The Cambodia-Laos Development Fund was established in 2009. The fund invests in SMEs in Cambodia and Laos and will make its first investments in 2010. Norfund has committed itself for USD 4 million. The total capital of the fund is USD 20 million.
Cambodia and Laos are both classified as LDCs. However, their economies have grown in recent years and the countries now have great potential for further growth through the development of sectors such as tourism, manufacturing, retail trade, and through better use of their natural resources. But there are also major obstacles to further growth. The available capital has largely taken the form of short-term bank loans which have not been readily available to SMEs. The capital market has lacked private equity funds that are willing to invest risk capital in enterprises in the growth phase.
Norfund wishes to play an active part in the further development of these countries by contributing to developing the financial infrastructure and bringing growth capital to SMEs. Norfund has therefore invested in a new management organisation, Emerging Markets Investment (EMI), through its investment in the Cambodia-Laos Development Fund. Although there is often high risk associated with this type of investment, it is important that Norfund and others are willing to carry it.
Partnership with Aureos
In 2001, Norfund and its British sister organisation CDC joined forces to establish Aureos. Aureos is regarded today as the world’s largest manager of SME funds in emerging markets. To ensure the professional quality of the management of the Cambodia-Laos Development Fund, EMI has formed a partnership with Aureos. The partnership gives EMI access to the experience Aureos has built up after carrying out hundreds of transactions worldwide. Norfund regards the combination of Aureos’ experience and EMI’s local network as very valuable. In years to come, projects such as the Cambodia-Laos Development Fund could contribute to making investment in the countries around the Mekong River more accessible and attractive to private investors as well.