Strong demand for EBRD support expected to continue this year
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) increased its investments in 2014, meeting rising demand from emerging economies grappling with protracted weakness and the impact of geopolitical tensions.
The rise in EBRD financing to €8.9 billion from €8.5 billion in 2013 came despite a sharp fall in its investments in Russia
following guidance from shareholders in July that they would, for the time being, consider no new projects in the country
As a result the Bank was able to invest more strongly in other countries that it serves. Demand is expected to remain high in 2015 with investments roughly in line with 2014 levels.
Financing for Russia accounted for just seven per cent of the total last year, with investments falling to slightly over €600 million from €1.8 billion in 2013.
There was a strong increase in activity for Central Asia, particularly in Kazakhstan
, where the Bank teamed up with the authorities to help re-energise the reform process
Investments also rose in countries in the Balkans, the Caucasus and in eastern Europe, where the EBRD re-engaged energetically with Ukraine
after the new administration embarked on a programme of economic reform. Kiev also signed up to an Anti-Corruption Initiative
, a major step forward in its bid to improve the investment climate.
The Bank continued to build up its presence in the southern and eastern Mediterranean region, where its portfolio has now topped €1.5 billion across Morocco
. 2014 investments in Egypt, by far the largest economy in the region, rose to €593 million, primarily in the private sector, from €151 million in 2013.
Separately, the EBRD responded to a request to apply its private sector expertise in helping Cyprus
emerge from a severe crisis. Its first investment was the acquisition of a stake in the country’s largest bank, Bank of Cyprus
. The EBRD opened an office in Cyprus in December.
The EBRD’s investments increased in 2014 as emerging economies continued to suffer due to events surrounding Russia and Ukraine, a stubborn lack of recovery in the eurozone and the global market turbulence that erupted towards the end of the year.
These developments will have weighed on the EBRD’s 2014 net earnings, reflecting particularly the impact of the severe economic downturn on the Bank’s operating assets in Ukraine and the effect of the steep fall in the rouble on its Russian equity holdings.
However, the vast majority of the EBRD’s loan book is performing well, producing stable interest flows and the Bank made another large realised profit in 2014. The EBRD has a very strong capital base and remains well placed to weather volatile markets.
In 2014, the EBRD stepped up efforts to prepare economies for more robust growth once the recovery is under way and to make them more resilient to future external shocks. This is part of a broader strategy that also involves forging greater economic integration and addressing global challenges, such as climate change and energy security.
In regard to economic resilience, the Bank concluded agreements with authorities on measures to improve the investment climate and governance standards in Albania
, in addition to launching the Anti-Corruption Initiative in Ukraine.
It also stepped up investment in sustainable energy projects, which now account for one-third of the Bank’s annual investment volume. In the run-up to crucial climate talks in Paris this year, demand for the EBRD’s expertise in sustainable energy financing is increasing, even from countries that are not EBRD members.
At the same time, the Bank is working with other multilateral development banks to help shape the post-2015 development agenda. It aims in particular to mobilise private finance that can help deliver the UN’s Strategic Development Goals.