With a $30 million investment, APG is anchoring a transformative bond designed to empower women entrepreneurs in Asia and Africa’s emerging markets by merging investor returns with meaningful social progress.

Dutch pension fund manager APG Asset Management (APG) has committed $30 million to the Women’s Livelihood Bond (WLB6), a financial product aimed at providing access to capital for women entrepreneurs in select Asian and African countries.

“APG’s pension fund clients want their investments to have a positive, real-world impact, as well as generate a stable return. The Women’s Livelihood Bond 6 has the potential to meet both of these ambitions,” Joshua Linder, senior credit analyst and sustainability lead at APG told AsianInvestor. 

Joshua Linder,
APG Asset Management

This bond, structured by the Impact Investment Exchange (IIX), is designed to assist approximately 800,000 women and girls in regions where financial exclusion is prevalent.

The WLB6 sets a new industry standard as the largest Orange- and Sustainability-labeled Bond in the market, with an unprecedented size for gender-based investment bonds of $100 million and a 7.25% coupon rate.

“The Women’s Livelihood Bond Series represents a unique opportunity by focusing on gender-lens investing, with a portion of proceeds also supporting climate goals, all while providing an attractive return for investors,” said Linder.

The bond targets businesses within six sectors across five countries, focusing on areas where women face systemic obstacles in obtaining financial resources.

The orange bond resonates with the values of the $567-billion Dutch pension fund manager and aligns with its long-term responsible investing approach, said Linder.

“Though this is our first time investing in a bond with dedicated proceeds promoting gender equality, we have been investing in green, social, and sustainability bonds for many years and are one of the largest investors in these types of bonds globally,” he said.

RISK AND RETURN

Gender inequality in access to capital is a significant issue, with the UN reporting that women, although responsible for a substantial portion of global food production, own less than 10% of land.

The move to invest by APG reflects a growing trend among investors to consider social impact alongside financial performance in their investment portfolios.

“The bond provides a true balance of risk, return, and impact,” Ben Rosado, senior credit analyst at APG, told AsianInvestor.

Ben Rosado,
APG Asset Management

To secure and stabilise APG’s investment, WLB6 incorporates a diversified portfolio across the six sectors: sustainable agriculture, clean energy, water and sanitation, affordable housing, SME Lending, and microfinance; and five geographies: Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Vietnam — all alongside unique credit protection features.

These strategic measures are designed to shield senior bondholders from losses of up to $20 million, ensuring a robust risk mitigation framework.

“IIX secured a government-backed partial guarantee from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, as well as support from the US International Development Finance Corporation, which significantly lowers the risk for investors,” said Rosado.

“WLB6 is at the intersection of gender equality and climate action. One hundred percent of the bond’s proceeds are aimed at advancing SDG 5: Gender Equality, by positively impacting the lives of more than 800,000 women and girls across five countries in Asia and Africa,” said Rosado.

In addition, 25-30% of proceeds will also contribute to SDG 13: Climate Action. Altogether, this makes it an attractive investment with favourable relative value characteristics for APG’s clients, he said.

TRANSPARENCY MATTERS

APG’s decision to invest was informed by the transparency provided by IIX’s impact assessment framework, which evaluates borrowers and monitors their performance.

This includes the collection and verification of impact data, with APG expecting detailed annual financial reports and semi-annual impact reports that disclose the use of funds and the results achieved, according to Lee Anne Hagel, responsible investment credit analyst at APG.

“As investors in this bond, it is crucial that we have transparency — detailed information on the activities our investment is funding and what is achieved in concrete terms,” Hagel told AsianInvestor.

Lee Anne Hagel,
APG Asset Management

Hagel said that APG has been very impressed by IIX’s track record on impact reporting.

“IIX uses pre-determined financial and social metrics, collects input from the end beneficiaries, and proactively verifies the impact data,” said Hagel.

“In addition to annual financial reporting, we will also receive semi-annual impact reports on the individual borrowers we are lending to and on our investment as a whole.”

APG’s commitment to WLB6 is part of a broader ecosystem collaboration led by the Steering Committee of the Orange Movement, which includes prominent entities like ANZ, Nuveen, and U.S. DFC. This coalition exemplifies the power of partnership between the private and public sectors, advancing the cause of gender equality.

Moreover, the Orange Movement offers the Orange Pledge, inviting organisations to join a non-binding commitment to support gender equality initiatives and participate in shaping the Orange Bond Principles.

This inclusivity allows a wider array of stakeholders to contribute towards the advancement of gender equality in the investment space.

The investment in WLB6 is not just a financial decision for APG.

“Our participation in the WLB6 is a clear indication of our belief in the transformative power of inclusive finance,” said Linder. “By investing in women, we are not just generating returns; we are helping to build a more sustainable and equitable world.”

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