The Andean region is known for many things, but geography is one of its defining features when putting together deals. Soaring peaks give way to verdant jungles and pristine beaches, as well as some of the continent’s most dynamic megacities. The terrain makes connectivity a major issue – but also an opportunity for project finance.
“The focus in the Andes is on connectivity and basic services. Despite all the progress this century, there is still a big need for infrastructure, from roads, to airports to water systems,” said Carlos López Rabadán, head of project finance in South America for BBVA.
BBVA, which wins Infrastructure Bank of the Year – Andes, has decades of experience in the region and has been involved in numerous iconic projects over the past year, including two which won awards in Colombia and Peru.
“We consider ourselves the bank for project financing. Our footprint combines our expertise, experience and the bank’s ESG spirit to get it right for our clients,” says López Rabadán.
He says that unlike other regions where BBVA operates, projects in the Andes are social and environmental projects at their core. Nearly everything is social because it is about connectivity and improving lives,” he says.
BBVA played an essential role in closing financing for the expansion of the Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima, Peru, which is adding a second runaway and vastly expanded terminal, and the Via40 highway in Colombia that is improving road connectivity, .
These projects were always going to be tricky, but they happened in the context of changing political winds that could have made a different bank take pause.
“In Peru, there was an unexpected change in government in December 2022, but we managed to close the airport deal while the situation was still undecided. There might be noise, but if you have the right people and know what is happening on the ground, deals can be closed,” he says.
The Lima airport deal was a $1.25-billion loan for Lima Airport Partners sponsored by Germany’s Fraport, with 80%, and the IFC with 20%.
The Via40 project, a 145-kilometer toll road being developed by France’s Vinci Highways, was a complex, multijurisdictional transaction that was first proposed in 2016. It took years to coordinate and, when concluded, set new project benchmarks for Colombia.
"Weeks before closing, the government decided to freeze the inflation indexation to toll tariffs, so we had to get creative and adjust last-minute the structure", he says.
It was the largest financing in Colombian pesos for a 4G highway project with loans in pesos and U.S. dollars, with BBVA providing a short-term revolving tranche, as well as a long-term tranche alongside development agencies and debt funds, such as Blackrock.
“The Lima Airport and Via40 are examples of high-standard projects with our very potent ESG standard,” says López Rabadán.