The launch of the financing for the Maaden aluminium smelter adds yet another major project to the huge financing requirements in Saudi Arabia.
Bankers in the kingdom are forecasting that this year there could be well over $30bn of projects financed in Saudi Arabia alone.
That would make the kingdom the biggest project finance market in the GCC, dwarfing the total value of project finance deals agreed throughout the entire region in 2009.
But with the summer slowdown approaching, and despite the long list of projects on the drawing board, there is still no sign of a project actually managing to complete its financing.
Saudi Aramco’s two huge oil export refinery deals at Jubail and Yanbu have yet to close, despite the sponsors hoping to get the first project, the Jubail refinery, financed before the end of 2009. Many bankers in the kingdom now wonder if the second refinery, at Yanbu, will be financed before Jubail, although that seems unlikely.
What is clear is that the failure to complete any deals so far this year does not bode well for the rest of 2010. It increasingly looks likely that some of the deals planned for this year will slip into 2011. This is surprising as every time a new deal is launched in Saudi Arabia, lenders have shown themselves willing to offer more cash than sponsors actually need. The sticking point tends to be pricing.
With so many different sources of funding, including government loans, bank debt, bond issues and export credit agencies, all at different interest rates and in different currencies, it is increasingly difficult for sponsors and financial advisers to structure deals in a cost-efficient manner.
That means that while an appetite for financing projects has returned, sponsors still face long delays in getting their projects financed.