Environmental Finance's Sustainable Debt Awards 2024

Social bond of the year - agency: Bpifrance

In October 2023, Bpifrance, also known as the Banque publique d'investissement, issued its first-ever social bond.

The four-year bond with a 3.5% coupon raised €1.25 billion ($1.35 billion), with the order book over €2.9 billion.

Bpifrance stated that 88% of the proceeds from the bond will be allocated to support employment generation and preservation, specifically through financing for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in disadvantaged French territories and MSMEs affected by natural or health disasters.

The remainder will support projects including loans to finance innovation in underperforming areas, loans to finance digitalisation, loans supporting social inclusion, social and solidarity economy (SSE) organisations, education and health as well as export loans to developing countries.

Bpifrance says its desire to issue in the labelled social bond format was driven by the opportunity to highlight its "strong social and societal commitment in France by supporting SMEs in disadvantaged areas, by financing innovation, by supporting SMEs affected by a natural or health disaster and by providing solutions to reduce inequalities and give access to essential services".

One Sustainable Debt Awards judge praised Bpifrance's "clear outline of the intentional additionality of this social bond and commitment to social mobility."

Bpifrance's chief financial officer Jean-Yves Caminade, commented: "In line with our dedication to creating a positive impact on society, this Bpifrance inaugural social bond will fund projects and initiatives aimed at addressing critical social issues and promoting sustainable development. We believe that this endeavour not only aligns with our corporate values but also reflects our commitment to contributing meaningfully to the well-being of the French economy, in particular the entrepreneurs and SMEs."

Bpifrance raised €1.5 billion from a Covid-19 Response bond in 2020 and has raised €3.5 billion from green bonds since it first started issuing in 2021.

The bank has previously reported that from 2024, it expects half of its annual funding to be secured through green and social bond issuance.

Deal highlights

Issuer: Bpifrance
Size: €1.25 billion ($1.35 billion)
Maturity: 27 Sep 2027
Coupon: 3.5%
Use of proceeds: Access to essential services, employment generation and preservation including through the potential effect of SME financing, socioeconomic advancement and empowerment, basic affordable infrastructure
External reviewer: Ethifinance
Lead managers: Barclays, BNP Paribas, BofA Securities, Natixis, Société Générale