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Favourable terms for project loans

The IDC's tourism special business unit is one such "someone" that has invested R5-billion in projects of varying scale and risk profile over the past 19 years.

A recent shift in focus from large accommodation projects to more community-based and developmental projects opens the door for projects that might have previously struggled to attract funding.

"If it is something unique, we will look at it if we believe it can be viable and has the necessary developmental benefits," says Christine Engelbrecht, head of the business unit.

Basic requirements for consideration are that the financing must be for fixed assets and capital expenditure, and that the projects need to demonstrate profitability and sustainable commercial viability. To be considered, projects need to have a significant developmental impact, such as job creation, empowerment and rural development. Projects can either be greenfields developments or refurbishments and expansions.

Projects are often co-funded and co-developed and the IDC is committed to providing favourable loan terms, specifically when local communities are involved, Engelbrecht says. "Loans are available from R1-million up to R1-billion, and can be structured in a combination of debt/equity, quasi-equity, guarantees or bridging finance.

"We offer concessionary interest rates of prime less 3%. If the ratio of job creation to development cost is within certain criteria, we can tailor the repayments to suit the cash- flow projections, or offer a capital or interest moratorium in the initial stages," says Engelbrecht.

Conventional loan requirements such as security or sureties apply, as well as a minimum contribution of around 40% of the cost by the project owner or developer. This level may be lowered, depending on the partners' broad-based black economic empowerment credentials.

Engelbrecht says that the development cost of these projects, even if not on the scale of a large hotel, can easily surpass the R1-million minimum loan limit.

"In tourism you seldom have anything below that level," she says. "Even a small guest house built at very low cost will come in at R350 000 or so per room, and you need up to five rooms to make a guest house viable."

The IDC's tourism development focus extends beyond the country's borders into neighbouring countries and as far north as Ghana and Uganda. The loan amounts available for such projects vary according to their purpose and location. Projects in the Southern African Customs Union, for example, have a minimum loan amount of R5-million, whereas those in South African Development Community countries are required to be worth at least US$3-million. Loans for new developments in the rest of Africa start at US$10-million and expansion projects in Africa are supported if they require at least US$5-million.

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