Invest in Georgia - Peer-to-Peer (P2P) lending - Mintos.com

After almost five years spent as an ex-pat and passive investor (savings accounts only) in Republic of Georgia, time after time I'm looking for some other liquid investment opportunities in Georgia. Mostly I end up with stock exchange, but for now Georgian Stock Exchange market doesn't seems transparent enough and easy accessible.

By saying - not enough transparent I mean - I haven't find yet a broker offering real-time stats. 

Time after time I end up in official Invest in Georgia website www.investingeorgia.org, there are good information provided for investment opportunities in this country. If you have spare few millions you might end up investing in energy, hospitality & real estate, manufacturing, logistics or agriculture & food processing. If you still feel you don't have such much money and you call yourself a small investor with funds less than $10,000 to invest in this gorgeous country - you are left with savings accounts or opening your small business. And this is what I would recommend - a small business. That's what I'm doing here - I'm a freelance programmer working 80% overseas. 

During my stay in Georgia I have met some successful businessmen operating in fish farming and diary sectors, see: South African fish farms in Georgia (Sagarejo, Sartichala) and "Piena Ceļš Georgia" - visit of dairy farm

If I would have to invest more than USD 100,000 in Georgia I would without doubt look on agriculture or food processing (thus you might end short with $100,000). 

I was googling for ideas like investment ideas for small investors avoiding stock market and I ended up in some article about Peer-to-Peer lending.

About Peer-to-Peer lending

Peer-to-peer lending, sometimes abbreviated P2P lending, is the practice of lending money to individuals or businesses through online services that match lenders directly with borrowers. Since the peer-to-peer lending companies offering these services operate entirely online, they can run with lower overhead and provide the service more cheaply than traditional financial institutions. As a result, lenders often earn higher returns compared to savings and investment products offered by banks, while borrowers can borrow money at lower interest rates, even after the P2P lending company has taken a fee for providing the match-making platform and credit checking the borrower.

Soon I found mintos.com platform offering to lend money for borrowers in Georgia (and not only).

Mintos

Screenshot of Mintos homepage

Mintos promises 12.59% average net annual return for investors and offers to start investing with as low as EUR 10 per loan. 

12.59% annual return for me sounds a lot (and risky too), in Georgian banks you could get return of 1.5%-2% (for savings in USD or EUR). At this moment Mintos is not taking service fees for investors. In case for opting to go with Mintos or any other P2P lending company I would not invest more than 10-20% from my total assets. Your investment style might differ. Always remember - your capital is at risk and you might lose all your capital.

Getting started with Mintos seems simple:

Mintos getting started

To start investing at Mintos, you need to register as an investor. This is a simple process that will take less than 5 minutes. Once you have registered with Mintos, transfer the desired amount of money from your bank account to your Mintos investor account. Once the money is added to your Mintos investor account, you can begin building your investment portfolio, either by using Auto Invest tool or by browsing loan listings.Each month, you will receive payments from borrowers consisting of both the principal and interest payments. You can choose to reinvest these funds in other loans or transfer them to your bank account.

Georgian loan primary market

Georgian loan primary market

For now it seems in Georgia just short term (one month) personal loans are issued with maximum amount of EUR 577 offering 11.7% annual interest rate. 

I decided to calculate how much it would be per month in optimistic scenario (the loans is replayed and investors gets interest rate). Let's say I have built a portfolio from EUR 1000 and it's invested in ten loans EUR 100 in each for 30 days and borrowers repays on time.

To calculate monthly interest rate let's divide the annual interest rate expressed as a percentage by 12 to calculate the monthly interest rate expressed as a percentage. For example, if you have an annual interest rate of 11.7 percent, divide 11.7 by 12 to find the monthly interest rate is .975 percent. It's almost one percent monthly.

Let's add that interest rate to our initial capital, and see what is our return here: 1000EUR + 0.975%= 1009.75 EUR.

After one month you have earned additional 9.75 EUR. It's much better rate a savings account can offer to you, but still - I just made a best positive scenario, you might end loosing your money.. So it's pretty risky investment. I believe when investing in such loans you should consider to invest for at least a year. But before actually starting investing, do your homework, research, make optimistic, pessimistic and realistic scenario excel tables to better understand is it worth to invest in P2P loans at all.

About Mintos.com

Mintos is a Latvia owned peer-to-peer lending marketplace that connects investors with borrowers of non-bank lenders. It is an easy and transparent alternative to the traditional banking system. At Mintos both retail and institutional investors can invest in fractions of loans originated across Europe. Currently, we serve mortgage loans, personal unsecured loans, secured car loans, and small business loans. The minimum investment in one loan is EUR 10. Loan originators, on the other hand, by connecting to the Mintos platform get an instant access to investors that are looking to purchase loans.

Since I have heard of many Latvian owned lending companies in Georgia, it's not a surprise of seeing Mintos partnered with some of them. After browsing through Mintos webpage I found with whom - Creamfinance. There is really interesting article on Mintos blog, I will take few excerpts from interview with Matiss Ansviesulis, Co-founder and CEO of Creamfinance, you can read full article here: An interview with Co-founder and CEO of Creamfinance

....

What is your experience in the industry? How many countries does Creamfinance work in?

Our national platforms are operated by an international team, consisting of over 200 employees from 9 countries, currently operating across six markets – Latvia, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria and Georgia. The company has been operating for nearly four years since the beginning of 2012.

.....

Currently on the Mintos platform you have listed loans issued in Georgia. Do you plan to add other countries as well?

Yes, we are exploring the legal frameworks in other countries where Creamfinance operates to verify whether such a business model could work.

Please share the latest financial results. What are your development plans?

Our business in Georgia operates with a high growth. In 2015, a 9 month revenue equaled €3.2 million, compared to the whole year 2014 revenue of €0.7 million. Georgian business is expected to double next year.

...

I did my homework and researched for other P2P lending companies, and seems Latvians are not the only Baltic nation experts in lending business, I found another P2P lending company Bondora in Estonia.

What''s even most interesting (at least for me) I found other finance bloggers covering their experience with P2P lending. I quickly started to read what others are saying and for now - P2P, thus a bit frightening (everything new is a bit frightening), seems really tempting to try. And since I have found one operating in Georgia (and I'm looking exclusively on investment opportunities in Georgia, because I call it my home market) - Mintos seems a good answer. I probably will end up by investing smaller amount (EUR 1000) to test how it works, but before actually investing I will prepare some revenue/loss excel table, to better understand this system. 

Here are few articles on Estonian P2P lending Bondora:

Remember your capital is at risk.

The Bottom Line

P2P lending is not a get rich quick scheme, it takes a lot of research and dedication, and it involves a steel nerves too, as you might end up actually loosing your money. For me P2P lending seems an interesting alternative to savings at bank account, but I wouldn't go 100% for P2P lending exclusively. Speaking of loan market in Georgia, yes, that is a misery and brilliance - it's sad to see half country being in debts, but on the other hand it gives a really lucrative income for lenders. As I have seen reports some lenders make even 375% return on small debts issued. 11.7% for investors is not much compared to that, but is still more than banks can offer.

Do you have an experience working with Mintos or any other P2P lending platform? Readers and me would love to hear, drop a comment!