Supporting UK companies with innovative trade finance solutions

UK Export Finance hasn’t just explored the world to find the best clean energy opportunities for UK exporters, it can also provide the financial support to pursue them

Between 2020 and 2021, UK Export Finance (UKEF) provided £12.3bn to launch UK exporters into the global supply chains. When private finance vanishes and the market gets tough, UKEF is leaving no stone unturned to help exporters sell internationally.

Supporting over 100,000 UK jobs

If you’re an exporter who needs financing, UKEF can help. The sums involved are huge. UKEF provided £12.3bn during 2020-21 alone; 79% of which went to SMEs and all of it involving UK supply chain operators.

The knock-on effect is massive. Up to 100,000 UK jobs were supported by UKEF in just 12 months.

This is because finance makes trade happen. And UKEF provides insurance, guarantees and loans where the private sector will not, backed by the strength of the government’s balance sheet, to keep the wheels of trade turning.

This is not just for big business. Last year, individual support was as small as £297, all the way up to £1.1bn. With UKEF’s support ready to reach hundreds of global markets, the scale of the potential for UK exporters is massive.

Connecting UK companies with global opportunities

Sometimes knowing the opportunity exists is the first step towards unlocking it. And UKEF connects companies with overseas opportunities in many ways. It helps: UK businesses, large and small, to access the finance, insurance and guarantees they need to export; overseas investors to buy British products and services, with direct lending; commercial lenders to invest abroad, by guaranteeing their loans; UK exporters trade with peace of mind, by insuring them against default; global businesses to expand their UK-based supply chains.

To further connect UK businesses with overseas opportunities and buyers, UKEF hosts supplier fairs. These are one-day events that place relevant UK SMEs directly in front of international buyers, who are actively looking for UK products and services for their overseas projects.

The benefits for the UK are clear. In just one year, UKEF managed to help connect more than 500 UK companies with international opportunities through supplier fairs before the pandemic.

One such company was a Scottish family-run firm, BHC Ltd., which won a £20m export contract to provide 8,000 tonnes of steelwork and 100,000 square metres of metal decking for the Kumasi Market in Ghana after being introduced to a partner at a UKEF-run supplier fair event.

UKEF helped us secure this huge international contract. Not only has this helped our business, but it has also bolstered the local economy during these difficult times

Brian Hewitt, managing director at BHC Ltd says: “UKEF helped us secure this huge international contract. Not only has this helped our business, but it has also bolstered the local economy during these difficult times.”

UKEF also has a network of international finance executives that engage with overseas governments and multinational companies looking to buy from the UK, creating trading opportunities for British businesses.

Through financing, UKEF has supported UK businesses to export to a diverse range of projects, these include providing guarantees of £500m to finance several offshore wind projects in Taiwan. One of these, the Greater Changhua 1 Offshore Wind Farm, has a capacity of 605 MW, powering more than 650,000 households, enabling Taiwan to generate 20% of its power from renewable sources by 2025.

Within the provision of these sites several UK companies benefited, including Trelleborgs from the North West and East Anglian-based firm Seajacks. “This contract is an important milestone for Seajacks,” says Sebastian Brooke, Seajacks’ COO. “This is the second major UKEF-backed project we have supplied in Taiwan, and we are proud that British vessels will be installing these offshore turbines that will help power Taiwan’s green energy revolution.”

UKEF has become a shock absorber to the markets

UKEF is a pathfinder and treasure hunter for clean energy opportunities in hundreds of countries globally, with over £7bn in sustainable deals since 2019. It is currently ranked first in the TXF global sustainable finance league tables for 2021, among its Export Credit Agency (ECA) peers.

During the pandemic, UKEF stepped up and became a shock absorber to the markets, says Richard Simon-Lewis, a member of UKEF’s executive committee with over 20 years of experience working in renewable energy and clean growth sectors: “It increased its capacity to support exports to around 120 markets making it easier to support international projects with long-term growth potential to increase UK trade and create opportunities for British business.”

We’ll still offer clean energy finance throughout choppy waters

UKEF has now expanded its support with new and upgraded products that will benefit those in the green economy. It has a hefty £2bn direct lending facility dedicated to financing clean growth projects overseas. It has also introduced more flexible products, the Export Development Guarantee (EDG) and the General Export Facility (GEF), which give companies vital financial backing for their general financing needs, not only those linked to specific contracts.

UK businesses are invited to connect with UKEF’s export finance managers around the UK on how to take advantage of these schemes, with UKEF’s expertise and opportunities going way beyond offshore wind, solar PV, desalination and healthcare.

Simon-Lewis says: “We know the markets are not magically going to recover following the pandemic. We need to be there for those SMEs and when the going gets tough, we need to keep going and turning stones over to track those opportunities down for these companies in their hour of need.”

UKEF promises that this financial support will remain even as the recession bites and private finance is hard to access, Simon-Lewis adds. “We complement, not compete with the private sector, or commercial banks in providing liquidity. When the market tightens up and the tide goes out in terms of risk appetite, that’s where ECAs come into their own.”

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