Oslo-headquartered Export Finance Norway (Eksfin.no), the result of a merger between former government agencies GIEK and Export Credit Norway, has opened its doors and is fully operational from 1 July 2021.
The merger of the two predecessor agencies forms part of a larger redesign by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries of the government apparatus around export promotion and export credit financing. The improvements are designed to increase the quality and efficiency of services and make the system easier to navigate for end users.
“We want to make official export financing more accessible, more efficient and easier to understand. The merger will benefit new and existing users in their internationalisation efforts. This is important as activity increases after the pandemic,” says Minister of Trade Iselin Nybø.
“There are only advantages to this merger. Exporters and their customers can now partner a simpler and more accessible organisation while streamlining the export credit process also benefits the Norwegian state,” says incoming Eskfin CEO Tone Lunde Bakker.
The entire range of products and services available previously from GIEK and Export Credit Norway remain on offer, and the Norwegian government will continue to back Eskfin’s AAA-rated guarantees.
“Crucially, combining the administration of both loans and guarantees means customers, banks and financial institutions will co-operate with just one state-run organisation, instead of two,” says Lunde Bakker.
Exporters, loan recipients, banks and financing institutions will have one point of contact both for new loans and guarantees and all ensuing follow-up. Transaction-based advisory services will also be accessible from just one organisation, while there will be just one departmental team involved in negotiations for both new business and restructurings. The need for coordination between the government as loan provider and as guarantor in the same transaction is also eliminated.
Simplified loan documentation is another important benefit, as well as a single marketing stream and overall fewer personnel to deal with.
Focus on key sectors
In 2020, Eksfin’s predecessors issued, respectively, NOK 15 billion (EUR 1.5 billion) in risk capacity through state guarantees and 18 loan transations worth NOK 3 billion in total. Eksfin will continue their focus on key international markets including Energy (hydropower, offshore wind and wind power, battery and solar power technologies, and offshore oil and gas); Maritime (shipyards including subcontractors); Seafood (aquaculture and fishing technology); Finance (trade finance and insurance); and Mainland Industries (energy-intensive industries including defence and high-end manufacturing).
Given that global demand for hydrocarbons will likely decrease in future, Norway’s unique expertise and technology competence gained from oil and gas form an ideal springboard from which to build up new, large and sustainable industries with integrated value chains and complete ecosystems already in place.
“As Norway reduces its dependence on oil and gas, the development of greener industries and new technologies is a key export priority,” says Lunde Bakker.
There is particular growth potential in renewable energy such as offshore wind and innovative hydrogen and battery technologies. Many of Eksfin’s recent loans are to green projects such as hybrid-electric ships, conversion of offshore vessels, and supply and services for major offshore wind projects around the world.
New export council
The government is further strengthening the export-credit financing system with the creation of a dedicated Export Strategy Council to be based in Ålesund in Møre og Romsdal county – a region with a long tradition and strong cluster of export-oriented companies. The council will work closely with industry, key national research funding and advisory organs and the Foreign Ministry to identify, prioritise and develop strategic export initiatives targeting new and fast-growing markets worldwide.
Lunde Bakker, who will begin in her new role on 2 August, will be a familiar face to those who already know the commercial banking sector in the Nordic countries. She was formerly managing director of Swedbank Norge and brings with her many years of customer-facing credit expertise and leadership experience.
“I very much look forward to getting down to work as part of the Eksfin team. We will do our utmost to help boost Norwegian exports and contribute to the repositioning of the Norwegian economy, especially after what has been a challenging year for exporters in light of the pandemic,” she says. “I invite interested parties to contact Eksfin regarding international project and risk financing. Backed by the state, we have deep pockets and an excellent portfolio of financial instruments available on competitive terms.”