Colombia's Autopista al Mar 1 project - the largest of the 4G road programme - reached financial close in March 2019, making it the second project to close since president Iván Duque took power in 2018. This has significantly boosted market confidence that other projects in the programme will close over the course of 2019.
The build, operate and maintain project will improve mobility between Medellín and other important commercial centres, such as the Caribbean Coast (Urabá Antioqueño) and the Pacific Coast (Buenaventura), with construction including links to 12 cities plus the metropolitan region around Medellín.
Winning concessionaire Desarrollo Vial al Mar (Devimar) will also:
- improve and operate the 71km existing road between Santa Fe de Antioquia and Bolombolo
- build and operate a second carriageway on the 43km stretch between Medellín and Santa Fe de Antioquia
- build one tunnel and 39 bridges
ANI estimates that around 2.27 million people in Antioquia will benefit from the project with other transactions to reach financial close within the next months - good news for market participants who have seen the programme move at a sluggish pace since 2017.
Already under construction, the project completed 30% of expected works in March 2019.
The Devimar team include both local and international experience, something that was considered critical in the financing process. The team comprises:
- Strabag – 37.5%
- Sacyr – 37.5%
- Concay – 25%
Jesús Rodríguez Robles, general manager of Devimar, said: “To Devimar, reaching this financial close means a very important milestone. The strength of the Autopista al Mar 1 project is reflected in the vote of confidence from international and national banks. We are very satisfied because with these works we are going to bring development and well-being to Antioquia and Colombia."
Autopista al Mar 1 closed with financing totalling Ps2.23 trillion ($717.1 million). Unusually, the project was financed using dual-currency, with loans both in Colombian pesos and dollars.
The 15-year tenor loan included six different tranches:
- one dollar-denominated tranche totalling $220 million
- four peso-denominated tranches amounting to Ps1.34 trillion
- one URV-denominated tranche of around Ps190 billion
“The financing of Mar 1 had some of the most interesting and novel features ever seen in the 4G market. It was very challenging and also very rewarding to be a part of such a fantastic transaction,” said Clifford Chance’s senior associate Alberto Haito.
Colombian development bank Financiera de Desarollo Nacional (FDN) played a fundamental role in leading the financing, acting as the major lender and providing local currency to foreign institutions.
“We still see a relevant role for development banks in financing the 4G. Despite the presence of international institutions in al Mar 1, this shows that the market is not completely ready for all risks associated with the 4G programme,” an investor close to the project told IJGlobal.
Another source close to the deal commented that having a pool of institutions familiar with the Colombian market helped this deal reach financial close.
For Autopista al Mar 1, FDN provided senior debt totalling $553 billion ($178 million). Additionally, the institution provided credit for multilaterals, international banks and funds through its fund in pesos, essential to get the deal across the finishing line.
- Dollar tranche – SMBC, KfW IPEX-Bank, Société Generale
- Peso tranches – IIC, IDB (with IIC as agent acting on its behalf), FDN, ICO, CAF
- URV tranche – BlackRock
BlackRock participated in the financing through its debt fund Fond de Capital Privado Deuda Infraestructura Colombia, under the structure of BlackRock Infrastructure Management I.
Devimar launched the financing for the road in November 2017. IJGlobal reported at the time that SMBC was financial adviser to the sponsors.
Legal advisers on the financing were:
- Clifford Chance – to the lenders (international)
- Binder Grösswang Rechtsanwälte – to lenders (Austrian)
- Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría – to BlackRock
- Brigard Urrutia – to the lenders (local)
- Paul Hastings – to obligors and sponsors (international)
- Katten Muchin Rosenman UK – to obligors regarding the hedges
- Godoy & Hoyos – to sponsors (local)
The use of dual-currency financing, facilitated by FDN set the benchmark for what can be achieved in Colombia. This road project will also likely open doors for other international players who have long watched the market with interest from afar but been hesitant because of various risks associated with financing in local currency.
Key to ensuring deals stay on track will be the involvement of developments banks. Having international sponsors also helped attract the likes of Société Générale and KfW IPEX-Bank, new entrants to Colombia's 4G road programme.
As previously published by IJGlobal, the next projects expected to reach financial close will be:
Clifford Chance’s senior associate Alberto Haito told IJGlobal that he believes the 4G programme will get more active in 2019. “This year looks promising for some of the 4G projects going to international markets. We believe that in the short term we should see a couple more projects closing."