Hong Kong Startup Raises $105 Million to Expand Lending Business

(Bloomberg) -- A Hong Kong startup called Oriente raised $105 million as it expands online lending operations in Southeast Asia and develops new products and technologies for markets like Indonesia and the Philippines.

Oriente was founded in 2017 by Skype Inc. co-founder Geoffrey Prentice, former Lu.com Chief Operating Officer Hubert Tai, and Lawrence Chu, founder of BlackPine Group. It provides loans, often $50 to $100, to small businesses that would otherwise struggle to get money, and is racing to roll out additional financial services for the fragmented markets of Southeast Asia. Customers can apply for loans through a mobile app or offline.

The region’s lack of banking services and rapid adoption of smartphones has led to a surge in new startups and investments in recent years. Oriente’s funding comes from some of Southeast Asia’s wealthiest business families, including people involved in JG Summit Holdings Inc. in the Philippines, Indonesia’s Sinar Mas and Berjaya Group in Malaysia.

“We want to unlock the entrepreneurial spirit and let the middle class in these emerging markets get ahead,” Prentice said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.

In the Philippines, Oriente formed a joint venture with JG Summit, one of the country’s biggest conglomerates, and rolled out Cashalo, a mobile app that provides small loans to Filipinos. For a loan of between 2,000 pesos ($38) and 5,000 pesos, the company’s rates can be 3.95 percent a month, plus 4 percent processing fee. Though that works out to about 50 percent annual interest, it’s typically lower than what borrowers could get from other lenders.

Hong Kong Startup Raises $105 Million to Expand Lending Business

In Indonesia, Oriente has a consumer lending app called Finmas through a strategic partnership with Sinar Mas. Oriente now has more than 1,200 employees across Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Taipei, Manila, Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh City.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.