This paper provides the first full-length empirical analysis of project finance, which is defined as “limited or non-recourse financing of a newly to be developed project through the establishment of a vehicle company.” The article compares the characteristics of a sample of 4,956 project finance loans (worth $634 billion) to comparable samples of non-project finance loans, all of which are drawn from a comprehensive sample of 90,784 syndicated loans (worth $13.2 trillion) booked on international capital markets since 1980.
The authors find that project finance (PF) loans differ significantly from non-project finance loans in that PF loans have a longer average maturity, are more likely to have third-party guarantees, and are far more likely to be extended to non-U.S. borrowers and to borrowers in riskier countries. Project finance credits also involve more participating banks, have fewer loan covenants, are more likely to use fixed-rate rather than floating-rate loan pricing, and are more likely to be extended to borrowers in tangible-asset-rich industries, such as real estate and electric utilities. Despite being nonrecourse finance, floating-rate project finance loans have lower credit spreads (over LIBOR) than do most comparable non-PF loans. The authors also report that projects funded with PF loans are heavily leveraged, with an average loan to value ratio of 67%.