French market lender raises €7m investment

The market-lender will provide small short- to medium-term loans to SMEs.

Lendix, a new French crowdfunding venture, has raised €7 million in funding from a combination of investors, including the management team of 123Venture, the founder of which is also behind the new company. Partech Ventures and Weber Investissements, which is controlled by Didier Le Menestrel and Christian Gueugnier, and Marc Menasé joined 123Ventures in investing in the new platform.

Olivier Goy founded 123Ventures, a private equity asset management firm focused on small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and dedicated to retail investors. It has over 60,000 private clients and €1.2 billion of assets under management.

Goy has now turned his sights on debt financing for SMEs by launching one of the first crowd-funded direct lending platforms in France, he told PDI.

The US and UK have had success in developing such platforms but there are few equivalents in France though the SME financing market totals roughly €100 billion and bank lenders have been retrenching, said Goy.

Lendix aims to finance 400 to 500 SMEs in its first year, offering loans between €15,000 and €300,000 at fixed rates and with maturities of 18 to 48 months. To back that, it hopes to raise around €40 million from investors in its first year, said Goy.

As with the UK market, Goy anticipates that rather than strictly peer-to-peer lending, institutional investors will be as attracted to the opportunity as retail investors and prefers the term market-lending as a descriptor.

Lendix will use a team of analysts to grade borrowers and depending on the credit quality of the borrower and the maturity, interest rates will range between four percent and eight percent, according to a statement.

123Venture’s origins lie in private equity, but Goy said that the idea for a credit-focused sister company – and Lendix will be completely separate – was inspired by the steady increase in bond investments by his private equity asset manager, 123Ventures.

Lendix will focus on the French market to start with, but Goy plans to open a London office early next year and aims to lend across Europe, he said.

To source deals, the firm has signed a number of partnerships, explained Goy. He believes SMEs are more than ready to embrace alternative lenders.

“That’s the easiest part of the business [persuading companies to borrow from Lendix], companies are so disappointed with banks. It’s not a question of financing, it’s a question of time,” said Goy adding that it can take up to three months for a bank to make a lending decision, time that borrowers do not want to waste.

The poor economic outlook for France, and Europe more generally, is not a source of concern for Goy. “It’s easier to start when the economic outlook is not good, you avoid a lot of mistakes. We will be cautious at the start [as a result],” said Goy.

Lendix has appointed Philippe Citerne, former deputy chief executive of Société Générale, to its supervisory board.