Microfinance Shows Strong Equity Valuations Despite Crisis


    


    
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<p>WASHINGTON, <span class="xn-chron">March 3</span> /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Sustained demand for microfinance equity, in the face of the worst financial crisis in decades, continued to propel valuations in this sector higher throughout 2009 and the medium-term outlook remains positive, according to a new report by CGAP, a microfinance group based at the World Bank, and J.P. Morgan.</p>
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<p>"Microfinance institutions encountered the harshest market conditions in more than a decade during 2009, with most showing a clear deterioration in asset quality and profitability," said Xavier Reille of CGAP, co-author of the report. "And yet most MFIs continued to maintain strong reserve and capitalization levels, and investors continued to show faith in the sector."</p>
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<p>The CGAP/J.P. Morgan report shows that equity valuations continued to rise across all regions in 2009, with MFIs in the private equity market trading at a median of 2.1 times book value - a 62 percent increase since 2007. Public investors significantly increased their commitments to microfinance last year, and the private sector continued to establish new microfinance equity vehicles, including new funds from Blue Orchard, Triodos, and Developing World Markets.</p>
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<p>"The investor community, both public and private, continues to be interested in microfinance, though we think that they are becoming more selective," said Nick O'Donohoe, Global Head of Research for J.P. Morgan and co-author of the report.</p>
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<p>The relative youth of the microfinance equity market means there are few established performance benchmarks, making assessments difficult. However, the CGAP/J.P. Morgan report is bridging this gap by drawing on analysis of 200 private equity transactions between 2005 and 2009 and trading information on eight publicly-listed low-income financial institutions to assess the strong performance of the microfinance equity market.</p>
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<p>Indian MFIs are continuing to attract the strongest investor interest, comprising 30% of all microfinance equity transactions in 2009. Indeed, equity valuations for Indian MFIs are trading at nearly six times their book value, or three times the global median, a performance the CGAP/J.P. Morgan analysis suggests is not sustainable over the longer term.</p>
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<p>The strength of MFI equity valuations masks the impact of the global financial crisis on the sector. The CGAP/J.P. Morgan report shows that loan portfolio quality began to deteriorate rapidly after <span class="xn-chron">January 2009</span>, with past due loans over 30 days jumping to a median of 4.7 percent from 2.2 percent over the first five months of 2009 although it has moderated since then and thus far remained stable in 2010. The effects of the downturn were far from uniform however, with MFIs in South Asia and <span class="xn-location">South America</span> showing few signs of impact, while others in Eastern <span class="xn-location">Europe</span> and Central Asia particularly were more affected. However, very few MFI failures have been reported and most institutions remain well capitalized with equity ratio unchanged in the 18 to 20% range.</p>
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<p>Judging by the performance of listed low-income financial institutions, the most comparable listed vehicles to MFIs, investors believe the sector will emerge from the crisis in good shape. These stocks have strongly outperformed emerging market banks (as measured by the MSCI Emerging Markets Bank Index) and by the end of 2009, had rebounded to pre-crisis levels or new historical peaks.</p>
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<p>The CGAP/J.P. Morgan report argues that the decline in asset quality at MFIs will likely slow, but not curb, growth in their asset base, while placing a focus on improved risk management. Valuations likely will continue to be underpinned by continuing public and commercial sector demand in the medium-term, further buoyed by local bank acquisitions of MFIs and an expected initial public offering by SKS, India's largest MFI - in 2010.</p>
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    About CGAP
    
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<p>CGAP (The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor) is the world's leading resource for the advancement of microfinance. CGAP provides the financial industry, governments and investors with objective information, expert opinion, and innovative solutions to effectively expand access to finance for poor people around the world. More information:  <a href="http://www.cgap.org">www.cgap.org</a></p>
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    About J.P. Morgan
    
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<p>J.P. Morgan is the investment banking arm of JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:   JPM), a leading global financial services firm with assets of <span class="xn-money">$2.0 trillion</span> and operations in more than 60 countries. JPMorgan Chase is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers, small business and commercial banking, financial transaction processing, asset management and private equity. The firm serves millions of consumers in the <span class="xn-location">United States</span> and many of the world's most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients under its J.P. Morgan and Chase brands. Information about J.P. Morgan is available at <a href="http://www.jpmorgan.com">www.jpmorgan.com</a>.</p>
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For further information: For further information: Una Gallagher Pulizzi of CGAP, upulizzi@worldbank.org, +1-202-473-8869; Tasha Pelio of J.P. Morgan, tasha.pelio@jpmorgan.com, +1-212-270-7441 Web Site: http://www.cgap.org http://www.jpmorgan.com

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