‘Access Financial is not for sale’ | Company

The executive chairman of microfinance company Access Financial Services Limited reiterated that the company was not for sale, but rather was aggressively pursuing an expansion plan which its CEO, Frederick Williams, said was funded from adequately by $2 billion of recently raised bond funds.

James’ ‘not for sale’ comments came in response to questions from shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting, the AGM, held in Kingston on Thursday and are yet another snub to the rival microlender, Dolla Financial Services Limited, which has expressed an interest in speaking on the possibility of acquiring a majority stake in the business headquartered in Half-Way Tree Road, which has a market value of outstanding shares of 6, $93 billion.

“There’s really nothing to consider,” James said when asked about Dolla’s opening which came in the form of an exploratory letter to his board.

“No offer has been received. However, if an offer is made, we will be required to present that offer to shareholders,” James said.

He pointed out that rather than considering selling the business, his management was busy with expansion plans.

Meanwhile, Williams told the financial gleaner in an interview following the AGM held at the Courtleigh Hotel, that now that Access has recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic, the company’s task is to grow the business with a focus particular on the provision of loans to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, MSMEs.

“We are positioning ourselves for growth. We have strong support for our business loans in the central part of the island. For us, this is the heart of Access – micro-enterprises. That’s what will drive the economy,” Williams said.

Access announced early last month that the Bank of Jamaica, which was recently given regulatory responsibility for microfinance institutions, had granted approval allowing the company to offer microcredit services, including loans and business advice to individuals and MSMEs.

Williams said Access Financial’s recently opened Cross Roads office in Kingston will allow the company to operate a hub to service its business lending expansion in the parishes of Kingston, St Catherine and St Thomas. He said eight officers work at the Cross Roads site and another 20 staff are spread across 17 branches across the country.

Access’ business lending operation is powered by a recently upgraded technology platform, according to Williams. He pointed out that the new system allows loan officers to bring loan processing and assessment to customers wherever they are.

Access’s CEO hasn’t revealed how much money has been poured into the technology system or the overall expansion so far, but it’s clear the investment is a signal of the company’s intentions.

“The number keeps growing, but as you can imagine, the investment in technology is significant,” Williams said.

Access also plans to expand into Florida in the United States, where it now operates. After buying Florida-based financial firm Embassy Loans Inc in 2018, Williams said the company plans to establish another branch of that subsidiary in Florida to tap into a growing market in that US state.

Access Financial reportedly paid US$6.4 million for the 100% acquisition which was financed by a $900 million global bond issue.

Access CEO said the company has funds to execute its expansion plans. Key to that ability, he noted, is a recent $2 billion bond raised. Williams felt going to the capital market was a better option than relying on reserves.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com

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