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The National Bank of Cambodia hails top local firm

The National Bank of Cambodia hails top local firm

Bun Mony, CEO of Sathapana Ltd, speaks to reporters at the company’s office in Phnom Penh, Nov. 5, 2012. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) and a microfinance industry insider hailed one of Cambodia’s top 10 MFIs, Sathapana Limited, for changing their majority shareholder to a commercial bank.

They said it proves a positive and strong funding source is essential for MFIs to pursue their business operation and expansion goals. However, an economist questioned whether the change will make the institution shift from a social to a commercial interest.

On November 1 Maruhan Japan Bank became Sathapana’s majority shareholder by buying a 95.1 per cent stake in the MFI.

The NBC’s director general Ngoun Sokha told the Post that the change of shareholder will not negatively impact on the whole industry. “The operation will remain separate from the commercial bank and so Sathapana’s microfinance function will not be undermined,” she said. “The NBC believes this purchase may strengthen microfinance activities.”

She said the NBC gave approval in principle to the deal last month. “Each institution has its own vision on how it wants to grow and expand. As long as the approach it decides to pursue serves the people, promotes banking services and will not pose a risk to the industry and consumers, the NBC will support it.”

Sim Senacheert, president and CEO of Prasac MFI, said the buyout is reflective of changes within the industry, and proves  they can seek strong and good partners for long-term investment in Cambodia’s microfinance industry.

He said that most MFI’s initial shareholders are development institutions which help MFIs to provide loans to people in order improve their living standards. Furthermore, they want to build confidence and attract the purely private sector companies to partner with MFIs. “Whenever they see that we are strong enough to run by ourselves, they [the development institutions] will exit,” he said.

He said his institution will also face the same thing in the future. “Of course, we will do the same but we don’t know when it will come,” he added.

Bun Mony, CEO of Sathapana, also said the change proves the strength and great achievement of his institution which has a strong position in the market, adding that the participation of a new shareholder is the evidence of this to the public.  

“In my view, it is the great success of Sathapana. We gained the trust of this Japanese corporation to invest directly with us,” he said.  “We’re very optimistic and foresee Maruhan helping us to fulfill our ambitions for business expansion nationwide as well as to increase total assets to US$1 billion in the next 10 years.” Chan Sophal, president of the  Cambodia Economic Association, said the change will have positive and negative impacts on the industry.

“It is normal. It depends on the objective whether or not they still have a social mission to help the poor or shift to a commercial purpose. The positive is that they will have more funding for their business operations by giving loans more to people. But the negative is that if they can earn more, they will get return on equity – meaning they’ll have a commercial interest.

“I hope that they will not try to make the high returns from their investment, but they still maintain their social objective,” he added.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Kunmakara at [email protected]