Dear friends of Norfund,
As we are approaching the end of the year, it is a good time to reflect on 2020. There is no doubt that 2020 will be remembered as a very special year. 2020 will become a term like 9/11. In the sense that it will be remembered not just by its date as such, but by what the year brough on.
So far this year more than 1.6 million people have been killed by the virus. Economically, the virus and the lock-downs have also brought on great sufferings.
According to the IMF, the world economy will be contracting by about 4.5% this year. By comparison, in the wake of the financial crisis, the global negative growth in 2009 was only -0,1%.
Unfortunately, far too many jobs have been lost during the crisis. Millions of people have been plunged into poverty, and Norfund´s mission is even more important now than before the pandemic.
For Norfund as a company however, the term 2020 will be remembered not just as a year of the corona, but for a year of both positives and negatives.
2020 – Lowlights for Norfund:
Increased poverty and setbacks in our markets
According to the IMF, as a direct consequence of Covid-19 some 90 million people are expected to be plunged into poverty in 2020. This contrasts to a steady decline in poverty during the last 30 years. In most of our markets the governments are unable to support companies and workers, and the informal sector is particularly hard hit.
Lockdowns and social distancing
With the Covid-19 travelling restrictions and home office rules, physical mobility and interaction within the team have been highly restricted. The digital way of working has its limitations. We have been unable to travel, to physically explore new opportunities and to visit our investee companies.
In March this year, Norfund was exposed to a serious case of fraud through an advanced data breach. The fraudsters were able to steal USD 10 million. This was a big blow to us, and we lost a significant amount of money that could otherwise have been invested in projects in our markets. The fraud showed that we as an international investor and development organisation, through active use of digital channels, are vulnerable. Consequently, a number of actions have now been implemented to limit our vulnerability.
2020 – Highlights for Norfund:
Our portfolio companies´ fighting spirit
During the first Covid-19 lock-down period, and in the midst of the March stock market plunge, we feared massive bankruptcies, lay-offs and a potential devastating effect on our portfolio. Some of our companies have indeed been hard hit, such as the tourism and travel sector. Fortunately, most of our portfolio has managed to steer through the crisis, and there have been several positive surprises. Crisis management seems to be a well-developed skill in our markets.
The recycling of 1.2 billion USD through the SN Power transaction
When I took on the CEO position in Norfund, I initiated a process to circulate a larger part of our funds. As a part of this strategy, we decided to explore a sale of our holding in SN Power. The process started in 2019, and a transaction was completed in October 2020 through a sale of SN Power to Scatec. The transaction is a landmark deal not just for Norfund, but for the whole DFI community. Through the transaction we can recycle USD 1.2 billion which in turn will be reinvested in our markets. The Norfund deal team did a stellar job, and we trust SN Power will flourish as an integral part of Scatec.
Getting things done despite the corona lockdowns
Lastly, despite all the lock-down challenges during 2020, I have been encouraged by my team’s ability to keep up the spirit, to get deals done and to maintain the momentum throughout the organisation.
During 2020, our new commitments will be larger than ever before.
Finally, I look forward to meeting a lot more of you during 2021. We appreciate your support. 2021 will be a great year!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Tellef Thorleifsson, CEO