Italian export credit agency (ECA) Sace is backing a €1bn loan to Saudi Arabia’s finance ministry provided by a group of international banks, as it seeks to further accelerate exports to the Middle Eastern country. 

The deal is part of Sace’s Push Strategy, which supports domestic suppliers’ access to large buyers in international markets. The agency says it will boost commercial ties between Italy and Saudi Arabia, “thus enhancing business opportunities for Italian exporters”. 

“This includes potential participation in large-scale projects planned by Saudi Arabia in the coming years, in line with its economic diversification objectives as per the Kingdom’s ‘Saudi Vision 2030’ development plan,” it says. 

Italy’s exports to Saudi Arabia exceeded €4bn in 2022, and are expected to have risen by as much as 15% last year, Sace says, adding it is estimating a further 5% rise in 2024. 

Sectors targeted by the Vision 2030 programme include renewable energy, logistics, infrastructure and manufacturing, and the ECA says the deal will provide Saudi buyers with “privileged access to the Italian supply chain through business-matching activities”. 

Sace is providing 80% coverage for the loan, with HSBC Bank Middle East acting as ECA coordinating bank. Other lenders include BBVA, CaixaBank, Crédit Agricole and Santander. HSBC is also the agent bank, with Linklaters and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher acting as legal advisors. 

The borrower is the Ministry of Finance of Saudi Arabia, represented by the Saudi National Debt Management Center. 

Several recent Push Strategy transactions have focused on securing Italian energy imports, including a €550mn facility extended to trading giant Gunvor in December. That deal followed similar deals with Vitol, Mercuria and Trafigura. 

The first deal under the strategy, a €100mn loan for infrastructure development in Istanbul, was signed in 2017. 

The transaction also marks another large facility agreed between western funders and the Saudi government, after London-based Gemcorp Capital partnered with the Kingdom’s Ministry of Investment to launch a first-of-its-kind investment fund in October last year.