The Next Debt Bubble? PE Fuels Subprime Microfinance in India
Microfinance, small business loans to the urban and rural poor, was originally conceived as a tool for poverty alleviation. It has become big business - and private equity has rushed in. The Wall Street Journal of August 13 reports that in India, private equity funds among other investors have "poured billions of dollars over the past few years into microfinance world-wide", using methods reminiscent of the aggressive, predatory lending which spawned the subprime debt bubble in the US. In India today, the article reports, "Some poor neighborhoods are being 'carpet-bombed' with loans" bearing interest of 24% to 39%.