A fund set up to support the growth of Northern Ireland’s SMEs announced today that it has lent more than £40m to local businesses. The Growth Loan Fund made its first investment in September 2012 and has since supported 120 businesses with loans from £100,000 up to £1.25m.
Finance for the £50m Growth Loan Fund – which provides loans to established Northern Ireland SMEs seeking to access growth finance – has been provided by Invest Northern Ireland and private investors, Northern Ireland Local Government Officers’ Superannuation Committee (NILGOSC).
Alastair Hamilton, Chief Executive of Invest NI, commented: “The Growth Loan Fund is a key component of Invest NI’s Access to Finance initiative that seeks to ensure that companies with high growth potential are not held back because they cannot access finance.”
“I am delighted that the fund has distributed more than £40 million to 120 businesses in the past five years. This demonstrates that there is a real need for this fund with companies such as Ardboe Coldstore, ConveyorTek and more recently Newry based Healthy Buildings using the support to grow their businesses and employ more people. The fund is also making a substantial difference here by boosting business confidence and helping Northern Ireland businesses to go from strength to strength.”
Paul Millar, Chief Executive of WhiteRock Capital Partners, said: “Access to finance has long been a big issue for SMEs and so there has been a healthy appetite for the finance provided by the fund since it launched. The Growth Loan Fund was set up to fill a gap in the market, but as the economy has changed we are now regularly finding ourselves providing finance alongside local banks as we seek to help ambitious companies to grow.”
“Over the course of the fund we have invested in many well-known success stories including Williams Industrial Services, McAvoy Group, Vita Liberata, RMS Group and W&G Baird.”
“In the last 12 months we invested £13m into 36 local SME businesses and applications for funding show no sign of slowing down for the rest of 2017.”
David Murphy, CEO of NILGOSC commented: “Worldwide, pension funds like ourselves are seeking out a diverse range of positive returns including alternatives to the normal financial markets. This home-grown investment has achieved our target and we are delighted it has proved so successful.”
WhiteRock Capital Partners LLP, which is authorised and regulated by the FCA, was established in 2012 to manage the Fund and is owned by a consortium of three partners – WhiteRock Finance Limited, NEL Fund Managers and Clarendon Fund Managers.
Companies seeking funding from the Growth Loan Fund must be based in Northern Ireland, demonstrating growth and generally be in the manufacturing, engineering or tradable services sectors. Loans will be typically unsecured and personal guarantees will not be sought.
The loans provided are expected to be complementary to existing sources of finance, including banks, trade finance sources and equity investors. Loans are provided on a fully commercial basis, with monthly loan repayments required over typically a five-year term.