The US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) has approved a $50 million to the newly-transformed Hattha Bank Plc to expand microlending to women and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Cambodia, especially in rural areas.

US ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy announced the loan on Wednesday via video link at the opening of the 2020 Indo-Pacific Business Forum.

Speaking in front of a delegation of 20 Cambodian businessmen, he said: “I am very happy to announce the latest DFC investment in the Kingdom of Cambodia – a $50 million programme with Hattha Bank.

“This will support businesses and small and medium-sized enterprises [SMEs] in the agriculture, solar and education sectors,” he said, adding that the DFC has invested $200 million in the Kingdom and is mulling investing more.

“I think that with this bank, the particular focus is on those most vulnerable – for example for women and SMEs. This creates access to financing and capital that is otherwise not very accessible.

“The need is going to be here in Cambodia . . . You have a lot population at risk – returning migrants, small farmers, women and others – who are struggling, while others have lost their jobs because of closures and a downturn in exports and in tourism,” Murphy said.

The loan is one of the nine investments – worth more than $2.5 billion – approved by the DFC board of directors in the period from July-September that aim to “advance development in Africa, Latin America and emerging markets across the globe”.

On September 9, DFC CEO Adam Boehler said: “DFC’s work over the past three months will unlock billions of dollars in some of the world’s most impoverished countries.

“These projects will help stabilise communities across the world and prepare them to thrive in the years ahead. I am extremely proud of the DFC team and grateful to our agency’s many partners for their continued leadership in the face of the pandemic.”

On September 7, Hattha Bank Plc announced that it had received regulatory approvals and had become a commercial bank, and that it is gearing up to expand its business in the Kingdom.

This came nearly four years after the bank, then the microfinance deposit-taking institution (MDI) Hattha Kaksekar Ltd, was acquired by Bangkok-listed Bank of Ayudhya Pcl (Krungsri).

Krungsri, a member of Tokyo-listed global financial service provider Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc, completed a 100 per cent acquisition of HKL in October, 2016. It injected $45 million in additional capital into HKL in June, 2018.

HKL currently has $115 million in capital registered at the NBC and boasts 177 branches that offer a wide variety of financial services such as loans savings, money transfers, payroll services, mobile banking and insurance referral services.

It operates 137 ATMs nationwide, in Phnom Penh and in all 24 provinces.