Private Debt: The Role of Private Credit in Project Finance

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Written By AltFin

Your gateway to project finance, capital projects, and private debt. 

Key Points:

Definition: Private debt finance involves securing non-bank loans provided by private investment entities, such as debt funds, direct lenders, and institutional investors, for various business or project financing needs.

Capital Structure: It consists of tailored debt arrangements like mezzanine financing, senior and subordinated loans, and private placements, offering flexibility and customization to borrowers.

Objective: To provide businesses and projects with alternative funding sources, enhancing liquidity and enabling growth or restructuring outside traditional bank lending channels.

What is private debt and how does it work?

Private debt, or private credit, refers to financing that is provided directly by non-public sources, such as individuals, institutional investors, or private lending institutions, rather than by traditional banks or public markets.

In simplest terms, private debt lending involves a contractual agreement between the borrower and the private debt lender, outlining the terms and conditions of the loan, including interest rates, repayment schedules, and any collateral or security provided. (1)(2)

How private credit differs from other types of debt

Compared to traditional bank loans, private debt tends to be more flexible, with lenders offering customized funding solutions tailored to the unique needs of the borrower.

Private debt can also be structured with more leverage and higher interest rates, which can make it a more attractive investment for qualified investors seeking greater returns.

These features make private debt funding attractive for large project financing. 

The role of private debt in large project financing

Project finance plays a fundamental role in large-scale projects that require significant funding for their implementation.​

In many cases, project finance is the most viable financing option for large infrastructure projects such as highways, airports, power plants, and even hospitals.

It is a complex, long-term type of financing that involves a variety of stakeholders including project owners, project sponsors, lenders, investors, and contractors.​

Private debt plays a crucial role in large-scale project financing since it is one of the primary sources of funding for large projects.​

This makes it possible for project sponsors to complete their projects without using their own funds or having to obtain loans from banks, which may be more difficult to obtain due to the high risks involved with large projects.

Benefits of private credit in project funding

One of the benefits of private debt in project financing is that it is highly flexible.

Private Debt Lenders can customize their loans based on the specific needs of the project, which can make it easier for project sponsors to secure financing.​

Private debt lenders can offer different types of loans ranging from senior secured debt to junior unsecured debt. They can also provide mezzanine loans, convertible debt, and other forms of financing that can help bridge the funding gap in a project.​

Private debt can help mitigate risks associated with project financing. Larger projects often take years to implement and there are various risks that need to be accounted for, such as cost overruns, delays, or changes in government regulations.

Private debt lenders can provide liquidity to cover unforeseen events, such as a delay in construction or a lower-than-anticipated revenue stream, mitigating the risk for the project sponsors and other stakeholders.​

Private debt lenders

What is a private debt lender?

A private debt lender refers to an entity or institution that specializes in providing private debt financing to borrowers.

Private debt lenders are non-public sources of capital that offer loans directly to individuals, businesses, or other entities, outside of the traditional banking system.

Key players in the private credit market

Private debt lenders can take various forms, including private lending institutions, alternative investment firms, hedge funds, private equity firms, or specialized lending platforms.

They play a vital role in the private debt market by offering alternative funding options to borrowers who may not meet the requirements or prefer not to seek financing from traditional banks or public markets.

How do private debt lenders work?

Private debt lenders evaluate the creditworthiness and risk profile of potential borrowers as well as projects before extending loans.

Factors such as the borrower’s financial health, cash flow, collateral, and the purpose of the loan are thoroughly scrutinized in the process of due diligence.

Private debt lenders may focus on specific sectors, industries, or types of loans, such as real estate, infrastructure project finance, mezzanine financing, distressed debt, or venture debt.

Private lenders often have greater flexibility in structuring loan terms and conditions compared to traditional banks.

They can offer customized financing solutions tailored to the specific needs of the borrower. This flexibility can include aspects such as interest rates, repayment schedules, collateral requirements, and covenants.

In so doing, private lenders assume higher risks compared to traditional banks, and as a result, they may charge higher interest rates and fees to compensate for those risks.

However, borrowers who may not qualify for bank loans or prefer more personalized financing options often find private debt lenders to be a viable alternative.

Overall, private debt lenders provide an essential role in the financial landscape by offering diverse funding sources and expanding the options available to borrowers seeking private debt financing.

dollar signs and a hand

The role of the private debt team

The importance of a skilled debt team

A skilled private debt team is essential to the success of any private debt deal.

This team should have a deep understanding of the market, as well as the expertise to structure and execute complex debt transactions.

Working with a private debt team: lender and borrower perspectives

Working with a private debt team involves collaboration and communication between the lender and the borrower.

From the lender’s perspective, it involves conducting thorough due diligence and structuring the debt in a way that meets the needs of the borrower while minimizing risk. As at any mainstream bank, borrowers need to follow the lender’s processes.

From the borrower’s perspective, it involves working with the lender to secure the financing needed to complete the project.

The relationship between private debt and equity financing

Private debt and equity finance are often used in combination to provide the funding needed for a project.

Private debt is typically used to provide the project with a stable, predictable source of capital, while equity financing is used to provide additional funding and to share in the potential upside of the project.​

money stacks, magnifier and charts

Types of private debt

Direct lending

Direct lending is a financing alternative that involves borrowing funds from investors and institutions without the involvement of traditional banks.

It is a type of marketplace lending in which investors provide funds directly to borrowers through an online platform.

Debt funds

Direct lending involves providing loans directly to companies, without the involvement of intermediary banks.

This type of debt is often used by middle-market companies that may not qualify for traditional bank loans.

Private debt funds

Private debt funds are a type of debt fund that specifically invest in the private debt market.

These funds typically focus on providing financing to middle-market companies and real estate projects, and may be structured as closed-end funds that have a fixed term and limited liquidity. (3)(4)

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The private debt market

Institutional investors in private credit

Institutional investors, such as pension funds, endowments, and insurance companies, are becoming increasingly interested in private debt as an alternative investment to traditional fixed-income assets.

These investors are attracted to the potentially higher returns and diversification benefits offered by private debt investments. (5)(6)

Market conditions for private debt

Private debt has been growing rapidly in recent years, driven in part by the low interest rate environment and the ongoing demand for private equity sponsors and their portfolio companies.

Despite this growth, the market of private debt is still relatively small compared to the public market for fixed-income securities.

The growth of private debt and projections for 2024

The private debt market is projected to continue growing in the coming years.

According to a report by Preqin, the global private debt market is projected to reach $1.54 trillion by 2023, up from $638 billion in 2010.

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The benefits and risks of private debt

The benefits of private credit as an asset class

Private debt can offer a range of benefits to investors, including potentially higher returns than traditional fixed-income assets, greater diversification, and the ability to customize the investment to fit the investor’s specific goals and risk profile.

The risks of private debt and mitigation strategies

Private debt also carries a range of risks, including credit risk, interest rate risk, and liquidity risk.

Investors can mitigate these risks by conducting thorough due diligence, diversifying their portfolios, and structuring the debt with appropriate covenants and protections.

Key takeaways for investors and borrowers

Overall, private debt plays a crucial role in the financial ecosystem by offering alternative funding options to borrowers and investment opportunities to lenders, contributing to the overall liquidity and growth of the economy.​

Private debt can play a critical role in project finance, providing the financing needed to complete projects while offering attractive returns to investors.

However, it is a complex asset class that requires a deep understanding of the market and its intricacies. Investors and borrowers should work with a skilled private debt team to navigate the market and structure transactions that meet their specific needs.​


In conclusion, the role of private debt in project financing is crucial for bringing large-scale infrastructure projects to life.

Private debt provides flexible, customizable financing options that can help bridge the funding gap in a project and mitigate the risks associated with long-term investments.

As large infrastructure projects continue to emerge around the world, private debt is expected to continue to play an increasingly important role in project financing.

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  1. PitchBook, Kelly Knickerbocker, Rachel Martinez, What is private debt? The ultimate guide (2024), retrieved from
  2. Investopedia, Michael Bromberg, Private Credit vs. Private Equity: Understanding the Differences, retrieved from
  3. Investopedia, What Are the Main Types of Debt?, retrieved from
  4. Prequin, Private Debt, retrieved from
  5. Forbes, Kelli Click, Why Private Debt Has Become A Popular Alternative Asset For SDIRA Investors, retrieved from
  6. Institutional investor, Hannah Zhang, In Private Credit, Bigger Is Better — At Least When Attracting Assets, retrieved from