Infrastructure Bank of the Year-Andes and Infrastructure Bank of the Year-Latin America: SMBC

HEAD BANKER: Luis Fernando Perdigón

Long ago, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. (SMBC) set out to be a major player in Colombia’s 4G program to construct 30 new roads. Last year’s Autopista al Mar 1 was its sixth transaction.

“This is one of the biggest efforts we have done in years in Colombia,” says Luis Fernando Perdigón, head of project finance for Latin America at SMBC. “We decided we wanted to be the top bank in that space. We’ve spent a lot of time understanding the program with the government, the national infrastructure agency and FDN, the national development bank, and becoming comfortable with it.”

SMBC was financial advisor and structuring bank for Mar 1, one of the largest non-recourse project financings in Colombia’s history. It was also one of the most complex, involving international banks and multilateral agencies and multiple currencies.

SMBC was also instrumental in attracting institutional investors to provide local currency, according to Perdigón. The Odebrecht scandal limited the appetite of local banks.

Even though the deal was unfolding during a challenging investment climate in Colombia triggered by investor unease over Avianca Airline’s financial problems, sponsors secured almost COP2.2 trillion ($713 million) for Mar 1.

SMBC was also a lead mandated arranger for the $775 million loan by Brookfield Infrastructure and Digital Realty to fund the $1.8 billion purchase of Brazil’s Ascenty Participacoes, a data center platform in Brazil. Ascenty is the leading data center provider and telecom company in Latin America, specializing in colocation, connectivity and cloud computing. It was the first data center transaction in Latin America for SMBC.

Though uncertainty surrounding elections in Brazil, Mexico and Colombia depressed deal flow last year, Perdigón says the climate has improved. He cites a burst of activity at the beginning of 2019, reflecting a surge of deals that had been on hold. Activity continues to pick up in Brazil and Peru, while Colombia is stable, according to Perdigón.