Francophone West & Central Africa’s First Corporate Green Bond Shows Strong Demand

  • Oversubscribed landmark local currency issue opens new market for green bonds and real estate corporate financing
  • Issuer is Emergence Plaza, owner of Côte d’Ivoire’s most visited retail complex Cosmos Yopougon – the first operational site in Francophone West & Central Africa to be awarded the EDGE green building certificate by the World Bank Group’s IFC
  • Developer behind Cosmos Yopougon, HC Capital Properties, plans further green bond deals to finance the development of more retail complexes in Francophone West & Central Africa


Abidjan, 12th August 2021 – A Côte d’Ivoire shopping mall owner has issued the first corporate green bond in Francophone West and Central Africa, with market participants expecting the deal to spur further issuance in the region.

The eight-year notes from Emergence Plaza, the owner of Côte d’Ivoire’s most visited retail complex Cosmos Yopougon, were issued today at a yield of 7.5%. Proceeds from the 10 billion CFA franc ($18.1 million) bond will be used to refinance an existing local bank loan and to reinforce the financial and operational strength of the company. The bond, which was oversubscribed, priced at 150 basis points lower than the 9% interest rate it was paying on an existing 8.4 billion CFA franc bank loan. 

The rapidly growing global market for green bond issuance has eluded most in Africa, with the continent accounting for fewer than 1% of the more than $300 billion of green bonds issued annually. Of the total $3.96 billion of green debt issued to date in Africa, just $64 million was issued by non-financial companies prior to the Cosmos Yopougon deal, according to data compiled by the Climate Bonds Initiative, a green finance advocacy group. Cosmos Yopougon is one of only three African non-financial companies to issue a green bond, following deals by Acorn Holdings in Kenya and North South Power Company in Nigeria. The issue also marks the first green bond from a West African real estate-related company.

“Much of Africa has been unable to benefit from the international clamour for green bonds to spur environmentally friendly commerce at competitive borrowing costs for those able to demonstrate their green credentials,” said Jean François Brou, Chief Executive Officer of Société Ouest Africaine de Gestion d’Actifs (SOAGA) in Cotonou (Benin), which manages 80 billion FCFA of assets and bought the Cosmos Yopougon bonds. “I expect this landmark deal will help kickstart more green bond issuance from local companies that see the value in aligning their businesses with independently verified ecological and business targets.”

Opening its doors in 2018, the Cosmos Yopougon shopping mall was the first operational building in Francophone West and Central Africa to be awarded the EDGE green building certificate by the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation—an initiative to encourage developers to design their buildings with resource efficiency in mind. EDGE’s monitoring software helps building managers reduce water and power consumption. Cosmos Yopougon cut its carbon emissions by 44% last year by using the EDGE system to optimise its energy use. 

“It is encouraging to see the success of Francophone West and Central Africa’s debut green bond, which we believe will be the first of many in the region,” said Kadi Fadika-Coulibaly, Managing Partner of Hudson & CIE, the placement agent of the transaction. “The development of this market is especially important in light of the UN’s recent climate change report, which underscores the need for issuers and investors to increase their focus on sustainability issues. At the same time, we also recognise the potential for green bonds to support more environmentally friendly real estate investment and development, so we believe this bond will pave the way for more issuance on that front as well.”

Cosmos Yopougon has teamed up with local clean tech companies to further expand the building’s sustainability initiatives, including collaboration with local waste recycling businesses. Through this initiative, the shopping mall managers measure precisely how much waste has been recycled on a daily basis, with a target of 20% of all waste to be recycled by the end of this year and 25% by the end of 2022. 

“Our experience shows that you can integrate climate initiatives, be cost efficient and ultimately deliver attractive returns for investors; it doesn’t necessarily cost more to be green,” said Cheick Sanankoua, co-Founder and Managing Partner of HC Capital Properties, which developed, financed, and manages Cosmos Yopougon. “This has helped put green financing on the map in the region—if you build green you can get access to competitive financing, which is a language people understand. Hopefully that gets more people to start thinking about alternative ways to improve their projects by making them ecologically sound.”

Cosmos Yopougon’s ethos is focused on both environmental and social sustainability. The shopping mall is targeted at low-to-middle income consumers—the first retail complex of its scale to serve this market segment in the Francophone West and Central Africa region. This has paid off by making Cosmos Yopougon the most visited shopping centre in the region, with a record 397,360 monthly footfall in May 2021 and a very high occupancy rate of 93%. HC Capital Properties plans to issue further green bonds to finance the development of more retail complexes in Francophone West & Central Africa.

“Our entire business model is centred on providing world standard retail and leisure without solely targeting the rich and elites,” says Sanankoua. “Cosmos Yopougon is the first of many shopping centres we intend to build in the future that caters to this market—all of which will support job creation and help formalise the economy as well as develop local supply chains and allow local stores and businesses to grow.”

Local placement agent Hudson & CIE structured and arranged the bond sale, while French law firm Gide was the legal advisor on the deal.

About Cosmos Yopougon 
Opened in October 2018, Cosmos Yopougon was developed by HC Capital Properties, a real estate investment and development firm focused on West & Central Africa, in partnership with SFO Capital Partners, the lead global investor in the project. Built on a 3 hectares site, the $30 million Cosmos Yopougon investment boasts ~14,000 of Gross Lettable Area with 60 tenants, including Carrefour, Burger King, Orange, MTN, Majestic Cinema, HA, Zino and Decathlon. For more information, visit: www.cosmos-yopougon.com|

About HC Capital Properties 
HC Capital Properties (“HCCP”) is a privately held investment and development company in the real estate sector with a focus on West & Central Africa. Founded in 2014, the company invests primarily in retail, office, hospitality & multi-family assets. As of June 2021, HCCP has been involved in transactions exceeding €400M in total value. HCCP bénéficie de l’expertise d’une équipe de professionnels en investissement ainsi que d’une équipe opérationnelle très expérimentée avec une importante expérience internationale dans l’immobilier, la banque, le private equity, la gestion immobilière et la promotion immobilière. For more information, email us at: info@hc-properties.com

About SFO Capital Partners
SFO Capital Partners (SFO) is a London-based global real estate investment management firm focused on investing in high quality assets acquired at attractive valuations with a clear path to value creation. SFO adopts disciplined investment strategies organized by asset classes and geographies. SFO’s hands-on approach to investing combines entrepreneurial agility with best-in-class practices, consistently delivering superior risk adjusted returns to its private and institutional investors.  As of July 2021, SFO has acquired a diversified portfolio comprising more than USD1.5 billion in assets located primarily in the USA and Europe, including 6,000 apartments and more than 7.0 million sqft of commercial real estate under management. For more information, visit: https://sfocapitalpartners.com/

 
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