Gulf project finance: After globals leave, locals bridge the gap
Gulf project finance has become a tougher market since the credit crunch. But local banks are plugging some of the funding gaps and international banks will still take on sound projects if the terms are right. Nick Kochan reports.
LAST SEPTEMBER, a project to build the Rabigh power plant in Saudi Arabia was struggling. Some $3 billion had been arranged to finance the project but the consortium of funders was receiving instructions from home that they could not proceed as conditions in the credit markets were too uncertain. A number of the international players in the project invoked their material adverse conditions clauses and quit. Enter the latest Saudi Arabian bank to participate in project finance. Alinma Bank had only just got its licence from the local regulators when it was required to stump up $500 million to save Rabigh. Local and international banks observed that a new source of capital had arrived in Saudi Arabia. David Smith, Alinma’s head of project finance, syndication and real estate, says: "It was fortuitous. At the end of 2008, a lot of projects that had been secured by international banks were in difficulties. Banks had reneged or reduced their commitment. Projects were left high and dry. The projects had gone the traditional route, with 60% financed by international banks and 40% by local banks. This was putting a strain on the local banks’ liquidity.