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OPIC Approves $25 Million to Lafise Group Panama, Inc. for SME Lending in Central America

October 15, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) approved $25 million in financing to enable a leading Central American financial services company to expand its lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama.

With access to longer-term credit than is generally available in the region, small-scale farmers, manufacturers and retail business owners, for example, will be able grow more quickly and in turn support their local economies. 

The OPIC facility will strengthen the capital base of Lafise Group Panama, Inc. (Lafise) and its subsidiaries in Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama, and support the expansion of the Honduran and Costa Rican subsidiaries’ SME loan portfolios and the Panamanian subsidiary’s SME, retail and corporate portfolio.

Lafise is a holding company organized in 2005 by two U.S. citizens, Roberto and Maria Josefina Zamora. Through its subsidiaries, Lafise has financial services operations throughout Central and South America as well as the Caribbean, with banking subsidiaries in Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, and Nicaragua. OPIC has enjoyed a successful partnership with the Lafise, committing a total of $107 million in financing to them since 2003.  The Lafise financial group has been in operation for more than 25 years, employs nearly 3,000 people and has assets in excess of $2 billion.

“Small businesses are engines of economic growth worldwide, but in underserved markets such as Central America they often lack the access to credit they need to grow,” said OPIC President and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield. “This project will enable one of Central America’s leading financial services providers to offer SMEs the credit they need, which in turn will generate economic growth and employment for the region as a whole. OPIC is pleased to support a project with so many developmental benefits.”