Standard Bank Group arranges first renewable energy bond in South Africa

Standard Bank Group has acted as the sole lead arranger for South Africa's first - and only the world's third - renewable energy bond for concentrated photovoltaic energy . The R1-billion, 16-year solar financing bond (closed on 29 April), with an 11% coupon was raised for French renewable energy firm Soitec.

Alexi Contogiannis, of Standard Bank Group's Debt Primary Markets unit, says: "This is truly a landmark deal both for South Africa and Standard Bank Group. The size of the issue and level of interest from a broad range of local investors is a clear indication of the substantial appetite and viability of clean energy projects in South Africa."

For South Africa, the bond sets a valuable precedent on how to fund future renewable energy projects for consortia that are at least triple B rated. It is not only the largest but also the longest-dated bond, 16-years, in South Africa, outside of issues by South Africa's "big four" banks themselves. It is also the first ever publicly-listed project bond issued to finance a solar power plant based on concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) technology.

As one of the leading players in South Africa's debt capital market (DCM), Standard Bank Group was selected by the project consortium to place the debt into the market. The bank has already played a leading role in debt and equity finance of South Africa's Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer (REIPP) procurement process.

Soitec is a world leader in generating and manufacturing extreme performance semiconductor materials for the electronics and energy industries, and the technology being used in South Africa is no less revolutionary, being ideal for very sunny climates.

The R1-billion bond will be used to fund the development and construction of one of the world's largest CPV generating facilities. Based at Touwsrivier in South Africa's Western Cape province, the power plant is scheduled for completion in June 2014 with a final generating capacity of 44 MW. Commercial operation of the first installed systems will begin shortly in mid-2013. In total, more than 1 500 high efficiency CVP systems will be erected on the site.

Soitec's Gaetan Borgers says: "Leveraging our world-class manufacturing facilities, Soitec continues to execute its pipeline of over 440 MW of utility-scale projects at various stages of development, and will develop such new opportunities in South Africa as they arise. The success of this transaction highlights that Soitec can plan, finance and deliver utility scale power plants based on CPV technology. Our presence across the entire value chain is an important part of our business model."

According to the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2010) launched by South Africa's Department of Energy, about 42% of the electricity generated in the country will come from renewable resources by 2030. Government has already allocated or identified more than 17 800MW of clean energy production for the country's long-term power plan.

Mr Contogiannis says that to achieve this ambitious target, public and private financiers will have to work closely to develop and grow the sector.

A consortium of Standard Bank, Trident Capital, Deloitte and Webber Wentzel Attorneys advised Soitec throughout the transaction, with Standard Bank Group acting as lead manager, book runner and debt sponsor for the offering. Moody's, the credit rating agency, assigned the Touwsrivier project an investment grade rating of

Mr Contogiannis says that five years ago transactions of this scale and type were not even being considered.

"The pace of development of the clean energy sector in South Africa has highlighted the huge funding requirements that will be necessary to build and grow the sector. We are optimistic that this transaction will be the first in a series of such issuances for renewable energy projects as consortia come to realise that the DCM forms an important option for capital raising, one that complements more traditional sources of bank finance and equity," he says.

Standard Bank Group recently signed a R20-billion funding support agreement for renewable energy projects in South Africa with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC).

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