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Washington, D.C., April 12, 2001
—The International Finance Corporation announces a range of new investments—in Africa, south Asia, eastern Europe, and Latin America—to support sustainable private sector enterprises in the developing world. These wide-ranging investments are in microfinance, banking, small and medium enterprises, the port sector, agro-industry, the preservation of natural habitats, and training programs. IFC also organized two conferences—on finance, mining, and sustainability and on small business finance—in Washington, D.C.
The mission of IFC, part of the World Bank Group, is to promote sustainable private sector investment in developing countries as a way to reduce poverty and improve people’s lives. IFC finances private sector investments in the developing world, mobilizes capital in the international financial markets, and provides technical assistance and advice to governments and businesses.
BENIN—IFC’S FIRST MICROFINANCE INVESTMENT
IFC will help generate new income and improve living standards in Benin by investing US$360,000 for a 25 percent stake in a microfinance project, Finadev. This is IFC’s first microfinance project in Benin and will help low-income businesses—that lack access to credit—gain the financing they need for start-up or expansion.
As the first fully commercial microfinance venture in francophone West Africa, Finadev will focus on three markets—micro entrepreneurs, mostly women, who need working capital to finance their trading activities; employees of large Beninese companies who receive loans from Finadev via their workers’ union; and other microfinance institutions that need working capital for refinancing.
Other shareholders in Finadev include Lafayette Participations (France) with a 10 percent shareholding; FMO with 25 percent; and Financial Bank Benin, the project sponsor, with 40 percent.
KENYA—ADDING VALUE TO THE TEA SECTOR
IFC will provide a $700,000 loan to Twin Leaves EPZ Ltd. to construct a $2.7 million tea packaging plant in Mombasa, Kenya. The company will export retail packaged tea to the Middle East and strengthen its revenues through the sale of value-added tea products.
The project represents an important step in the transformation of Kenya's tea export market from bulk tea to higher value products. Industrial Development Bank of Kenya will provide a further $800,000 loan.
The Balala family—the project sponsors—have, over the past eight years, built a strong trading position in the Mombasa tea auction. They are also successful exporters of bulk tea to countries in Africa and the Middle East.
IFC will provide a $20 million medium-term credit line to Guaranty Trust Bank Plc. (GTB), Nigeria to help the bank develop its lending to private sector companies operating in a variety of sectors, serving export or domestic markets.
GTB is a full-service commercial bank established in 1990 by a group of Nigerian investors. It is one of the leading commercial banks in the country, is listed on the Nigerian stock exchange, and has a network of branches located in the major commercial and industrial centers of Nigeria.
IFC's investment in GTB is in line with its strategy to develop Nigeria’s financial sector and provide critically lacking long-term resources.
IFC will lend $22.5 million to FSB International Bank (FSB), Nigeria. FSB will use IFC’s financing to on-lend to private Nigerian enterprises that will use the funds for restructuring, project finance and trade finance and as working capital.
Over the past decade, economic and political uncertainties combined with governance issues have curtailed private sector investment in Nigeria. The country requires massive investments to restore private sector operational capacity. The proposed project is part of IFC’s efforts to address these financing needs by making available foreign exchange resources through the financial sector.
The project is expected to be an important confidence-building factor during the period of FSB’s transition to full private ownership.
TANZANIA—MAASAI VILLAGE PARTNERS WITH PRIVATE SECTOR IN ECO-TOURIST LODGE
IFC will provide a $200,000 loan to the Boundary Hill eco-tourist lodge in northern Tanzania, which will protect an important migratory corridor for animals and preserve valuable habitat adjacent to the Tarangire National Park. The project is a strong example of IFC’s efforts toward sustainable development with the application of progressive environmental and social policies adding value to private investment.
The 16-bed, upscale lodge is located within a 60,000-acre private wildlife reserve owned by the Maasai village of Lolkisale. The Lolkisale community owns 50 percent of the project’s equity and has leased its land to the project. The technical investor is East African Safari and Touring Company Ltd, majority owned by Simon King, an established tour operator with long-standing ties to the community.
IFC’s loan is complemented by a loan from the Global Environment Facility, whose private sector funds are administered by IFC. IFC also secured trust funds to cover part of the costs for the project’s environmental and social assessment.
WEST & CENTRAL AFRICA—TRAINING FOR LOAN OFFICERS IN
IFC has completed a training program in five West and Central African countries for loan officers working in local banks and financial institutions. The training is part of IFC’s policy to promote the development of small and medium enterprises via financial intermediaries and will better equip local loan officers to identify clients and improve their assessment of credit risk and portfolio management.
DAI, a U.S. consulting firm, was selected to carry out the training in Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, and Senegal. Two five-day seminars were held in each country with follow-up programs. Over 190 participants from local banks, venture capital funds, and microfinance institutions took part.
The program was made possible by a technical assistance grant from IFC’s technical assistance trust funds program with cofinancing from participating local beneficiary banks and financial institutions.
IFC has invested $7.3 million for a 10 percent stake in the Vysya Bank Limited, Bangalore, which will improve its efficiency by offering technology-based products to retail and corporate clients and expand its client base through the use of Internet banking.
Vysya Bank has a 70-year history, strong local presence, and wide branch network. The bank is well positioned for expansion after several years of restructuring its balance sheet and operations.
Vysya Bank is listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange. Other major shareholders include Bank Brussels Lambert of Belgium and the Vysya Group, a Bangalore-based business community.
INDIA—SUPPORT TO SME EXPORTERS
IFC is investing Indian Rs. 112.5 million (approximately $2.5 million) in Global Trade Finance Pvt. Limited, to promote market-driven export financing solutions (such as factoring and forfaiting) for Indian small and medium enterprises (SMEs) operating in an increasingly competitive world trade environment. The new company is expected to create “a one-stop shop” for SME export activities.
Global Trade Finance Pvt. Limited will provide Indian SMEs with credit assessment and protection, financing, and bill collection, as well as small item forfaiting—which offers long-term financing to importers of capital goods from India. As the demand for open account trading expands worldwide, Indian exporters need to offer similar terms to importers to be competitive—the new company will help fill that need.
The sponsors are Westdeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale (WestLB) and the Export-Import Bank of India (Exim Bank). IFC’s financing consists of an equity investment of up to $2.5 million and a loan of up to $10 million. The company’s initial capitalization will be Indian Rs. 450 million (approximately $10 million), of which 40 percent will be held by WestLB, 35 percent by Exim Bank, and 25 percent by IFC.
IFC will help develop the local banking sector in Romania by providing a loan of $6 million to Banca Romaneasca, a privately owned commercial bank that lends to SMEs. Banca Romaneasca will use the loan to consolidate its position in the Romanian banking sector and expand its lending operations.
The project is expected to encourage further investment in the country's emerging financial sector. It signals IFC’s commitment to support the Romanian private sector by providing long-term financing that is not easily available in the region. The investment is also expected to positively affect overall economic development, particularly employment creation and competitiveness.
Substantial long-term technical assistance to further modernize Banca Romaneasca in the field of SME financing was supported by trust funds from the Dutch government.
IFC will invest $9.5 million in Tecon Salvador S.A., a Brazilian container port company based in Salvador port, Bahia state, in northeast Brazil. The $17.3 million project—which supports the government’s continuing efforts to improve the efficiency of port operations—will operate under a 25-year lease which was awarded following a public offering in 1999.
IFC’s financing package includes an equity investment of up to $1 million and loans of up to $3.5 million for IFC’s account and $5 million for the account of the participant, Transamerica Leasing Inc. The project sponsor is Wilson, Sons de Administração e Comércio Ltda., Brazil’s largest port operator and ship towing company. Wilson has operated in Brazil since 1837 and is wholly-owned by the Bermuda-based Ocean Wilson Holding Limited.
IFC’s financing will help Tecon Salvador S.A. to upgrade and operate the container and general cargo terminal. It will also assist with equipment purchase, paving of the container storage area, and construction of a warehouse and administration building. The project is expected to be complete in 2003 at which time the terminal’s annual capacity is anticipated to double from 55,000 to 110,000 container moves.
CONFERENCE ON FINANCE, MINING, AND SUSTAINABILITY
A high-level IFC/World Bank conference was held on April 8-9 in Washington, D.C. on Finance, Mining, and Sustainability—the first time the World Bank Group has brought together those who finance and insure private sector ventures with those who operate them—to discuss whether the operations they finance have a socially and environmentally sustainable impact. The conference was organized in the context of the mining industry which is at the forefront of both public criticism and awareness about socially and environmentally sustainable impact and of industry action on these issues. The United Nations' Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the mining industry's Mining Minerals and Sustainable Development Project (MMSD) co-sponsored the event. The conference attracted 120 participants from 18 countries around the world.
Participants—who included representatives of governments and civil society besides the financial community and mining industry—discussed whether and to what degree those who finance, insure, and trade in bonds in relation to mining operations are interested in the social and environmental impact of those operations. The conference was an occasion to take stock and test the relevance of “the business case for sustainability”, which has evolved dramatically over the past three years.
The discussions identified a clear link between investment risk and profitability on the one hand and environmental and social performance of operations on the other. While this link might exist mainly because sustainability can be treated as a proxy for good management, participants pointed to an increasing interest in the markets in pricing capital and investment risks taking into account a company’s sustainability performance.It was felt that much work still needs to be done in the area of standards, metrics, and reporting, before price differentiation takes hold. Both UNEP and the MMSD project will pursue these topics as areas of research and further discussion. For more information see:
www.worldbank.org/mining or www.ifc.org/mining.
CONFERENCE ON SMALL BUSINESS FINANCE
The World Bank and IFC hosted the International Conference on Small Business Finance in Washington D.C. on April 2-3. The key focus was on credit information and credit scoring—a financial technology that rationalizes credit decisions and credit management—to make small business lending profitable in emerging markets and transition countries. More than 250 participants attended from 55 countries, representing about 60 banks, 30 leading microfinance institutions, more than 10 credit bureaus, several regulators, and 20 leading technology providers.
Decreasing margins in large and mid-cap lending have heightened the interest of financial institutions to tap the unmet demand for financial services for micro and small businesses. Lenders applying traditional corporate banking approaches remain constrained by the high transaction costs and credit risks associated with small loans. Although a large number of participating banks confirmed that credit scoring technologies held great potential, what was required was a culture change within financial institutions to overcome obstacles. One of the key challenges will be to work jointly with banks and other lenders to improve the existing credit information infrastructure.
The conference was co-sponsored by Coface, one of the largest international credit risk insurers; CRIF, a leading credit bureau and credit scoring developer; DBS/Temenos, a major technology provider to the banking and microfinance industry; Trans Union Advantage, an alliance of two leading international credit bureaus; and Visa International, the world’s largest payment network. The conference was also supported by funds from the Swedish government. For more information please refer to the conference web-site where proceedings will be posted by July 2001:
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