Lockdown | Help from Rupert's business relief fund is on the way

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Business Partners said in a statement released on Monday that small, medium and micro enterprises in South Africa could begin applying for assistance from its R1 billion fund to keep them afloat during the three-week national coronavirus lockdown.

When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a national lockdown last week, he also announced provisions of a combined R2 billion from the family of Remgro billionaire Johann Rupert and De Beers billionaire Nicky Oppenheimer.

Rupert and Oppenheimer are the richest people in South Africa, with a combined net worth of $12.2 billion according to Forbes Magazine's real time billionaire tracker portal. Another South African billionaire, Patrice Motsepe announced his own business relief fund of R1 billion on Saturday.

Business Day reported last week that Rupert preferred the funds to be disbursed through his company, Business Partners, as it had an extensive network of businesses, through its work supporting them.

Business Partners managing director, Ben Bierman, said in the statement that Business Partners would offer the R1 billion disbursement through various packages to suit businesses of various types and sizes. Remgro owns 43% of Business Partners.

"We can confirm that Business Partners Limited - one of Africa’s leading risk finance companies for SMEs - has been selected as the administrator of the R1 billion funding and are truly honoured to have been provided the opportunity to serve our country in this manner.

"We will have distinct and separate financing programmes available for both sole proprietors and formalised SMEs to ensure widespread support. We expect to make an announcement regarding the criteria, repayment terms and how to apply for the finance this week," says Bierman.

Bierman said Business Partners hoped to provide assistance to see business through the 21-day national lockdown, the coronavirus pandemic and the long-term unpredictable future of the South African economy.

"We believe that through the funding made possible by the Rupert Family and Remgro Limited, together with other initiatives being implemented by both the public and private sector in South Africa, we can help sustain many of the affected businesses and protect jobs for years to come," said Bierman.

The statement said Business Partners has financed more than 71 000 SMME transactions in 39 years and has previously managed funds for the South African Government, International Finance Corporation and the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.
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