Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster today welcomed the appointment of managers for a new £50million fund which will safeguard and create over 2,000 jobs within the next ten years.
Braveheart Investment Group plc has been appointed to manage the Growth Loan Fund, which aims to generate £150million sales growth per annum for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
The fund forms a key component of Invest Northern Ireland’s wider Access to Finance strategy, with the objective of stimulating the availability of risk capital to the SME sector across Northern Ireland.
Arlene Foster said: “I have listened to the business community and I fully understand the frustration of the SME sector at not being able to access finance. The Growth Loan Fund is a practical measure which will help to address this problem. It is part of a major new Access to Finance initiative that my department, through Invest Northern Ireland, is launching to stimulate and encourage economic growth in these challenging times.
"The Growth Loan Fund will provide loans of between £50,000 and £500,000 to businesses in the manufacturing or tradable services sectors over the next five years. It is a valuable addition to the existing sources of funding for businesses in Northern Ireland and I welcome the appointment of Braveheart Investment Group plc, who are experienced fund managers, to oversee its operation.
“By ensuring that companies with high growth potential are not held back because they cannot access finance, the Growth Loan Fund will boost business confidence and help SMEs that have strong potential for growth, particularly in international markets.”
The appointment has been made to Braveheart as the lead bidder in a consortium comprising itself, NEL Fund Managers Ltd (‘NEL’) and Clarendon Fund Managers Ltd (‘Clarendon’). NEL operates from Newcastle upon Tyne and has a long track record in managing mezzanine loan funds. Clarendon is based in Belfast and manages various funds supporting SMEs in Northern Ireland.
Loans will be made to businesses that can demonstrate sales and profitability growth, or strong growth potential. Businesses that currently export and wish to further expand sales in international markets will be a key target of the Fund, as they have the potential to contribute most to Northern Ireland’s economic growth.
Geoffrey Thomson, Chief Executive of Braveheart, said: “We are delighted to have been appointed to manage the Growth Loan Fund. We have teamed up with two respected fund managers whom we know well, and we are delighted to be working with them. We look forward to working with Invest NI in delivering what is a new and innovative product in Northern Ireland.”
It is intended that the Fund will be significantly financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) under the Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland.