The purpose of this paper is to assess whether project finance loans were properly priced based on their risk before the crisis of 2008-2009 and what lessons can be learned under different market circumstances.
A literature review presents the structure of project financing, how banks are inspired to apply risk-adjusted price calculations for loans to create value for shareholders and how risk measurement differs by project loans. The authors adapt a general model for risk-adjusted pricing to project loans. Based on empirical parameters, assuming different margins and leverages, the authors estimate the implied maximum probability of default of projects, where project loans could produce value added to lenders. The authors compare these maximum probabilities of default with reference points.
The authors conclude that by the years of 2006-2007 several projects were very unlikely to produce any value added for shareholders and did not reach the minimum margin. Market and regulatory circumstances of 2016-2017 have significantly increased required margin levels and must shift lenders to a more conservative pricing and leverage policy.
Though the presented model is general, the simulation focusses on the European banking market.
In high market competition, banks tend to underestimate risk, underprice loans and loosen risk parameters. The crisis pushed banks back to a more conservative approach, however, the danger to return to a loosen project loan policy is real. The simulation shows how required prices are influenced by different market circumstances.
The paper adapts the risk-adjusted pricing methodology of standard loans to a new segment of project financing and gives an insight into the risk-pricing characteristics of project loans. The authors can draw down several valuable conclusions what how the market environment or project phases affect risk-adjusted pricing and the ability to produce value added to shareholders.
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