The year 2021 was peppered with communities struggling to overcome the pandemic and as it spreads rapidly across the globe, Asia was not spared. The region, however, have seen how businesses and financiers overcame the tumult of the times to complete landmark financings. But even as the Covid crisis stabilizes, 2022 is ushering in challenges of a different variety. The benign monetary conditions of the past decade have reversed course. Rate hikes are the norm. Meanwhile, a war in Europe has broken out. Food price rises now join elevated commodity prices pushing up inflation to levels not seen since the 1980s.
Although these are clear and present dangers, longer term trends remain intact. For example, embedding green and sustainability elements in financing has accelerated. In 2021, there were plenty of firsts: Hong Kong’s first green loan to support a property acquisition; Taiwan’s first green loan in compliance with the Asia-Pacific Loan Market Association’s Loan Principles; and a multi-tier sustainability-linked loan for a commodity company in Singapore linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals spanning six continents.
As the year came to a close, a total of just under US$80 billion in green and sustainability-linked loans were raised, the fifth consecutive quarter-on-quarter growth based on DebtWire data. The volume in 2021 is more than twice the total of the previous two years combined. From less than 3% at the start of 2020, green and sustainability-linked loans now represent a third of the total syndicated loans as of the first quarter of 2022.
Just as notable is the continuing rise of emerging technologies. The pandemic has fast-tracked digitization of business and commerce. In turn, capex requirements such as for data centres, battery electric vehicles, energy storage, telecoms, and other smart technology and infrastructure have ramped up. Financing involving private equity acquiring these assets has stayed the course bringing leveraged finance activity for PE-backed buyouts to US$18.4 billion, nearly double the level a year ago.
Although opportunities abound in the Asia-Pacific syndicated loan market, the lending landscape is also changing. Liquidity conditions have tightened as a result of hawkish central banks. Inflation is on the rise and business conditions could turn more challenging. A slower growth outlook is now expected with the International Monetary Fund trimming the region’s growth outlook to 4.9% from the 6.5% in 2021.
The Asset Events, in association with DBS, is pleased to be hosting a discussion forum on the outlook on syndicated lending – Beyond Covid: Emerging trends in a changing lending landscape. The forum will bring together financial institutions, lenders and lawyers actively participating in the lending market.
Asean-6’s macroeconomic landscape is in a tug of war. On one end, the region is benefiting from opening tailwinds as the pandemic woes reverse. On the other, multiple challenges and shocks from Europe’s geopolitical conflict, rising inflation and tightening US monetary policy are complicating the region’s recovery.