Takeaways From TXF Global 2024 In Athens

I was lucky enough to attend TXF Global in Athens last week, the annual jamboree of the great and the good of the world of export, project and development finance.
Worldwide Finance and Banking
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I was lucky enough to attend TXF Global in Athens last week, the annual jamboree of the great and the good of the world of export, project and development finance. It was a particular pleasure to attend with a stellar cast of NRF colleagues from London, Paris, Amsterdam and Milan.

Here are my key takeaways:

Optimism rules

There were plenty of mentions of the geopolitical, economic, social and environmental challenges the world is facing. However, what shone out from conference sessions, and from speaking to delegates, was the sheer optimism about the crucial role that export credit agencies (ECAs), development finance institutions (DFIs) and multilateral agencies will continue to play in helping to mitigate those issues. While other financing markets show signs of slowing down, this market is set to grow, even after a record year in 2023.

Focus on Europe

It's conventional to think about emerging markets when talking about export, project and development finance. However, the data from TXF shows that, in terms of regions, borrowers in Europe received the biggest slice of the ECA financing market in 2023, and the same is expected to be the case in 2024 too. The focus on Europe can probably be explained when considering the proliferation of climate-related projects (including electric vehicles, gigafactories and energy storage) as well as defence exports in the region.

Frontier and emerging markets

But what does this mean for frontier and emerging markets? It's obvious that the financing needs of these economies continue to grow. There was an acknowledgment that countries are at different levels of development, and there is therefore a need to be flexible in structuring transactions to take into account local realities. One common thread was that ECAs, DFIs and multilateral agencies will continue to have a critical role in attracting private capital to these markets.

Innovation

We heard a lot from market participants about the various innovations ECAs, DFIs and multilateral agencies have introduced over the past 10 years or so. One of the key themes was the focus on untied financings, as export credit agencies have supported political or diplomatic aims of their governments (without a clear link with exporters from the relevant country), including for example:

  • providing financing for reconstruction or defence in Ukraine; and
  • supporting the transition to net zero across the globe.

The expectation is that ECAs will continue to innovate to help to achieve their aims, including energy transition and security.

As ECAs are increasingly involved in climate-related projects involving new technologies, one speaker noted that ECAs are effectively taking venture capital-type risks on new technologies while getting debt returns. There was a suggestion that more ECAs may in future make equity investments in projects (in order to benefit from VC-like returns), as well as providing debt/guarantees.

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