Unitus Expands to South America with FIS Partnership

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Partnership to Bring Microfinance to 55,000 Argentines by 2009

Unitus, a leading microfinance organization, today announced its partnership with FIS Empresa Social of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Through the partnership Unitus will provide FIS with $100,000 in grants and a $500,000 debt facility, as well as expert capacity-building consulting, to help accelerate FIS’s growth. With Unitus’s support, FIS plans to grow from its current base of about 3,000 clients to more than 55,000 clients by 2009.

Unitus is a global microfinance accelerator which identifies and partners with the highest-potential microfinance institutions (MFIs) in the world. By providing capital investment and consulting services, Unitus helps accelerate its MFI Partners so that they can serve exponentially more poor clients. With the addition of FIS, Unitus has eight MFI Partners serving more than 540,000 clients in India, Kenya, Mexico and Argentina. Unitus’s innovative, entrepreneurial approach to finding, partnering with, and growing microfinance institutions puts it on track to reach 10 million clients over the next 10 years.

Founded in 1999, FIS provides microcredit loans to the poor throughout the greater Buenos Aires region and in the rural northern province of Santiago del Estero. FIS taps a significant demand for microfinance, since out of an estimated 3.5 million people in the greater Buenos Aires region living under the national poverty line, only about 10,000 currently have access to microfinance products and services. In addition to microcredit loans for entrepreneurs, FIS offers loans which help people to purchase solar panels for their electricity needs. FIS is unusual among MFIs: Not only does FIS serve primarily urban clients, of which about 50 percent are men, but FIS is already a for-profit entity, allowing it to accept both national and foreign equity investments without major restrictions, thus greatly increasing its funding options. Ultimately, FIS hopes to offer microfinance services to the poor throughout Argentina.

Unitus will play a key role in financing this expansion by providing additional debt funding. Furthermore, through its capacity-building consulting Unitus will help FIS in areas such as implementing management information systems, establishing human resources processes, and strengthening relationships with local banks.

“I’m very happy to welcome FIS as Unitus’s eighth MFI Partner,” said Unitus President and CEO, Geoff Davis. “FIS has everything we look for in a partner: A world-class management team, a transparent and innovative organization, and an ambitious, poverty-focused plan for expansion. I know everyone at FIS shares our passion for microfinance as a means of reducing poverty, and we’re delighted to be working with them.”

“Millions of people in Argentina lack access to financial services and opportunities to improve their lives,” said FIS President Juan José Ochoa. “FIS is a leader in bringing microfinance to Argentina to meet this urgent need. With the support of Unitus we can do so much faster and more effectively.”

About FIS (http://www.fis.com.ar):

FIS was founded in 1999 as the microfinance arm of El Ceibal, an Argentine non-governmental organization offering educational and community development programs in the rural northern province of Santiago del Estero. In 2003 FIS expanded its operations to the urban areas of the greater Buenos Aires region. In 2005 FIS became an independent microfinance institution and is currently one of the leading microfinance institutions in Argentina. FIS offers individual and group solidarity loans, as well as financial assistance for the purchase of solar panels. Focusing on the urban poor, about half of FIS’s clients are men. Unlike many MFIs, FIS is a for-profit institution, allowing the organization to receive foreign and domestic equity investments. FIS has achieved strong growth and is poised for expansion throughout Argentina. For more information about FIS, please visit: http://www.fis.com.ar

About Unitus (http://www.unitus.com):

Unitus is a global microfinance accelerator that acts as a social venture capital investor for the microfinance industry. Unitus identifies the highest-potential microfinance institutions (MFIs) in developing countries and helps accelerate their growth through capital investments and capacity-building consulting, thus empowering them to help exponentially more poor people worldwide. In doing so, Unitus aims to demonstrate that MFIs can be run as profitable, large-scale, poverty-focused businesses with links to local capital markets. As of March 2006, Unitus had eight MFI Partners worldwide serving more than 540,000 poor clients. Based in Redmond, Wash., USA, and with an office in Bangalore, India, Unitus relies on innovative financial instruments and the financial resources of like-minded individuals and foundations to fulfill its mission. Unitus received the 2006 Fast Company / Monitor Group Social Capitalist Award for taking an innovative, entrepreneurial, business-minded approach to alleviating global poverty. For more information about Unitus, please visit: http://www.unitus.com

Media Contacts:

Robert Lowry

PR Associate

Unitus

Ph: +1 425-881-2574

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UNITUS
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