For Marcus James, executive chairman of Access Financial Services Limited (AFS),the recent letter from rival Dolla Financial Services (Dolla) about an interest in acquiring the company is “nothing to consider”.
AFS is instead focused on aggressively growing its business loan portfolio and positioning itself to take advantage of expansion opportunities locally and internationally.
The company offers a range of business and personal loans to the microfinance sector.
Responding to questions about Dolla’s letter and talks of a possible takeover, James told AFS’ annual general meeting (AGM) on Thursday that he had not received an offer it could present to shareholders.
“If an offer was made, we would be duty bound to take that to shareholders. I imagine anybody who would make an offer would do so in accordance with the JSE rules,” James said.
The executive chairman also told shareholders that AFS is not going to sell.
One outspoken shareholder, Orette Staple, quizzed James on the matter.
“Can we leave this meeting feeling that you are not going to sell and that Access will remain as Access as far as we shareholders are concerned”, Staple asked.
In response James said: “absolutely”.
Access Financial executive chairman Marcus James (left) in conversation with outspoken shareholder Orette Staple at the company’s annual general meeting on September 8, 2022. (Photo: Marlon Reid)
In respect of its ambition to acquire AFS, Dolla could take the route of a hostile takeover and indirectly obtain control of the management of AFS.
Asked whether he had been approached about a buyout of his interest in Access, James declined to comment.
“I think any private discussions that may have taken place or are likely to take place should be private,” James said, adding that decisions taken as an entity do not relate to AFS overall,” he said.
Springhill Holdings, which is connected to James, has the largest AFS shareholding with 47.33 per cent interest.
James was, however, keener to comment on the growth targets of the micro credit firm.
“The future looks bright in terms of the continuing growth of the economy and where we are positioned to take advantage of the opportunities, especially as a licensed entity, we will examine those opportunities both locally and internationally,” James said.
Access Financial CEO Fredrick Williams speaking at the company’s annual general meeting.
AFS became the first microcredit company to be licensed under the Micro Credit Act by the Bank of Jamaica on August 1, 2022. The licence enables AFS to provide microcredit services such as the granting of loans or business advisory services to individuals and MSMEs.
AFS also signalled its intention to aggressively grow its business loan portfolio.
“The rebounding of the economy will determine how fast we will grow because we are looking for persons who want to reinvest in their business and grow their business,” said AFS CEO Frederick Williams.
To grow its loan portfolio, Williams said the company would utilise the Access Business Loan Centre, which provides a one-stop shop for customers to process business loans and receive support with online loan applications.
Located in Cross Roads, the centre is a hub for team members serving the parishes of Kingston & St Andrew, St Catherine and St Thomas.
In addition to eight loan officers stationed there, AFS has another 20 team members dedicated to serving business clients across the island.
Williams said AFS would also utilise technology to aid in the expansion of the business loan portfolio.
“We have the technology that can allow us to complete a loan at the business place of the customer, and we are going to be using this to reach more customers.”
AFS is also seeking to grow its footprint in Florida through its subsidiary, Embassy Loans Inc.
“In a matter of weeks, Embassy will open another branch, and we are actually looking to expand further within the Florida market,” Williams said.
For the year ended March 2022, AFS generated revenues of $1.98 billion, a nine per cent increase compared to the similar period last year of $1.82 billion.
Consolidated net profit after tax was $438 million, or 65 per cent higher than the prior-year amount of $266 million, driven by a 10.2 per cent improvement in its operating efficiency ratio to 71.1 per cent.
Embassy Loans saw a 79 per cent increase in disbursements year over year.