Malaysia-based private equity firm Creador has invested 4 billion Philippine pesos ($71.3 million) in Asialink Finance Corporation, a lender to small and medium enterprises (SMEs). This investment grants Creador an 18% stake in Asialink and a seat on its board of directors, the company said on Wednesday.

Asialink plans to utilise the funds to expand its lending capacity and bolster support for SME growth, recognising SMEs as vital contributors to the economy and job creation nationwide, it said.

In addition to financing Asialink’s nationwide expansion, Creador will contribute to enhancing the lender’s operational efficiency, introducing international banking partners, and leveraging its expertise gained from investing in numerous NBFCs to foster business innovation and automation.

“Creador is delighted to partner with the Asialink Group, the leading provider of secured vehicle loans to SMEs in the country,” said Omar Mahmoud, Creador’s managing director and country head of the Philippines, in a statement. “With our investment, hard-working business owners will gain access to the financial system as the company expands geographically, launches new products and leverages data to digitalise its services,” Mahmoud added.

Meanwhile, Robert Jordan, Jr., CEO of Asialink, highlighted the partnership’s significance in empowering the largely unbanked segment of the business community, envisioning strengthened SMEs as key drivers of economic growth, akin to developed economies.

Paulton & Company served as Asialink’s financial advisor for the transaction, while Gorricetta acted as Legal Advisor to Creador.

The PE firm has been actively investing in the region. Earlier this month, Singapore-based UNOAsia, the incorporator of UNO Digital Bank in the Philippines, announced raising $32.1 million in its pre-Series B funding round. Besides Creador, the fundraising, which was a mix of debt and equity, was backed by emerging markets-focused investment firm Gateway Partners, and asset manager Nextinfinity Management.

Private Equity International reported in October last year that Creador is preparing to hit the market to raise as much as $800 million for its sixth flagship fund. The PE firm was reportedly planning to launch Creador VI in early 2024 with a $750-800 million target, which is above the $700 million it raised for Creador V, which closed in December 2022.