Combining sustainable transport with regional development
Set-up in 2010, Société du Grand Paris (SGP) develops infrastructure projects for the public transport network of the Paris Metropolitan Area. When the French government introduced its National Low-Carbon Strategy (“SNBC”) in October 2020, highlighting the country’s ambition to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, SGP was tasked with designing and implementing the Grand Paris Express, a cluster of new rapid transit lines in the Ile-de-France region and the Paris Metropolitan Area. Alongside meeting national sustainability goals, the Grand Paris Express project aims to provide a better commuter service, as well as stimulate regional development and innovation.
To fund its sustainable transport services, the French state-owned company developed a Green Bond Euro Medium-Term Note (EMTN) Programme Framework under which it will only issue green bonds. The Framework, which received a Second Party Opinion (SPO) from Sustainalytics confirming it aligns with the Green Bond Principles, defines eligibility criteria in two areas: 1) The construction of new lines and line extensions, with almost 200 km of new automatic metro lines supplementing the 400 km of existing lines in the Île-de-France region; and 2) The construction and development of 68 new stations and seven technical centres.
Tenor and SGP’s strong sustainability story boost investor demand
Looking to launch its 2022 funding programme – expected to total around €7 billion – SGP asked NatWest to support in the role of Joint Bookrunner with a 20-year Green Bond issuance. NatWest has been a frequent lead manager since SGP’s inception, lead managing trades every year since 2019, including a new 30-year and 40-year issuance in 2020, and a 30-year bond in 2021.
SGP’s announcement of the deal marked the much-anticipated return of French Agency supply, resulting in strong demand as soon as order books opened, with investors in particular welcoming the 20-year tenor. Books peaked at €2.3 billion allowing the price to be tightened, and SGP opted for a final size of €1.75 billion.
With high orders from ESG investors, 27% of the allocation went to accounts in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, while French investors took 26% and UK investors 18%. Looking at investor type, Asset Managers made up the majority share of 54%, followed by insurers and pension funds with 23%.
ESG investors’ appetite highlights importance of transport sector going green
Damien Carde, Head of FBG DCM, NatWest, commented: “We are thrilled about SGP’s successful first transaction of 2022. The strong demand from ESG investors demonstrates the crucial role the transport sector plays in the transition to a low-carbon and greener economy and underlines the reputation of SGP as a green issuer with a strong credit and sustainability story.”
Caroline Haas, Head of Climate and ESG Capital Markets at NatWest, added: “We are delighted to have supported SGP with their first green bond issuance for 2022, reopening the French Agency public market. The transport sector is a major emitter of greenhouse gases, and it is therefore very encouraging to see companies such as SGP pursuing ambitious low-carbon transport plans, making a real difference. At NatWest we’re committed to helping organisations across the UK, Europe and the US access funding for their sustainability journey.”
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