Industrial bank of Korea (“IBK”) successfully issued a US$600m 5-year Gender Equality themed Social Bond with a focus on women empowerment
On September 21, 2023, the Industrial Bank of Korea issued a US$600m 5-year gender equality themed social bond. Natixis acted as Active Joint Bookrunner and Lead Manager on what was the 1st USD gender equality themed social bond by an SSA issuer in Asia Pacific, and the first of its kind from the region. This collaboration represents Natixis’ inaugural social bond transaction from Korea and marks our first partnership with IBK.
The proceeds of the transaction will be channeled towards the financing and/or refinancing of new and/or existing loans extended to entities or projects within the Employment Generation Social Eligible Category (the Gender Equality Themed Social Bond Proceeds). This category focuses specifically on Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and start-up companies established for less than seven years at the time of financing and refinancing (the Social Eligible Category) in accordance with IBK’s Sustainability Financing Framework.
As part of its efforts to further address gender disparities in business ownership and leadership as well as promote women’s economic participation and increase their access to finance and markets, IBK commits to only target eligible SMEs and start-up companies that meet: (i) the definition of Woman-Owned Enterprise set forth by the International Finance Corporation or (ii) the definition of Female-Owned Business set forth under the Act on Support for Female-Owned Businesses and its Enforcement Decree; in furtherance of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No. 5, “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”
Capitalizing on the right market opportunity…
Natixis announced the deal roadshow on September 7th, prior to the week of the European Covered Bond Council - ECBC conference. After the announcement, from September 13th onwards, Natixis and other JLMs arranged a series of fixed income meetings and conference calls with around 40 investors across the US, Europe and Asia. This marketing exercise was organized to inform investors about their credit status and unveil their Sustainable Financing Framework and sustainability strategy. This allowed Natixis to connect with a wide range of investors, including both traditional and ESG-focused. The event sparked substantial interest as evidenced by the relevant questions raised, indicating strong investor appetite.
IBK capitalized the right market opportunity with limited competitive supply. On September 21st, IBK released Initial Price Thoughts for a $600m issue at T+115bps. There was strong demand, and the orderbook continued to increase peaking at $2 billion. The final spread was at an even tighter level of T+85bps. The final tightening of 30bps from Initial Price Thoughts demonstrated significant participation of global ESG investors.
IBK’s Sustainable Financing Framework to allow the issuance of green, social and sustainable instruments
In May 2023, IBK published its Sustainable Financing Framework - Table 1, which benefits from a Secondary Party Opinion provided by Sustainalytics. The Framework is aligned with the overall sustainability strategy of the Bank and has adequate measures to manage and mitigate environmental and social risks commonly associated with the activities and projects to be financed under the Framework. IBK is therefore well positioned to issue green, social and sustainability instruments.
The successful issuance of IBK’s gender equality themed social bond underscores the institution’s dedication to social responsibility and its pivotal role in advancing gender equality within the broader context of the bond market. IBK’s participation in this market not only amplifies awareness about the imperative of empowering women but also makes significant strides in bridging the gender gap, fostering a more inclusive and equitable world for all.
The strong demand from global investors also signals to the market that investors are hungry for such gender themed financing instruments, which encourages future issuances.