Dear Clients and Friends of Fieldstone,
Lockdown Week 73, or so it seems… Yes, this will continue for a while in some form even in the best case. But just like golf, which I do not play (so I do not miss playing), we have to continue to advance the ball from where we find it and make the best of it. No question about it, the global macro-economic ball is in the rough.
Nonetheless, Fieldstone and practically all addressees of this note are in a comparatively privileged position. We are in a long-term business where we must reflect on, propose, model, structure and negotiate large capital transactions that are essential to the economy as a whole. These transactions will continue, and we are not required to show up physically in the same way to make things happen as is the case in other branches of business currently laid low by this virus.
We are used to operating internationally across continents and time zones, and conference and video calls at all hours are nothing new. Continuity over time also has its advantages: our contacts and engagements stretch over the nearly 30 years of Fieldstone’s existence. We have known many of you and the market has known us for a long time. Finally, changing circumstances in finance have always been a key element of this business – so the current context which essentially entails a massive speeding up of many changes – is just a greater challenge in kind. We are thankful to have senior professionals who have seen a lot of difficult situations to draw upon in this most extreme instance.
Beyond the news of the day, the general message stays the same. There will be investable capital in the system and that money will need to be engaged and deployed carefully – surely everyone will seek to do so even more so than before. That process will require exacting advice and preparation. We aim to provide such assistance as we collectively work through the current malaise and beyond.
Fieldstone migrated all of its operations online ahead of the various lockdowns in the middle of March. As many of you have conveyed to me, we have also found some surprising efficiencies in using a global virtual platform in terms of even more tightly knitting together our presence in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas. We are gratified that almost without exception, the major projects and transactions that we are working on may have slowed, but have not been derailed. It is early days yet and one does not know where this all will take us, but we are confident that energy and infrastructure will be a key part in the recovery on the other side of this problem. So we prepare for the time ahead.
Here is a sampling of news from Fieldstone with that in mind.
Sovereign Fund Work
A key example of this commitment to the future is our newly signed mandate with FONSIS, the sovereign fund of Senegal, to work in tandem to raise and manage a fund for clean generation projects. It is our conclusion that even with the pricing of oil in the market, the drive towards clean energy solutions (and the cost and timing of those solutions) will accelerate the move toward green generation as well as the conversion to readily available gas. Taslimy Gassama, our Director in Dakar is spearheading Fieldstone’s efforts along with Christian Labare in Paris.
SDG 7 Pan-African Initiative
We have been supporting the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Sustainable Development Goal 7 Initiative since the fourth quarter of last year. The initial close scheduled for later this year is to secure refinancing for existing renewable generation on the continent. Subsequent tranches are to include new and ancillary projects. Proceeds are to be used by the government hosts to encourage further green development. The program was launched officially this February 11th in Addis Ababa with great fanfare. Currently, six countries have offered assets for the programme. The notion has drawn interest from private sector participants and development finance institutions. PIMCO, the world’s largest manager of funds, spoke out in support of the initiative at the Addis launch. While current market conditions make it impossible to forecast the exact timing, the need and importance of involving private capital in African energy has never been more important.
One of the most important topics in which we are involved is the restructuring of debt – both among private entities that have been effected by changes in demand (example: independent power producers facing force majeure suspension) and sovereigns who need assistance in navigating beyond debt holidays to debt reductions and debt rescheduling. In this regard, the questions go beyond energy and infrastructure to structuring and prioritizing all forms of debt and establishing a roadmap to recovery. There are few states or private entities in the market that have in house capabilities in this regard, but Fieldstone has senior bankers with relevant experience located in Africa, Europe and North America. Fieldstone also comes at restructuring as an independent bank anchored in the African market without the geographic or financial conflicts inherent in other advisories and balance sheet banks. We are able to act without fear or bias on behalf of our clients. Fieldstone is currently working with a large African holding company and in process with a sovereign in this regard.
Our development subsidiary FAIR continues to identify and move on opportunities to unlock smaller (50 MW and less, as a rule of thumb) renewable projects in Sub-Saharan Africa. FAIR has attracted a private investor with a public component to take advantage of its co-investment opportunities in transactions that are well advanced. More on that in the next correspondence.
At close, I am sure you are all inundated with advice both real and “alternative” about virus prevention. I think the most sagacious thought on behavior that I have yet heard is that one should behave as if they already have the disease – exercise social distancing, masks when that is less possible, limited interaction with groups of any kind. In this way, you are less likely to impact others and protect yourself. We are responsible to one another, and if there is a silver lining in all this, maybe that recognition will become more common.
We hope you all stay safe and look forward to progressing our common endeavours.
Chief Executive Officer