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SME loan talks in progress

UNDP and International Trade Centre in discussions with major banks over proposed lending to agriculture SMEs

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) are in talks to recruit three major banks to participate in a programme that would provide loans to 100 small and medium-sized agriculture enterprises.

UNDP Assistant Country Director Wisal Hin said Thursday that he expected formal agreements to be reached with two or three of the banks by October.

"When we have partnerships with the banks, the loans will begin in October of this year, and 100 agriculture-related small and medium enterprises will be selected for the loans," said Wisal Hin.

He said the programme, titled "Access to Finance for SMEs", would last 18 months and be part of an effort to help export-oriented small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) get loans. He said he could not provide information about rates.

He added that the French Development Agency (AFD)would guarantee the loans and that the programme would not require all recipients to put up collateral.

A business survey released in April by the International Finance Corporation and the Asia Foundation found that 96 percent of Cambodian businesses were micro-enterprises, but that the "number of business with between 10 and 20 employees has nearly doubled over the past two years, while those with over 20 employees grew by almost 200 [percent]".

When we have part-nerships with the banks, the loans will begin in October.

Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh said at a launch event in late May that up to 80 percent of Cambodian SMEs had never received a bank loan.

Wisal Hin said the three banks participating in the discussions were ACLEDA Bank, ANZ Royal Bank and Cambodian Public Bank.

So Phonnary, ACLEDA's executive vice president and chief of operations, said Thursday that the bank had been approached to participate, but that no agreement had been reached.

"We're interested ... because now the bank has strong liquidity so we can support any loan project," she said.

She said ACLEDA had deposits of US$596 million as of Thursday, up from $487 million at the end of 2008, adding that loans totalled $442 million.  

Stephen Higgins, CEO of ANZ Royal Bank, declined to comment on the programme except to say the bank was "still in discussions with UNDP and the ITC".

Ong Ming Tech, deputy general manager of Cambodian Public Bank (CPB), said Thursday that he was not aware of the programme and referred questions to Country Director Phan Ying Tong, who was unavailable.



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