July 6, 2021 – SINGAPORE – Impact Investment Exchange (IIX)’s Women’s Livelihood BondTM 1 (WLB1), the world’s first gender lens and impact investing instrument to be listed on a stock exchange (the Singapore Exchange), matured on July 6, 2021. With all coupon payments and principal payments made on time, even throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bond provided investors with an annual return of 5.65% from 2017-2021. The WLB1 is the first issuance of the US$150M Women’s Livelihood Bond Series, a series of innovative debt securities that creates sustainable livelihoods for over 3 million underserved women across the Asia-Pacific and other emerging markets. In addition to its strong financial performance, all social performance targets, including targets for increased financial inclusion and financial resilience, were met or exceeded, demonstrating the sustainability of the bond’s underlying portfolio throughout the pandemic.
Durreen Shahnaz, IIX CEO and Founder, said: “This is history in the making. When we created the world’s first exchange listed financial instrument for women over four years ago, we were faced with a lot of scepticism from financial institutions at the idea of a women-focused financial instrument. They were wrong, and we doubled down on our vision to connect the Back Streets of the world to Wall Street and make the markets work for underserved women. Our CIO, Robert Kraybill, and I, believed so much in the promise of the WLB1 that we committed our own personal savings to provide the first loss capital in the WLB1. With this vote of confidence, the Bond immediately sold in the market. Four years on, the women never failed us or the investors once, allowing us to make every single payment on time.”
The WLB1 is the first bond in the award-winning WLB Series, piloted with the support of partners such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), The Rockefeller Foundation, ANZ, DBS, Shearman & Sterling, and Hogan Lovells. Private investors in the WLB Series benefit from first loss capital and a 50 percent loan portfolio guarantee provided by USAID and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC). The WLB Series has received several global multilateral awards, including the United Nations Climate Action Award and the Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals (P4G) State-of-the-Art Partnership Award.
“DFC is proud to have contributed to the Women’s Livelihood Bond 1, which has proven through its financial success the transformative power that women, when empowered, can have on their economies and communities,” said Algene Sajery, Vice President of External Affairs and Head of Global Gender Equity Initiatives at DFC. “By increasing financial inclusion and resilience among underserved women in Southeast Asia, the WLB1 has made a difference in the lives of many, and paved the way for gender-lens impact investing for many years to come.”
Juniper Neill, Acting Mission Director for USAID/Regional Development Mission for Asia, said: “USAID is proud to support efforts like these across ASEAN that help build a more resilient, inclusive, and secure Southeast Asia. USAID is pleased that our work to establish a loss guarantee for this innovative bond helped advance market innovations once presumed too risky to undertake. The Women’s Livelihood Bond proves that investing in women generates strong social, environmental, and financial returns for investors.”
“The Rockefeller Foundation’s support for the Zero Gap initiative reflects our commitment to reimagine how private capital can help solve some of the world’s most pressing problems, so we are thrilled to see the success of the IIX’s Women’s Livelihood Bond 1,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “Not only does this success represent a landmark in attracting private sector support to sustainable development for emerging markets, it comes at a moment when we need public, private, and philanthropic support to ensure a sustainable, equitable recovery and build a brighter future for women and girls.”
Kyungwon (Won) Lee, Partner at Shearman & Sterling, said: “The Women’s Livelihood Bond Series was a fantastic example of how capital markets lawyers can provide meaningful pro bono assistance to underserved communities in Asia. We were thrilled to have this rare opportunity to apply our skills for the best of causes and to be recognized for the innovation behind such work through the Financial Times’ Innovative Lawyers Award.”
Paul White, Head of Capital Markets at ANZ, said: “As a partner with IIX since the first issuance of the WLB Series, ANZ has seen increasing investor appetite for this innovative instrument that delivers positive social impact by creating viable livelihoods for women in marginalised communities in Southeast Asia. Now working with IIX on the next issuance, Australian and New Zealand institutional investors and pension funds, family offices, and high net-worth individuals continue to be attracted to the WLB Series for its innovative structure, investment impact and gender-lens outcomes.”
The WLB1 offered a stable 5.65% yield, which compares favorably to the 2020 average of 4.0% returns for Asian high yield corporate bonds, and 1-3% returns on social bonds. The success of the WLB1 comes at a time when Social Bonds are taking off in Asia. Within the sustainable debt market, Asia’s Social Bond issuances have grown to 23% of the global total in 2020.
One of the key innovations of the WLB1 is to pool together a basket of women-focused enterprises across the region that are positively benefitting underserved communities, offering investors diversified risk, return, and impact. All borrowers achieved their impact targets over the 4-year life of the bond, and continued to serve their beneficiaries despite the Covid-19 pandemic. The WLB1 is creating 385,000 sustainable livelihoods for women across Southeast Asia.
Demonstrating the scalability and replicability of the WLB Series, IIX will be launching the fourth Women’s Livelihood Bond 4 Climate (WLB4Climate), the world’s first multi-continental sustainability bond, and will build on the success of the past issuances by expanding to include more countries in Asia and Africa and new sectors.
This announcement is not for publication or distribution, directly or indirectly, in or into the United States. Securities have not been and will not be registered under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”) or any state securities laws of the United States, and may not be offered or sold in the United States absent registration or an applicable exemption from the registration requirements of the Securities Act and applicable state laws. IIX has no intention to register the securities in the United States or any other jurisdiction.