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New Eksfin boss’ sustainability focus for Norway’s export finance setup

Photo: Eksfin Tone-Lunde-Bakker-CEO-Eksfin-2.jpg.png
Tone Lunde, Eksfin CEO
Tone Lunde Bakker took the helm at Norway’s newly restructured export credit agency, Eksfin, in August and has wasted no time in establishing new focus areas and adjusting the agency’s business models to reflect changing priorities across Norwegian industry.

She is clearly excited about new opportunities to support a new generation of entrepreneurs in Norway and their customers elsewhere.

Shipping’s ‘green shift’ is a priority and the government agency, the result of a recent merger of Export Credit Norway and GIEK, has already provided guarantees for close to one billion euros in the building of 35 more eco-friendly ships. They include cruise vessels for France’s Ponant, domestic ferry and cruise/ferry operators – Boreal, Color Line, Fjord1, Hurtigruten – and environmental components for Teekay Offshore Partners subsidiary, Altera Shuttle Tankers.

In a recent interview, Bakker revealed new priorities for the future. Norway, with the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, has no shortage of money. But the long-time banker, ex-CEO of Swedbank Norway, is aiming to channel Eksfin’s financial products into new arenas with strong sustainability credentials including floating wind, aquaculture, digital, and other high-end technologies.

Commenting on the merger, completed prior to her arrival, Bakker explained that Eksfin now provides a simpler one-stop option for clients who may be looking for finance, export guarantees. or both. “The due diligence processes are simpler, faster and more efficient,” she said. “We have more resources to speak to different companies, one person, rather than two, can explain the various products we offer.”

The merged entity has simplified matters at a higher level too. “There is closer cooperation between different Government entities working in export industries,” she said, referring to Innovation Norway, Norwegian Seafood Council, and Norwegian Energy Partners.

An early strategic adjustment has been to establish two divisions – one for large corporates, and one for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Bakker points out that 90% of Norwegian corporates are now SMEs, employing fewer than ten people, and some of the best ideas are hatched in these young companies.

Bakker explained that Eksfin is industry-neutral but noted a huge increase in potential business in renewables and related sectors. She singled out floating wind in particular, commenting that fixed-bottom wind can now access the capital markets and other forms of long-term infrastructure finance not yet available for floating projects.

She also highlighted the energy transition in action. “A lot of money that is being spent today [in floating wind] is coming from companies that have oil and gas revenues. Equinor, for example, is planning to invest about $23bn on renewable energy projects over the next five-to-six years.”

Bakker pointed to two new floating wind projects on the Norwegian Continental Shelf for which mandates have not yet been issued. She also highlighted Hywind Scotland, Hywind Tampen, a floating facility off the Norwegian coast, providing Power-to-X clean energy for offshore oil and gas installations, and a concept for a 1-GW floating facility in Scotland, with more than thirty times the output of Hywind Scotland. Equinor is also involved in two fixed bottom wind projects off the coast of New York state, forerunners to likely floating wind developments off the country’s west coast.  

In other moves, Bakker will be opening two regional offices outside Oslo, ‘cohabiting with Innovation Norway’. One office will be in Ålesund where the newly established Export Strategy Council is located. She is also extending Eksfin’s portfolio to cover export services, as well as products and assets.

As an example, this strategy is enabling the agency, together with bank DNB, to offer clients of coatings company, Jotun, the opportunity to lease rather than buy Hullskater robots to clean the hulls of their ships. This service is offered under the Jotun Hull Skating Solutions brand.

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