A US$700mn syndicated loan to the giant Sadara project in Saudi Arabia has led to the biggest ever project finance involvement from the British export credit agency UKEF.

Standard Chartered was the agent bank and led a syndicate comprising JP Morgan, Mizuho Corporate Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), the Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ (BTMU) and Saudi Arabia.

The joint-sponsors, Saudi Aramco and Dow Chemicals, will use the finance to purchase engineering services from three companies in the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) space: Jacobs, Fluor and Foster Wheeler. While the three companies are American, the agreement with UKEF means they’ll source EPC services to the value of US$700mn from the UK.

The financing is part of an overall project finance package of US$19bn raised for Sadara, the largest petrochemical complex on earth.

UKEF’s coverage is the second largest by any ECA, following a US$5bn direct loan from US Exim. Export Development Bank Canada, the Islamic Development Bank, the Saudi Public Investment Fund, Kexim, K-sure, Hermes, and Coface are also involved.

Head of UKEF’s civil and defence projects John Snowden tells GTR that the transaction has been under discussion for four years and that “the UK is renowned for its EPC capabilities”.

In a busy week for the agency, it also signed a co-operation agreement with Bancomext, the Mexican ECA, which will “promote exports between Mexico and the UK through financing, co-financing and credit guarantees for export transactions of capital goods and services, equipment and other goods of interest to both countries”.