Bluebird Finance & Projects has closed a financing deal in Zambia, involving an Israeli bank and two export credit agencies, with another project expected to reach financial close within a few months.

The US$47mn financing package, which will support the construction of an agricultural centre in the north of the country, consists of a US$40mn, ECA-backed facility with a nine-year tenor and a US$7mn commercial facility with a four-year tenor.

The turnkey EPC agriculture project includes the construction of modern cultivation and production infrastructure, irrigation systems and an advanced training centre. The financing package covers 100% of the contract value on a buyer’s credit structure extended to Zambia’s ministry of finance.

The lender is Israel Discount Bank, with Israel’s ECA Ashra and an unnamed European ECA backing the deal. The drawdowns commenced in early December and construction has now started. The project is expected to be completed in approximately two years.

The main contractor on the project is Israeli company Green-2000, which is working with a European sub-contractor, which has not been named. Green-2000 is behind a range of similar agricultural projects across Africa.

Israel-based Bluebird, a financial services firm specialising in facilitating solutions for large-scale infrastructure projects, structured the package and led the process until closing.

The firm is currently finalising a similar financing deal for a second agri-centre in Zambia, which is expected to be closed within the next four months and will include other banks and ECAs.

The aim is that the two centres will provide labour and know-how for thousands of local farmers and improve the level of agricultural technology in Zambia.

Commenting on the deal, Ram Shalita, CEO of Bluebird, tells GTR: “For the other large finance deals that we have closed in the recent three years with Zambia’s ministry of finance, which are now in advanced stages of construction, the ministry of finance always pays well on time the interest and principal. It’s clear that they have reduced dramatically the borrowing of new loans in the last year, and this agri-project is one of the very few deals that got their approval.”

Bluebird has previously led the closing of two other financing deals in Zambia, for a housing project and a new hospital. The latter, which GTR reported on a year ago, involves a US$165mn financing package provided by four banks and backed by two European export credit agencies. Construction of the hospital, located in Lusaka, is scheduled to be finalised in 2021.