Index for February 2021

Volume 20, Issue 2

  • (Reuters, Barcelona, 27 January 2021) The United States will produce a plan to end international financing for fossil fuel projects, its special climate envoy John Kerry said Wednesday, as senior British and U.N. officials urged donor nations to meet a flagship climate finance promise. Speaking at an online panel organised by the World Economic Forum, Kerry said the new administration of U.S. President Joe Biden would draft a plan for U.S. climate finance, without giving further details. He noted the United States had spent $265 billion cleaning up three major hurricanes that hit the country in 2017, while another storm in 2020 racked up a bill of $55 billion. Yet “in stark contrast, we don’t fully fund” a commitment by wealthy governments, enshrined in the Paris Agreement, to raise $100 billion a year globally to help poor, vulnerable nations adopt clean energy and adapt to extreme weather and rising seas, he said.  Friends of the Earth noted that in the past two years the U.S. Export-Import Bank (EXIM) approved over $5 billion for fossil fuel projects abroad.

  • (Yahoo News, Washington, 31 January 2021) The Trump administration used the USDA Commodity Credit Corp. to bail out farmers suffering from its trade wars. Now the Biden administration wants to deploy a $30 billion pot of money in the Agriculture Department to tackle climate change, support restaurants and kickstart other programs without waiting for Congress. Long hidden in obscurity as a Depression-era financial institution, the Commodity Credit Corp. is used to fund certain conservation programs, foreign market development, export credit and commodity purchases. The billions paid out to farmers far eclipsed the massive 2008 auto bailout, and accounted for 40 percent of farm income in 2020.

  • (Global Development Policy Center, Boston, 12 February 2021) In 2020, China’s two development banks with global operations — the China Development Bank (CDB) and the Export-Import Bank of China (CHEXIM) — recorded $4.6 billion of overseas energy sector finance. This represents a decrease of 43%, from the $8.1 billion in lending to foreign countries recorded in 2019. The China’s Global Energy Finance Database is an interactive data project that exhibits financing for global energy projects by China’s two global policy banks—the China Development Bank (CDB) and the Export-Import Bank of China (CHEXIM).

  • (Byrne Wallace, Dublin, 3 February 2021) The European Commission has broadened the scope of its COVID-19 State aid Temporary Framework Communication by more than doubling the level of support that Member States can provide to many individual businesses suffering as a result of COVID-19. It has also extended the period of validity for the Temporary Framework by a further 6 months to the end of December 2021.This is the fifth (and almost certainly the most significant) amendment to the Temporary Framework since it was introduced by the Commission in spring 2020 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The purpose of the Temporary Framework is to loosen the State aid rules applicable to Member States in light of COVID-19 in providing financial assistance to their economies, by imposing fewer restrictions on the aid amounts and eligible costs that can be provided to businesses. Support can be provided through a number of methods under the Temporary Framework including direct grants, State guarantees, subsidised public loans, safeguards for banks lending to SMEs, and short-term export credit insurance. Every EU Member State has notified at least 4 measures, with a total of over 325 notifications having been made in the less than 10 months the Temporary Framework has existed. Sixty-five of these measures have had budgets of over €1 billion, including three French measures mobilising €300 billion of liquidity support for companies, a £50 billion UK “umbrella” scheme, a €44 billion Italian recapitalisation scheme to support large companies, and a German fund of up to €500 billion of liquidity and capital support.

  • (The Telegraph, London, 6 February 2021) The Government promised last year to end taxpayer support for fossil fuel projects overseas. The UK is poised to back a major Brazilian offshore oil project that will contribute the same emissions as 800,000 cars annually, despite its promise to end funding for overseas oil and gas projects.

  • (Urgewald & Reclaim Finance, Berlin, 24 February 2021) urgewald, Reclaim Finance, Rainforest Action Network, Japan and 25 further NGO partners have published groundbreaking research on the financiers and investors behind the global coal industry. It was found that in January 2021, 4,488 institutional investors held investments totaling USD 1.03 trillion in companies operating along the thermal coal value chain. The top commercial bank lenders to the coal industry are Mizuho, SMBC, MUFG, Citigroup and Barclays. Scandinavian banks poured $67 billion into the fossil fuel industry since Paris. The Rainforest Action Network notes that while "welcom(ing) President Biden’s Executive Order to end public financing for fossil fuels abroad, the new administration must also address the role of Wall Street as a huge driver of climate pollution around the world - driving us ever deeper into a climate crisis".

  • (TFX News, New York, 3 February 2021) The OECD Consensus has a long history but it’s still the only game in town. With the International Working Group now in stasis, is that a problem, or is it going to focus minds on reform? The ‘Arrangement on Officially Supported Export Credits’ started out in 1978 building on the export credit ‘Consensus’ among a number of OECD countries in 1976 as a way of getting the world’s major exporting nations, in those days, the OECD countries, to agree on a level playing field for fair competition and, in the process, to rein in the huge export finance subsidies which were beginning to seem unsustainable even to the richest of them. The biggest pressures have been coming from outside the Consensus’s OECD core. Countries once indisputably not rich (e.g. China, India, Brazil, Russia and South Africa) moved from being exporters of primary goods and importers of capital goods to the opposite. Not all, but the size of the emerging exporting nations (China the biggest of them all) meant that their non-adherence to the OECD’s Consensus club created a need for a new forum. The International Working Group on Export Credits (IWG), was established in 2012 with the aim of trying to bridge the gap between them and the Consensus Participants. In November 2020, IWG technical groups were formally suspended for a year by 11 of the 18 countries (including the EU) due to the [Covid] freeze on IWG technical work. A new Secretary General has neither been so far agreed nor announced. The Arrangement has long had Sector Understandings, mini-‘Gentlemen’s Agreements’. At the moment, they cover aircraft, ships and trains plus energy and the environment (nuclear power, renewable energy, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and water projects, and coal-fired electricity). Time for new thinking is ahead. Like coral reefs, [10,000 years in development, quickly destroyed], the Arrangement is delicate, subject to abuse, but very valuable in parts to the world economy.

  • (TXF News, London, 1 December 2020) The International Chamber of Commerce Global Export Finance Committee’s Sustainability Working Group (ICC-SWG) is out to market with an ambitious initiative: to engage the export finance community in a discourse on how the industry aims to fulfil the UN’s sustainable development agenda, in a bid to develop both ECA policy and product.  The ICC-SWG, comprising 16 of the most active ECA banks (including a handful of global heads) and the Rockefeller Foundation - has invited industry players to have their say on how banks and ECAs can better align their SDGs within the export finance solution. A white paper, convened by the ICC and expected to be published in June 2021, will review the state of sustainable finance across the export finance landscape and propose both product and policy recommendations aimed at boosting the flow of export credits towards greater sustainable activity.

  • (TFX News, New York, 25 February 2021) What has Covid meant for ECAs and their ability to attract smaller companies? How are ECAs responding to the needs of these new clients and how are they broadening their financing partners? Once the pandemic imperative is over, will those smaller businesses be back for more? TXF talks to four ECAs [Sweden, Denmark, UK & USA] about their experience with SMEs – and finds out things may have changed for good. It’s long been on the wish list of export credit agencies to engage a broader range of corporates to provide export support. For whatever reason ... diversifying that ECA client base to help smaller companies’ exports has been a ‘nice to do’, and a bit of a struggle, rather than an imperative – until last year when the SME no longer seemed elusive. Towards the end of the summer, government attentions turned towards developing an SME product range for post-pandemic support for recovery. In July, UKEF launched its Export Development Guarantee programme which focused on larger corporates (for instance, Ford took up a £500 million facility focused on capital investment to support export growth). More recently, in December, however, UKEF announced its General Export Facility (GEF) for SMEs and corporates. [Is this a move to reduce the critique of ECAs as subsidizers of transnational corporations - the banks of Boeing? Or a desperate measure to stave off the Covid collapse of small business jobs?]

  • (Bloomberg, New York, 9 February 2021) Mota-Engil’s local unit is a joint venture with Shoreline Group, an independent Nigerian oil producer. The nearly $2 billion of financing required for the rail line will be sourced from Europe, Credit Suisse Group AG, Africa Finance Corp. and German state bank KfW are finalizing loans from export credit agencies, multilateral institutions and commercial banks. Mota-Engil SGPS SA, a Portuguese construction company, started work on the $1.8 billion railway line that will connect Nigeria with neighbor Niger. Critics have questioned the commercial viability of the Kano-Maradi line, particularly the priority given to a link to Niger at a time when government revenue is scarce. Niger, with a GDP about one-fortieth the size of its larger neighbor, exported goods worth an estimated $1.54 billion last year, according to the International Monetary Fund. While the Mota-Engil group is based in Portugal, the company was originally founded in Angola in 1946. The firm has previously built or refurbished railways in countries including Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, and recently announced other construction contracts in Ghana, South Africa and the Ivory Coast. Mota-Engil agreed in November to sell a minority stake in the company to state-controlled China Communications Construction Corp.

  • (Bloomberg, New York, 18 February 2021) Airbus SE generated 4.9 billion euros ($5.9 billion) in cash during the fourth quarter, while issuing cautious guidance on the pace of its recovery from aviation’s worst-ever crisis. Jet handovers are forecast to stay at 2020’s depressed levels this year, even as Airbus plans to ramp up production in the second half. In the meantime, airlines’ shaky finances will ripple back to Airbus. The planemaker’s cash flows will feel the impact from lower pre-delivery payments from customers, as well as a greater requirement to help finance plane purchases. The company may be required to finance 1 billion euros or more for its customers, though it hopes export credit programs will help to fill the gap.

  • (S&P Global, New York, 4 February 2021) Since Feb. 1, Britain and other high-income countries such as Israel and the United Arab Emirates have continued their vaccination programs apace, while even relatively rich African countries such as South Africa continue to lag. This stark divide in access to vaccines to combat the pandemic underscores structural problems in the developing world, and in Africa in particular, where there are significant barriers to financing the procurement of life-saving inoculations. Shortfalls in both funding and supply are also creating opportunities for China and Russia to export their vaccines to Africa as they seek to strengthen commercial and political relations with the continent. Multilateral development financial institutions such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank will be crucial to bridging the financing gap. National export credit agencies that offer government backed-financing for companies' international activities will also need a boost. China and Russia see 'real opportunity'... and "are likely to fill the gaps in Africa by providing vaccines at favorable pricing or as donations, said Pangea-Risk's Besseling. "They are seeing a real opportunity to extend their commercial, diplomatic, political and geopolitical security relations with the African continent," he said.

Volume 2, Issue 20

  • (Bloomberg, London, 26 February 2021) U.K. companies pummeled for nearly a year by pandemic shutdowns are turning to a century-old government agency with roots in the country’s drive to rebuild trade after the Great War to help them raise funds. Subsea 7 Ltd. on Thursday sealed a $500 million loan guaranteed by UKEF. The oilfield services company, and airlines British Airways Plc and EasyJet Plc, are among 5 firms that have secured a combined 6.3 billion pounds ($8.93 billion) of funding with UKEF support since the pandemic began. Alongside massive fiscal stimulus, export financing aid is another device in the government’s toolbox to help companies ride out a slump that caused the British economy to shrink about 10% in 2020.