UniCredit has become the foreign first bank to sign a strategic agreement with the Russian ECA Exiar.

The agreement will see the pair co-operate on Russian export contracts, with Exiar providing insurance for loans issued by UniCredit to foreign buyers.

Julia Petrova, UniCredit Russia’s head of global transaction banking, tells GTR that the agreement comes at a time at which demand for “classical buyers’ credit and suppliers’ credit” is rising, and at a time in which curiousity is strong over Exiar’s offering.

She continues: “It is understood that Exiar-covered facilities are still new to the market, practices are being shaped up now with clients getting to know and accustomed. Therefore we believe that at this stage it is important to keep certain flexibility, having said that we do impose very reasonable thresholds to the size of transactions.”

The pair has already earmarked a pipeline of projects that are set to benefit from the agreement. These are mostly infrastructure projects, Petrova confirms, including the construction of power plants and pipelines. “We are keen to participate in financing of such projects on a standalone basis or in co-operation with other financial institutions given the substantial size of the deals, often reaching several hundreds of millions of US dollars,” she says.

Since its inception in 2011, Exiar has embarked on a spate of agreements and memorandums. It has entered into understandings with the likes of Euler Hermes, Sace, Sibur and Coface. Initially, it was established with a mandate of diversifying Russia’s exports mix, but in a recent interview with GTR, the agency admitted that in order to support jobs, it had been forced to support oil and gas, petrochemicals and fertiliser deals too.

This agreement, though, will help Exiar continue with its original mandate, says Petrova.

“Currently we also notice a great interest and demand from the exporters to arrange Exiar-covered financing via suppliers’ credit schemes. These are usually goods or equipment of shorter production cycles. We can arrange Exiar-covered facilities for financing of single export contract as well as for financing of an annual trade turnover of the particular exporter with his several counterparts, who can be buyers from different countries,” she says.

“Demand on suppliers’ credit schemes is coming from exporters of a variety of industries, such as machinery, pulp and paper, food processing, petrochemicals and fertilisers. We are very interested in supporting not only bigger Russian exporters, but also smaller players to the Russian export market which goes in line with Exiar’s mandate.”