Japan’s largest ever project finance deal has been arranged by SMBC and Mizuho Bank, worth US$1.68bn.
The deal will see the construction of two new airports at Osaka, with the ownership of the airports remaining in the hands of publicly-owned New Kansai International Airport Co. Private companies will be charged with their operation.
The debt has been syndicated to 13 commercial and non-commercial lenders, however only the Development Bank of Japan, BTMU and Credit Agricole have been named in the Japanese press as syndicate members. Neither arranging banks responded to requests for information from GTR. However, it’s reported that the syndicated loan will be for a 30-year, 40% portion of the overall debt value.
The deal marks a new phase of Abenomics, according to Japan watchers, where infrastructure projects could potentially account for a portion of fiscal stimulus. “More airports are surely a good idea given that tourist arrivals have surged. The port infrastructure could also be better,” Marcel Thieliant, Japan analyst at Capital Economics tells GTR.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Competitiveness Report for this year, “Japan benefits from excellent infrastructure and one of the world’s healthiest workforces, with a life expectancy of over 80 years.” The same report states that Japanese transport infrastructure is the fifth-most competitive in the world.
However, it only ranks 25th for quality of air transport infrastructure. The idea of expanded air traffic has been given an airing by way of improving this, while there is a move to improve port infrastructure as well. Each of these, by default, would improve trade links and capacity.
And while Japanese banks companies have – as ever – been as active in projects in areas as diverse as Egypt, Sri Lanka and the Marshall Islands, further opportunities are appearing for investors, both domestic and international, on Japanese turf. There continues to be a ramping up of renewable sector projects, a by-product of the closure of its nuclear reactors following the Fukushima disaster in 2011.
This week, the Thai Solar Energy board approved investment in solar power plants in Japan, which will raise the company’s overseas production capacity to 100MW. Simultaneously, Idemitsu Kosan Co, a Japanese company, is pushing ahead with a large carbon capture test project in Hokkaido, despite fears that the technology is being deployed in an area prone to earthquakes.
Away from the renewables sector, the Japanese government’s decision in February to abandon opposition to building new coal-fired power station has been criticised, coming on the heels of the Paris Accord on carbon emissions agreed by 200 countries late last year.
Japan’s power retail market will open in April, leading to the construction of 43 coal-fired plants, increasing the capacity from the fuel source by 50%. While most of the non-producing world is reaping the benefit of historically low energy prices, Japan’s energy costs have risen extensively since 2011.
This, too, will have a bearing on the country’s transport infrastructure investment, according to Thieliant: “At the margin you might see more air travel and therefore more need for airports. What we haven’t seen is any pickup in car purchases so I think there should be little need to build additional roads in particular as the population is shrinking,” he says.