Ilona Wołyniec
Head of Strategic Customers Division
PKO Bank Polski

20 January 2020

PKO Bank Polski was established in 1919 and stands as Poland’s largest and most profitable bank. Its portfolio includes 70% retail and 30% corporate customers, and the scale of their business amounts to PLN 341 billion (~EUR 80 billion). The bank has branches in Germany and Czech Republic and is planning to expand further across the region.

How relevant is the energy sector to PKO Banks’s portfolio?

We finance all industries and with our portfolio being so large, the percentage is not very high. But because energy is crucial for the country’s economy we always finance this sector.  We financed the construction of the first coal based power plant in the 1980s, the transition to more efficient facilities and now we support renewable energy and the overall efficiency of the sector.

 

We still handle old financing which was contracted for the long term, but the intention is to not offer new money for coal mining. Going forward, we will be financing the transformation of the energy sector and renewable energy.

 

We already have the significant portfolio among local banks when it comes to wind farms (around PLN 1 billion) and we expect photovoltaics to also become part of our activity in light of new regulations in this segment.

Corporate PPAs have recently been introduced in Poland. What weight do these carry when you decide whether to fund RES projects?

This was previously the standard, without a PPA in place there would be no financing. But nowadays, while PPAs are nice to have, they are no longer the main aspect we consider in our decision to finance a project. 

We look carefully at auction results which weigh about 20% in our evaluation, PPAs weigh 40% and the remaining 40% is market price. The cost at which energy is produced is therefore a key element, because if the cost is marketable it means you can sell the energy.

Your new strategy is highly focused on integrating modern technologies, do you support energy companies that also have this goal? What other areas do you plan to finance with priority?

 

Distribution and transmission is the first choice, and we created special financing lines to help make these more efficient. If energy is not lost in the distribution process then companies do not need to produce as much.

 

In this sense we cooperate with the European Investment Bank, who also has special lines in place for this segment, and we try to mix our financing with that of multilateral institutions which is very important for big companies in Poland. Syndication is the main way of financing in fact, because the scale of projects requires it.

What are some of the most common risks associated with financing energy projects in Poland?

The biggest one is probably linked to regulation. We deal with long term financing so a stable framework is absolutely crucial. Secondly, all companies will need to spend money for CAPEX and their net debt to EBITDA is not high level, so the question is how to finance the new CAPEX if you have high leverage.

Further to this, new regulations require companies to mention the carbon footprint associated with the production process (for instance, they must mention on a bottle how much CO2 was used to produce it). This is an expectation that not all companies will be able to fulfill and we see this as a very risky element because it adds instability. Big companies can afford such changes, but those across their supply chain will have a harder time.

The financing landscape is varied in Poland, with seed investment available for startups and banks covering big scale project. What about the middle range, how can the bank support them?

We provide many lines of financing for medium sized customers, but compared to big clients they are not as ready for this transformation from a mentality perspective. They implement small changes for production processes but do not truly consider whether they are energy efficient for instance. If they still earn money, they are not motivated to invest.

So they need more education, but they also need support from big companies for which they are suppliers. Only by working together they can anticipate and participate effectively in this transformation. 

What objectives will PKO Bank Polski be pursuing with priority in the coming 2-3 years?

 

At this point the most important element is the quality of the projects, because financing is available and we are ready to offer it.

 

Our priority is to become more and more green in our financing, while also looking at the stability of the sector and the quality of our portfolio. We have a lot of liquidity and are ready to finance big infrastructure projects.

 

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