It seems green bonds, sometimes referred to as climate bonds, are becoming ever so popular by the day with issuance tipped to reach record levels in 2019. However a French railway firm has notched industry trend setting way up the charts by launching the world’s first 100-year green bond.
Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer Réseau (SNCF Réseau), France’s state-owned railway network management firm, which has already raised €2.8 billion ($3.10 billion) in green bonds in 2019 alone, confirmed Friday (August 23) that it has launched its 100-year product.
The near €100 million in book value raised would be used to finance green projects meeting its eligibility criteria for improvement, maintenance and “energy optimization” of railways. Some of the funds would also be allocated to sustainability components of new route and track extensions, the company said.
In total, SNCF Réseau has so far raised €5.4 billion in green bonds, nearly doubling the figure this year. Following the latest investment round in its green bond program, the French company now ranks seventh in the global green bond issuance market.
Green bonds are typically asset-linked and backed by the issuer’s balance sheet, earmarked to be used for climate and environmental projects. According to rating agency Moody’s, issuers brought $66.6 billion of green bonds to market globally the second quarter of 2019, propelling first-half issuance to a record $117 billion up 47% on an annualized basis compared to the first six months of 2018, and compared against the 11% year-over-year growth for the same six month periods of 2017 and 2018.
However, there has been criticism over the criteria for green bonds. On paper such bonds allow firms to raise finance for low carbon and climate-friendly projects thereby offering a promising solution to those looking to go green via climate initiatives.
But there have been instances of companies using the proceeds of green bond issuance to pay of other debts.
For its part, SNCF Réseau’s 100-year bond and previous issuance drives strictly comply with the European Commission’s green bond standard. The French railway network operator now takes over the title of the world’s longest maturing green bond from Energias de Portugal (EDP) and Energie Baden-Wuerttemberg (EnBW) whose bond had a maturity of 60 years.