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Cablegate: Nicaragua: Application for Opic Finance - Fama, Promujer, Banex, Fdl

VZCZCXYZ0012
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #0934 2711725
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 281725Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4592
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS MANAGUA 000934

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE PASS OPIC - RGREENBERG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EINV EFIN EAID ECON PGOV PREL NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUA: APPLICATION FOR OPIC FINANCE - FAMA, PROMUJER, BANEX, FDL

REF: (A) State 096859, (B) Managua 625, (C) Managua 116, (D) 2009
Investment Climate Statement, (E) 2008 Managua 1437, (F) 2008
Managua 1096

1. (SBU) The following information is provided in response to Ref A
seeking Embassy Managua comments on OPIC's plans to provide
financing to Banco del Exito (BANEX), FAMA, PROMUJER, and FDL,
through its Microfinance Growth Fund (MIGROF).

2. (SBU) The microfinance industry is under threat in Nicaragua.
The "No Pago" (No Payment) movement has forced many microfinance
institutions (MFIs) to close their offices, especially in northern
Nicaragua (Septel and Refs C and F). Weak rule of law and poor
internal controls in some MFIs have made them susceptible to
infighting and embezzlement (Septel and Ref B). Meanwhile, the
GON's aggressive expansion into microfinance through the National
Rural Fund (CARUNA) -- an MFI funded through the Bolivarian Alliance
for the Americas (ALBA) -- has heightened competition in the
industry (Ref E).

3. (SBU) Action Request: Embassy Managua recommends that OPIC send a team to Nicaragua to better understand these recent developments in the microfinance industry.

4. (SBU) Embassy Managua is not aware of any derogatory information
specifically relating to these MFIs. The following is background
information on each:

-- Banco de Exito (BANEX) was founded in 2002 as FINDESA, a nonbank MFI. It changed its name to BANEX in September of 2008 when the Superintendency of Banks (SIBOIF) authorized it as a bank and allowed it to accept deposits. BANEX, with 31 branches nationwide, focuses on lending to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. BANEX is now regulated by the Superintendency of Banks and Financial Institutions (SIBOIF) and, therefore, must comply with national laws as well as Basel and Financial Action Task Force (FATF) requirements. In 2008, Fitch Ratings assigned BANEX a rating of BBB+ based on low (although increasing) loan defaults and large reserves. BANEX President and U.S. citizen Gabriel Solorzano is well known to Embassy Managua and well regarded in Nicaraguan economic and financial circles.

-- FAMA began operations in 1991 as a nongovernmental organization
backed by a group of Nicaraguan entrepreneurs. In 2005 it became a
nonbank financial entity regulated by SIBOIF, and in 2007 it was
constituted as a corporation. FAMA focuses on lending to
micro-businesses through its 27 branches nationwide. In March 2009,
Fitch Ratings gave FAMA a rating of BBB.

-- PROMUJER is a nonprofit international development organization
that supports women of scarce resources by providing financial
(credit) and non-financial services (training in leadership, self
esteem, sexual health, and family planning). The organization,
which began in Bolivia and has expanded to Peru, Mexico and
Argentina, was constituted in 1996 and has a total of five branches
in five different departments of Nicaragua.

-- FDL is a nonprofit organization that provides financial services
to micro, small and medium entrepreneurs, particularly women. FDL
has 34 branches in 15 departments in Nicaragua and also provides
non-financial services such as training for animal nutrition, dairy
product processing, business management and others.


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