£4.4m for a social purpose bond? Not a problem for Ethex investors motivated to address fuel poverty!
Josh Brewer is the Senior Business Development Manager at Ethex, in this blog he discusses how Ethex was able to successfully deliver the largest single raise in its history for Our Power.
When I received a call from Social Investment Scotland back in May 2017 saying that they had a social enterprise called Our Power that might be interested in crowdfunding investment on the Ethex platform little did I realise the size of the project that Ethex was about to embark on.
The scale of the investment raise quickly became clear after an initial conversation with Our Power’s Finance Director, Carron Garmory, who said to me rather matter-of-factly that Our Power were looking to raise around £4.4m through a social purpose bond by the end of the year to help them scale up their energy supply business, and could Ethex help?
Our Power are a pioneering energy supply social enterprise that are tackling the issue of fuel poverty by offering an affordable standard fuel tariff to all their customers, regardless of payment type or how long they have been a customer.
With their business model they are effectively taking on the big six energy suppliers in trying to ensure a much fairer, open and transparent tariff system that doesn’t unfairly penalise the poorer sections of society. The yearly savings that fuel poor households make mean they can heat their homes for an additional 65 days if they use gas and 100 days if they use electricity.
Our Power had an ambitious 5-year plan to scale up to a £100m turnover business and they needed £4.4m of investment to start that plan in order to provide even more households with affordable energy!
My initial reaction was “Wow, that’s a pretty big raise” – it would be Ethex’s largest to date. However, I was also pretty confident that given our highly motivated investor base we could fill the offer. Ultimately, the Our Power offer was successful because of a number of mutually beneficial elements which included:
• the financial return being offered for the bond of 6.5% was competitive;
• the offer was eligible for Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR) at the higher threshold of £1.5million;
• Ethex has a very motivated and engaged investor base that really wants to help to tackle fuel poverty and unfairness in the system in the UK and
• there was institutional support from both a private investment manager and from Big Society Capital (BSC) in the form of the Ethex managed £2m Crowd Matchfund.
The bond being offered by Our Power will give investors a potential competitive financial return of 6.5% over the next three years. When added to the fact that some retail investors, depending on their personal tax situation, could also claim Social Investment Tax Relief at 30%, this made the bond a very attractive investment proposition.
The return on offer, plus the social impact of addressing fuel poverty meant that we were confident of getting strong support from our investors but we would need some additional firepower to reach the target and this is where the institutional support we were able to bring in was crucial.
Our Power launched on the 19th October 2017 and closed right on schedule on the 21st December, having raised just over £4.4m from 301 investors, with retail investors each investing around £6,500. Ethex successfully delivered the £4.4m raise through a winning combination of its highly engaged investors, the match fund provided by Big Society Capital and additional support from institutional investors.
Ethex can provide other social enterprises looking for finance with access to our unique range of resources and investors that truly want to create social impact and generate a financial return. If you’d like to talk to us about how we can help your social enterprise or mission driven business achieve its goals then please do get in touch. Call Ethex on 01865 403304 or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or Tom on email@example.com