Project finance is the financing of long-term infrastructure, industrial projects and public services based upon a non-recourse or limited recourse financial structure, in which project debt and equity used to finance the project are paid back from the cash flow generated by the project.
Project financing is a loan structure that relies primarily on the project’s cash flow for repayment, with the project’s assets, rights and interests held as secondary security or collateral. Project finance is especially attractive to the private sector because companies can fund major projects off balance sheet.
The typical project financing structure (simplified for these purposes) for a build, operate and transfer (BOT) project is shown below. The key elements of the structure are:
• Special purpose vehicle (SPV) project company with no previous business or record;
• Sole activity of project company is to carry out the project – it then subcontracts most aspects through construction contract and operations contract;
• For new build projects, there is no revenue stream during the construction phase and so debt service will only be possible once the project is on line during the operations phase (parties therefore take significant risks during the construction phase);
• Sole revenue stream likely to be under an off-take or power purchase agreement;
• There is limited or no recourse to the sponsors of the project (shareholders of project company are generally only liable up to the extent of their shareholdings);
• Project remains off-balance-sheet for the sponsors and for the host government.