Mekong-focused PE fund picks stake in iCare Benefits Cambodia

Visual from iCare Benefits website.

Singapore-headquartered private equity firm Emerging Markets Investment Advisers (EMIA) has acquired a significant minority stake in welfare company iCare Benefits Cambodia for an undisclosed amount.

The investment has been funnelled through the PE firm’s Cambodia Laos Myanmar Development Fund II, a $65 million vehicle that attracted a $7.5 million investment from the International Finance Corporation in 2016.

iCare Benefits Cambodia is a unit of Singapore-domiciled social enterprise iCare Benefits, which was first launched in Vietnam in 2014. Founded by Vietnamese entrepreneur Dung Tan Trung, it has expanded in Southeast Asia with a focus on the four countries of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia. The company provides low-income earners, those at the bottom of the pyramid, with easier access to essential products and services through a multi-channel retailing system. It entered Cambodia in 2015.

The investment by EMIA will facilitate the capital required for iCare to provide “thousands of workers with access to low-cost instalment finance to purchase essential products and services,” said a company statement.

“We are confident that iCare offers very good prospect for profitable growth and we look forward to working with iCare to support the great work they have already done,” said EMIA’s CEO Joshua Morris.

iCare Benefits operates its social benefit offer through a simple credit mechanism combined with zero-percent interest installment payments.

It said, with such programmes, companies could enjoy higher productivity and employee commitment.

Backers for iCare Benefits include Japan’s second largest bank Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, European credit data company Experian, venture capital firm Unitus Impact and Vietnam-focused investment firm Kusto Tiger Fund.

In 2016, the social benefit platform secured $20 million growth financing from Development Finance Asia, an Asian frontier market investment group.

Meanwhile, EMIA has funded 10 companies, primarily in Cambodia. The industries in which it is investing include microfinance, agriculture, F&B, technology and education. Prior to Cambodia Laos Myanmar Development Fund II, EMIA managed another vehicle with $19 million in capital, according to Phnompenh Post.

Also read:

IFC to invest $7.5m in PE fund investing in Cambodia-Laos-Myanmar belt

Unitus Impact invests in Vietnam’s MobiVi & China’s Micro Benefits