester reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 63%.
Its initiatives also protect marine ecology, for instance by recycling ocean plastic for the manufacture of sportswear.
This transaction is denominated in new Taiwan dollars, and is split into two tranches: a commercial paper guarantee that accounts for two-thirds of the total financing, and a bilateral term loan with a three-year tenor. Both parts are intended to finance FENC’s working capital.
Crédit Agricole states the deal is its first sustainability-linked credit facility, and FENC’s first sustainability-linked commercial paper programme in Asia.
“This green and innovative transaction not only reinforces FENC’s commitment to sustainable development, but also emphasises the importance of Crédit Agricole’s support in tackling climate change as well as the transition to a low carbon economy,” adds Dominique Duval, the lender’s head of sustainable banking in Asia Pacific.
The margin of both facilities is linked to FENC’s environmental, social and governance performance, ensuring the company meets objectives set out in its 2030 vision.
Those objectives include reducing energy consumption per unit of production by 25%, lowering air pollutant emissions by 35%, and decreasing non-recyclable waste by 30% in the following decade. It previously achieved its 2020 objectives a year early.
FENC’s use of recycled materials means greenhouse gas emissions are 900,000 tons lower than through fossil fuel-based production.
- Deal name: Libya NOC
- Borrower: National Oil Corporation
- Amount: US$22mn
- Lenders: BACB, Central Bank of Libya, Libyan Foreign Bank
- Tenor: 3 years
- Date signed: October 2020
Libya has been embroiled in conflict since the 2011 uprising.
Last year, the country’s oil sector faced blockades and other issues as warring factions attempted to take control of Libya and its most precious resource.
Any halt of oil production is particularly harmful to Libya’s oil industry. The sector’s ageing infrastructure and lack of maintenance mean that it can take months for oil fields and wells to reach full capacity again, if stopped.
This deal wins an award for providing finance in the form of letters of credit and downstream payments worth US$22mn to the Libyan state oil company National Oil Corporation (NOC).
Already tackling significant challenges due to the unstable political situation, further disruption caused by the pandemic threatened NOC’s business.
A subsidiary of NOC was forced to suspend operations due to the outbreak, leaving the company unable to fulfil a contract with a key counterparty. The counterparty warned that it may need to cancel the deal if an extension on a BACB contract for trade finance from the previous year was not secured.
“This was very concerning as the contract in question was critical to NOC’s operations – not to mention having strategic importance to Libya’s economy as a whole,” reads the deal submission from BACB.
Though the contract with BACB was originally scheduled to expire in 2021, NOC requested an extension until 2023 so that it could retain the counterparty’s contract. BACB, along with the Central Bank of Libya and the Libyan Foreign Bank as lenders, agreed to extend the deal’s tenor.
- Deal name: Northvolt
- Borrower: Northvolt Ett
- Amount: US$1.6bn
- Mandated lead arrangers: BNP Paribas, Danske Bank, ING, Intesa Sanpaolo, KfW Ipex-Bank, Nordic Investment Bank, SEB, Siemens Bank, SMBC, Société Générale, Swedbank, UniCredit
- Lenders: APG, BNP Paribas, Danica Pension, Danske Bank, European Investment Bank, IMI – Intesa Sanpaolo, ING, Kexim, KfW Ipex-Bank, Nordic Investment Bank, PFA Pension, SEB, Siemens Bank, SMBC, Société Générale, Swedbank, UniCredit
- ECAs: Bpifrance, Euler Hermes, Kexim, Nexi
- Law firms: Latham & Watkins; Mannheimer Swartling
- Tenor: 10 years
- Date signed: July 2020
As governments around the world ramp up efforts to transition consumers away from petrol and diesel-powered vehicles, demand for electric cars is expected to boom over the next decade. So, too, will demand for the lithium-ion batteries that power them.
This winning deal saw a number of global banks, pensions funds and public financial institutions provide debt financing of US$1.6bn for a project being developed by Swedish start-up Northvolt, with funding helping the firm finish construction on the first two blocks of its flagship factory in Skellefteå, Sweden.
Once operational, the factory will supply batteries to a wide range of end markets such as electric vehicles, energy storage systems, and portable and industrial applications. Much of the production is expected to be bought by vehicle manufacturers such as Audi, BMW and Scania.
The project – which is slated to start production this year – will be Europe’s first home-grown gigafactory for lithium-ion battery cells.
BNP Paribas, which acted as one of the mandated lead arrangers on the deal, notes in its submission: “This was a highly complex blended finance transaction to structure given the complex supply chain, industrial innovation and offtake arrangement.”
The bank says that the transaction will “certainly pave the way for even more green ECA transactions in the years to come, including in developed countries”.
A total of four ECAs from Europe and Asia took part in the deal, with BNP Paribas noting that “similar to the other financial institutions involved, it is the first time ECAs are supporting this crucial emerging sector – battery manufacturing – in Europe”.
- Deal name: Rio Tinto
- Borrower: Rio Tinto
- Amount: US$18.4mn +/- 20%
- Lender: DBS
- Tenor: 90 days after sight
Work to transform laborious paper-based trade transactions into agile digital processes is well underway in the industry, but fully end-to-end solutions remain few and far between. This deal, struck as counterparties were unable to transfer physical documentation due to the pandemic, stands out as a prime example of trade digitalisation done right.
Seeking to streamline its sales processes, Rio Tinto contacted DBS, which designed and ran a customer journey workshop for the global mining group and its buyers – the trading and sourcing arms of Chinese steel mills. Through this process, the bank identified key operating challenges across Rio Tinto’s steel mill customer ecosystem, and suggested the use of smart contracts and digitalised letter of credit (LC) platforms as a solution.
Working together with platform partners, including Contour, Chinsay and essDocs, DBS designed an end-to-end digital transaction framework to eliminate the need for physical documents to be sent from Rio Tinto to its buyers, speeding up the realisation of sales proceeds and making the entire process paperless.
“DBS’ solution has helped Rio Tinto to achieve a fully digital audit trail and real-time tracking of transaction status,” says the bank, adding that the solution meant that all counterparties could react immediately to any mismatches in documentation instead of having to wait several days to be notified, thereby improving operational efficiency, as the advising bank and issuing bank were able to check and amend immediately.
The process began with the approval of key contract terms between Rio Tinto and its buyers with real-time discrepancy resolution. DBS then acted as the LC issuing and advising bank for Rio Tinto and its Chinese steel mill buyers with sourcing and financing arms in Singapore. Once the letter of credit was issued for the contract value, the process then saw the presentation of export documents such as e-bills of lading and e-invoices on Contour, connecting all parties across the mining value chain, reducing complexity and eliminating paperwork.
- Deal name: Tanzania Standard Gauge Railway
- Borrower: Government of the United Republic of Tanzania
- Amount: US$1.64bn (combined total for four facilities)
- Sole global co-ordinator & structuring MLA, bookrunner and facility agent: Standard Chartered
- Lenders: EKF facility: AKA, Aviva Life & Pensions UK, BBVA, BNP Paribas, Commerzbank, Crédit Agricole, DekaBank, Deutsche Bank, DZ Bank, KfW Ipex-Bank, Landesbank Baden-Württemberg, Landesbank Hessen-Thüringen, Société Générale, Standard Chartered; EKN facility: SEK, Standard Chartered; Commercial facility: Afreximbank, KfW Ipex-Bank, Nedbank; DFI facility: Development Bank of Southern Africa, TDB
- Fronting ECAs: EKF, EKN
- Re-insuring ECAs: Cesce, Nexi, OeKB, Sace, Serv
- Law firms: Baker McKenzie; East Africa Law Chambers; Gorrissen Federspiel Advokatpartnerselskab
- Tenor: EKF facility: 14.5 years; EKN facility: 14.5 years; commercial facility: 7 years; DFI facility: 15 years
- Date signed: February 2020
This landmark deal was the largest syndicated loan transaction in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 outside of the oil and gas sector. It saw the Tanzanian government sign a facility agreement with Standard Chartered for a US$1.64bn term loan to fund part of the construction of the country’s latest mega-project, the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).
Acting as the sole global co-ordinator and structuring bank, Standard Chartered was able to provide a unique, tailor-made financing solution for the Tanzanian ministry of finance and planning by structuring the transaction to target a diverse pool of investors (banks, development finance institutions and institutional investors) and maximise the liquidity available for Tanzania to finance a project of this size and tenor.
The deal comprises two export credit agency (ECA)-covered facilities of US$992mn and US$178mn backed by the Danish and Swedish ECAs respectively, a DFI tranche of US$200mn, and a commercial bank tranche of US$270mn.
The funds will be used to cover the construction of a 550-kilometre section of the railway between Singida, Morogoro and Dar es Salaam. Turkish contractor Yapi Merkezi is the EPC contractor on the project.
Once fully completed, Tanzania’s SGR line will stretch for a further 1,000 kilometres to the shores of Lake Victoria, connecting the landlocked countries of Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC to the port of Dar es Salaam. It is expected to be the longest and fastest railway in East Africa.
The project, the total cost of which is estimated at around US$7.5bn, forms part of the government of Tanzania’s five-year plan to transform the country into a medium-income industrial economy.
- Deal name: TDB
- Borrower: Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank (TDB)
- Amount: €334.4mn
- Co-ordinator: Standard Chartered
- Lenders: Citi, MUFG Securities Emea, SMBC, Standard Chartered
- Insurer: Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (Miga)
- Law firms: BLC Robert & Associates (Mauritius);
- White & Case (US and London)
- Tenor: Up to 10 years
- Date signed: June 2020
This first-of-its-kind transaction helped mobilise long-term funding to countries in Eastern and Southern Africa, providing vital access to food and medical goods at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The €334.4mn loan to the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank (TDB) is backed by the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (Miga), which covers 95% of the transaction in the event of payment default. The guarantee applies for up to 10 years.
Standard Chartered, which acted as sole co-ordinator of the transaction, says the involvement of Miga meant TDB was able to access its “first-ever long-term facility from the syndicated loan market”, despite talks taking place against a backdrop of a conservative lending market for longer tenors.
Miga’s board approved a new type of credit enhancement to support the deal, which it calls “non-honouring of financial obligations cover for a regional development bank”.
“This innovative product extension gives Miga the ability to leverage TDB’s credit rating – higher than that of its individual members – to mobilise long-term funding to countries that would normally be ineligible for such cover,” it says.
Of the €334.4mn loan, which will be made available to clients in TDB member countries, €50mn is dedicated to pandemic-related financing. With the Eastern and Southern African regions suffering a steep drop in economic and trade activity as a result of Covid-19 containment measures, the transaction ensured access to critical commodities including foodstuff, agricultural goods and fuel.
It also covered the import of emergency medical goods and services, the construction of healthcare facilities and the establishment of new trade finance lines for governments, corporates and SMEs looking to counter the adverse economic impacts of the pandemic.