Coronavirus outbreak

Strong response to offer of loans for local SMEs

Local businesses have been able to apply for loans of up to $50,000 for up to a period of six months from the fund since Feb 15 through online crowdfunding platform Minterest.
Local businesses have been able to apply for loans of up to $50,000 for up to a period of six months from the fund since Feb 15 through online crowdfunding platform Minterest.PHOTO: ST FILE

About 100 businesses have applied for loans totalling about $6 million from a fund set up by Singaporean property tycoon John Lim's family office, ARA Asset Management and Straits Trading Company.

The three entities established a $5 million fund earlier this month to extend short-term loans to local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that might be facing temporary cash-flow problems due to the coronavirus outbreak.

They noted in a statement yesterday that around 60 per cent of the 110 loan applications met the eligibility criteria. The fund has disbursed its first loan, which went to a vegetarian food chain. It was approved in less than 48 hours and the funds issued within 24 hours, they added.

Almost 30 per cent of the loan applications came from SMEs in the retail and food and beverage sectors, which have been hit by "significantly lower" patronage.

ARA Group chief executive John Lim said the "overwhelming response... attests to the need for SMEs struggling during this period to find alternative sources of cheaper short-term funding".

The fund has also received a $3 million contribution from Singapore-based tycoon Gordon Tang - a majority shareholder of Singapore-listed developer SingHaiyi Group - and his family.

Ms Celine Tang, Mr Tang's wife and the managing director of SingHaiyi, said: "The Tang family has been through numerous business cycles ourselves, and we fully empathise with fellow business owners who feel the stress and pressure during economic downturns."

Local businesses have been able to apply for loans of up to $50,000 for up to a period of six months from the fund since Feb 15 through online crowdfunding platform Minterest.

The interest rate is pegged at 0.5 per cent a month. There is also a 2 per cent processing fee charged by Minterest to cover administrative expenses. Eligible companies must be GST (goods and services tax) registered and majority-owned by Singaporeans and/or Singapore permanent residents. They must also have been in operation for the past 12 months.

THE BUSINESS TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2020, with the headline 'Strong response to offer of loans for local SMEs'. Subscribe