Saturday 29 April 2017

€30m boost for small businesses after Grid Finance fundraising

Andrea Linehan of Grid
Andrea Linehan of Grid
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

Ireland's SME sector is set for a €30m boost after non-bank lender Grid Finance raised that amount to fund a new batch of loans.

The company is also restructuring itself into two divisions - Grid Business and Grid Wealth.

Grid Business will provide access to capital for SMEs and Grid Wealth will provide an investment product to consumers.

Grid's commercial director Andrea Linehan said the wealth division will begin the process of becoming a regulated financial intermediary with the Central Bank of Ireland.

"With our new dedicated business unit we are seeking to serve those who either are investing and are getting poor returns or those who are not investing at all," she said.

"A history of reliance on property investments means that the Irish consumer has been starved for choice in the investment market and is often forced to invest internationally or succumb to low interest rates at home," she said.

"There are also millions of people and families in Ireland who are not providing for the long term and building financial wellbeing," Linehan added.

The €30m raised comes from the Thiele Marketplace Income Fund and Unbent Capital, which will seek to make returns via Grid's marketplace lending platform, which sees lenders compete to provide the most competitive loans to businesses.

Grid chief executive Derek Butler said the company had "made a strong case for investment in the Irish SME sector and our new investors clearly believe in the Irish economy and Irish SMEs".

The company, whose investors include Enterprise Ireland and Enda O'Coineen's Kilcullen Kapital Partners, made the announcement at the Dublin Tech Summit.

Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon said her organisation "supported Grid's efforts to build on the non-bank sector, a movement which will complement existing funding sources".

"Irish businesses need to consider other forms of finance, because this additional funding source not only supports their growth, but is central to boosting employment and growth in Ireland's economy," Sinnamon added.

"Improving access to finance for small and medium-sized companies is a key element of Enterprise Ireland's strategy [for] 2017-2020 to build scale of Irish companies and expand their reach into global markets."

Grid is one of a number of non-bank lenders seeking to win Irish businesses away from traditional banking.

Its rival, Linked Finance, recently secured backing from French investment group Eiffel, which said it would contribute up to 20pc of the funding for new loans on the platform.

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