2021 was an exceptionally busy year for project finance, and advisory teams and loan arrangers from the big global banks were working at full capacity. A number of very large water, LNG and transport deals closed, while renewable energy continued to gain momentum, notably in the fast-growing offshore wind sector. And with investors looking for yield, there was a steady pipeline of project bonds coming to market.
In The Asset Triple A Sustainable Infrastructure Awards 2022, the Institutional Investor of the Year is Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP). As a specialized energy infrastructure player, CIP has built up a position as one of the largest global fund managers in the renewables sector. It closed a series of high-profile deals in 2021, including reaching financial close for the Zhong Neng offshore wind project in Taiwan, a joint venture between the Copenhagen Infrastructure IV fund and China Steel Corporation.
In the United States, CIP is partnering with Avangrid Renewables (Iberdrola Group) on the 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind 1, the first US commercial-scale offshore wind farm. The CIP strategy is to add value at the development and construction phase, after which it can sell down a portion of its stake. One significant deal was the sale of a 25% interest in the Changfang and Xidao offshore wind farm in Taiwan to a subsidiary of Thai energy company PTT.
The Sponsor of the Year award goes to Danish company Orsted, which has a busy pipeline of onshore and offshore wind projects underway globally, including the 1-gigawatt Hornsea One offshore UK project. The company has used its industry status to bring in top-class infrastructure funds to partner with, and in November, it recycled capital by selling a 50% stake in the Borssele offshore wind farm project in the Netherlands to Norges Bank Investment Management. Orsted is also a leading player in Asia, and is close to completing work on the 900MW Greater Changhua 1 & 2a offshore wind projects in Taiwan. In November 2021, Orsted completed the sale of a 50% stake in Greater Changhua 1 offshore wind project to Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec (CDPQ) and Cathay Private Equity of Taiwan.
The Power/Utilities Sponsor of the Year award goes to Globeleq, which specializes in IPP power projects across Africa. It is 70% owned by the UK government entity British International Investment (BII - formerly known as CDC) and 30% by Norfund. Last year, Globeleq acquired the 66MW ARC solar project in Egypt, and owns the Azito facility, which supplies 25% of the baseload in Cote d'Ivoire. The most high-profile current project is the Central Termica de Temane gas-fired power plant in Mozambique, in partnership with Sasol and Electricidade de Mocambique. Financial close was reached during the course of the year, with US$652.3 million of debt put in place, led by International Finance Corporation (IFC).
The LNG Sponsor of the Year award goes to Arlington, Virginia-based Venture Global LNG. As the US transforms into a major global gas exporter, the firm has emerged as one of the most important players, with its LNG gasification facilities in Louisiana taking advantage of the already available gas coming through the extensive US gas pipeline network. The Calcasieu Pass trains started up in January 2022, and the company is now fast-tracking a massive expansion via the planned Plaquemines facility and CP2 plant. As a top-rated credit, it has good access to both bank debt and the capital markets, and 2021 was marked by two big long-term bond offerings, including a US$1.25 billion 10-year issuance in November.
The Multilateral Agency of the Year is IFC, a unit of the World Bank Group, which is playing a major development finance role in areas ranging from healthcare and public transport to agriculture and overall post-Covid recovery. One of its most high-profile infrastructure deals in 2021 was arranging a US$360 million loan for the Basrah Gas Company flaring reduction project in Iraq. This was an important deal for the World Bank Group’s Gas Flaring Reduction Initiative, and one of many green projects undertaken by the IFC. Water projects are another important focus, and IFC signed a green and sustainability-linked loan (SLL) with Corsan to improve water utility efficiency in Brazil. In the residential housing sector, IFC acted as an anchor investor in a green residential development bond issued by Nedbank in South Africa.
Leading the ESG charge
Société Générale is voted as the Global ESG Infrastructure Bank of the Year, and wins the same accolade in Asia-Pacific. It was among the lending banks in the Basrah Gas flaring reduction project amounting to US$360 million and in the US$1.16 billion limited recourse loan for Dubai Waste Management Company.
In APAC, Société Générale participated in several deals that defined the project finance/infrastructure space in the region in 2021, such as in the acquisition by Powering Australia Renewables of a portfolio of renewable energy assets in Australia from Tilt Renewables. It was an arranger in the Cirata floating solar project, Indonesia’s first utility-scale floating solar power plant and the largest of its kind in Southeast Asia. It was a joint structuring bank, green loan coordinator and mandated lead arranger in the debt facility for Jingdan New Energy Investment (Shanghai) Company, which represented the first distributed generation photovoltaic (PV) non-recourse portfolio project financing in China’s renewable energy sector.
The Triple A Project Finance House of the Year award goes to MUFG Bank, winning both the global and Asia-Pacific honours as it led a large number of high-profile and significant transactions. In the Middle East, the bank was a mandated lead arranger for both the Jubail 3B and Yanbu 4 independent water plants. It was also heavily involved in offshore wind projects in Europe, and in the US, it was a mandated lead arranger on the Vineyard Wind 1 financing for the first US large-scale commercial project. In Latin America, MUFG was one of the arrangers in the combined bank debt and bond offering from Generadora Metropolitana in Chile, and was a joint global coordinator in the US$850 million Guara Norte bond refinancing for a floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) operating offshore Brazil. The bank is also a leading global ESG bank, and played a prominent role as green loan coordinator on many deals, as green loan certification becomes an increasingly important factor in successful syndication.
In APAC, MUFG was a financial adviser, green loan coordinator and mandated lead arranger in the Zhong Neng offshore wind project in Taiwan and a green loan adviser and mandated lead arranger in Vena Energy's,272MW Yunlin E2 ground-mounted solar PV plant, also in Taiwan,. The bank was a co-green loan coordinator, mandated lead arranger and bookrunner in the Adani Green Energy hybrid solar and wind project.
Standard Chartered wins the Middle East Project Finance House of the Year award, after another exceptionally busy year across all sectors. In addition to innovative structuring, the bank over many years has built up close working relationships with export credit agencies (ECAs) participating in regional deals. One highlight was the world’s largest waste-to-energy public-private partnership (PPP) project being developed by Dubai Waste Management Company. Standard Chartered was also a mandated lead arranger in the Jubail 3B desalination project and in the Jazan integrated gasification combined cycle power project in Saudi Arabia, and in the Red Sea Utilities – a high-priority Saudi project in the tourism sector. Standard Chartered was also a B-loan lender for the Basrah Gas project.
Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) wins the Project Finance House of the Year award for the Americas. The team is based in New York, though with a presence on the ground in four Latin American countries. It offers a full range of advisory services, including advising governments in the early stages of projects, and has strong relationships with ECAs. One highlighted transaction was its role as a mandated lead arranger in the US$2 billion Panama Metro Line 3 financing, which featured a K-SURE-covered US dollar tranche, plus US dollar and yen uncovered tranches. SMBC is well-established in the busy Chilean market, and was a mandated lead arranger for the Cabo Leones III wind farm refinancing, as well as a lender in the Alfa Desarrollo acquisition of transmission assets in Chile. It closed a large number of projects in the US, including the Fargo Moorhead Flood Diversion and the Philadelphia 30 Street Amtrak station.
Société Générale was chosen as Project Finance House of the Year in both Europe and Africa. Notable deals included the D4 motorway in the Czech Republic, sole debt adviser for Unsere Grune Glasfaser, which is rolling out fibre optics to rural areas of Germany, and the orange concessions rollout of optical fibre in France. The bank was also a senior mandated lead arranger for the Courseulles-sur-Mer offshore wind farm financing.
Société Générale was likewise the exclusive financial adviser to Meridiam on its ultra-fast electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at Carrefour supermarkets. The bank brings its strong advisory capabilities to Africa, where it is heavily involved in the development of the vast Mozambique LNG project, which has taken on greater importance as global LNG supply chains are redesigned because of Western sanctions on Russia. Société Générale is also the financial adviser in the Anchois offshore gas project in Morocco.
Legal and rating services
The Global Law Firm of the Year award goes to Shearman & Sterling. Its long-established global project finance practice had an exceptional year in terms of the range of deals across all regions of the world. It acted for the lenders in the Central Termica de Temane power project in Mozambique, the Cote d’Ivoire Port, and in the Middle East, the Jazan Integrated Gasification & Power Company project – one of the largest financings of the year globally. The firm also has strong coverage across Latin America, where it advised on the Gas Natural Acu (GNA) refinancing, and the Panama Metro Line 2 securitization deal.
For accolades for credit rating agencies, the Americas Rating Agency of the Year award is won by Fitch Ratings. It was another busy year for the infrastructure sector in the US, including the much-needed improvements to the transport network. Among the many deals rated by Fitch were exempt facility revenue bonds for the Empire State Thrughway, and an offering from the Allegheny County Airport Authority. It also rated deals in the buoyant LNG sector, such as the Flex deal within the Freeport LNG project. There was also a steady pipeline of bond deals out of Latin America, including the Interchile transmission company, the Guara Norte offering for the FPSO unit Cidade de Ilhabela operating in offshore Brazil, and Colombian toll road Autopista Rio Magdalena. In September last year, the company launched Sustainable Fitch, offering a comprehensive range of ESG ratings products at both an entity and instrument level for all asset classes globally. Fitch publishes an ESG Navigator report alongside credit rating information.
Moody’s Investors Service wins the Rating Agency of the Year award for Asia-Pacific, Europe, Middle East and Africa. Over the course of the year, high-profile transactions included assigning a Baa3 rating to a €3 billion (US$3.23 billion) bond offering in three tranches by ASTM, the second largest toll road operator in Italy, and a US$4 billion deal from Italian electric utility ENEL. In March, Moody's rated the final bond offering to refinance the bridge loan for Galaxy Pipeline Assets, which the previous year acquired a 47% stake in ADNOC Gas Pipelines. The firm has strong coverage of water and electricity utilities sector across the Middle East, which are in the midst of a series of vast projects to improve basic infrastructure. Moody's recently agreed to acquire a 51% stake in leading African rating agency Global Credit Rating Company (GCR), which will give it an even stronger presence on the ground.
In APAC, Moody’s rated US$37 billion worth of project and infrastructure finance deals in 2021. Among the deals it rated solely were the US$750 million green bond by Adani Green Energy, the S$500 million (US$365 million) inaugural issuance by Changi Airport of Singapore, and the A$300 million (US$215.80 million) offering by NSW Electricity Networks of Australia. It also rated solely the issuances of preference shares amounting to US$900 million and US$1.2 billion by State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC) through SPIC Preferred Company No 1 and SPIC Preferred Company No 2, respectively.
In other awards in the APAC region, Adani Green Energy distinguished itself as Renewable Energy Sponsor of the Year. The Indian company is involved in the construction of the landmark 1.69GW hybrid portfolio of solar and wind renewables to be set up in four special purpose vehicles in the state of Rajasthan. The transaction is one of the largest renewables financings in Asia and is the first certified green hybrid project loan in India. In May 2021, the company signed share purchase agreements for the acquisition of 100% interest in SB Energy India from SBG (80%) and Bharti Group (20%). SB Energy India has a total renewable portfolio of 4,954MW spread across four states in India.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a repeat winner as the multilateral agency of the year as its private sector infrastructure financing operations in the region continue to support projects that address the most pressing development issues. These include projects that are designed to promote clean energy, particularly those with climate mitigation and/or adaptation aspects – efficient power distribution, improved transportation and expanded communications in ADB’s developing member countries.
In India, ADB funded a project that will modernize and upgrade the power distribution system in Bengaluru city in the state of Karnataka. This the first time the bank is providing a combination of private sector and sovereign loans to a state-level sub-sovereign enterprise. The proceeds are earmarked to finance the conversion of overhead distribution lines to underground cables with parallel installation of optical fibre cables, as well as the installation of automated ring main units adapted with a distribution automation system in Bengaluru urban area.
In Vietnam, the 240MW solar power project by Dau Tieng Tay Ninh Energy Joint Stock Company leveraged on an innovative financing structure developed by ADB and critical to support the sustainable development of the country’s renewable energy sector. In response to market conditions and sponsor demand, ADB’s innovative project finance solution included a tailor-made sponsor support to address the key risks in Vietnam’s standard power purchase agreement (PPA). Through its B-loan, ADB mobilized one of the largest commercial co-financings for a renewable energy project in Vietnam.
Taiwan Life Insurance Company continues to support the growth of Taiwan’s offshore wind market, and in 2021, it committed NT$3.5 billion (US$120.70 million) as a senior lender to the Greater Changhua 1 project. This is Taiwan Life’s third offshore wind project finance transaction in three years following the Formosa 2 project in 2019 and the Changfang/Xidao project in 2020.
Voted as Institutional Investor of the Year – Insurance, Taiwan Life set a precedent in 2019 for being the first insurance company in Asia to participate in a greenfield project finance secured by an ECA. Then in 2020, also for the first time in Asia, Taiwan Life became the first insurance company to commit to invest as well as to finance in the same offshore wind project in Taiwan. That was the first-ever equity-debt combo offshore wind structure in Asia.
Another repeat winner this year – and for the fourth consecutive year – is PT Penjaminan Infrastruktur Indonesia (PT PII), which was selected as the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Agency of the Year for its role in supporting the country’s infrastructure development through a stronger PPP scheme. Up until 2021, with 9.57 trillion rupiah (US$657 million) of government investment, PT PII had guaranteed 29 PPP projects in five sectors with over 256 trillion rupiah of total project value.
Among the PPP projects it signed in 2021 were the preservation of East Trans-Sumatra road in the province of Riau, the replacement and/or duplication of the Callender Hamilton bridge project in Java and two regional drinking water supply systems for four cities and regencies in West Java and the Greater Jakarta metropolitan area.
PT PII is also committed to achieving sustainable infrastructure, ensuring that projects receiving its guarantee can provide balanced benefits in terms of ESG.
DBS wins the Project Finance Advisory House of the Year award for the second year in a row. The bank added nine more financial advisory mandates across Asia in 2021, which reflected its sectoral diversity, breadth of franchise and depth of activity. It reinforced its ability in structuring bespoke solutions to clients as exemplified in a joint financial advisory mandate to Sunseap for the SolarNova 4 project with anchor corporate PPA.
DBS was also a financial adviser to Vena Energy’s 272MW Yunlin E2 ground-mounted solar PV plant in Taiwan, representing the company’s largest solar power asset in the Taiwan market. The bank also has ongoing financial advisory assignments in Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Singapore, among others.
The Korea Trade Insurance Corporation (K-SURE) is the ECA of the Year – an honour which it previously won in 2020. It was among the five ECAs that participated in the Greater Changhua 1 offshore wind project in Taiwan and it backed one group of lenders for the Seaspan Corporation containership financing. The latter was a pioneering transaction, which for the first time combined two well-established ship financing structures, ECA-backed loans and the Japanese Operating Lease with Call Option (Jolco).
In February this year, K-SURE signed a memorandum of understanding with Export Finance Australia to strengthen their capacity to work together and undertake joint financings. The agreement will provide a practical framework for enhanced cooperation between the two parties in sectors such as critical minerals, low-emission technologies and regional infrastructure.
The ECA Coordinator Bank of the Year award goes to HSBC. Apart from being the financial adviser, sole social structuring bank and a mandated lead arranger, HSBC is the ECA coordinating bank for the US$431 million Satelit Nusantara Tiga Satria broadband satellite project, which is voted as The Asset Triple A Sustainable Infrastructure global deal of the year. The project, initiated by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology of Indonesia, is the first satellite PPP project in the country. It is listed as a national strategic project and is key to Indonesia’s broadband connectivity – designed to provide broadband internet services, including free WiFi access to more than 149,400 unserved public service points such as schools, hospitals and local government locations in some of the most remote areas in Indonesia.
HSBC also acted as the global coordinator, ECA agent, mandated lead arranger and bookrunner in the financing of the US$633 million Sinosure-backed facility with Jolco structure for Seaspan Corporation. The transaction represents the first time an ECA has provided export credit insurance for a Jolco transaction in the shipping sector. The other portion of the financing is backed by the Korean ECA K-SURE.
Allen & Overy is selected as the Law Firm of the Year for APAC for representing clients in several winning project finance/infrastructure deals in 2021. It was involved in two significant renewable energy projects in Taiwan, the Greater Changhua 1 offshore wind project and the Vena Energy ground-mounted solar PV plant. It represented the lenders in the ground-breaking Cirata floating solar project in Indonesia, while in Vietnam, the firm acted as counsel for the sponsors in the Lotus wind power project developed by Power Construction Joint Stock Company No 1 of Vietnam and Renova of Japan.
Among the country winners, China Chengxin International (CCXI) is chosen as the Rating Agency of the Year – China. It has provided rating services for 1,287 public offering bonds issued by 403 infrastructure investment and financing vehicles, or local government financing vehicles (LGFVs), in 2021. CCXI’s rating process is based on relevant regulations of the regulatory authorities, combining international rating practices and the actual situation of domestic rating. As a whole, the rating process follows the basic principles of independence, objectivity and fairness. CCXI considers ESG as a factor when rating LGFV-related deals. Going forward, it will add detailed explanations of its ESG scoring system to reflect the increasing importance of ESG in its rating methodology.
MARC Ratings is voted as the Rating Agency of the Year – Malaysia. In 2021 it rated the sukuk issuance of Cellco Capital, a special purpose entity set up to undertake the ijara sukuk programme for its parent Stealth Solutions, an independent tower company. Among the infrastructure-related companies, MARC downgraded the ratings of the 1.89 billion ringgit (US$431.50 million) Islamic medium-term note programme of Senai Desaru Expressway amid its tight liquidity position. On the other hand, it upgraded the rating on Kimanis Power’s outstanding 650 million ringgit sukuk programme in view of its consistently strong operational performance.
For the complete list of winners, please click here.
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