WASHINGTON, D.C., June 18, 1999 — The
International Finance Corporation will invest US$13.2 million in one of
Ecuador's leading confectionery and food companies, La Universal, S.A.
The project is IFC's first investment in an industrial manufacturing company
in Ecuador since the 1970s and reflects its strategy of expanding its presence
in the Andean Region and helping companies with good growth potential to
modernize their operations and increase competitiveness. IFC's investment
provides La Universal with new equity and long-term financing that will
strengthen the company's capital and financial structure.
La Universal, with total sales of $37 million in 1998, produces chocolate,
candy, pasta, consumer cocoa, and semi-finished cocoa products. The project,
expected to be completed by March 2000, will upgrade La Universal's plant,
remove production bottlenecks, increase capacity, and restructure existing
IFC's financing consists of a loan for its own account of up to $8.2 million,
and an equity investment of up to $5 million. IFC will co-finance
this transaction with the Commonwealth Development Corporation of the U.K.
which will make an equity investment of $10 million.
La Universal was founded in 1889 in Guayaquil, Ecuador. In 1992,
Mr. Domingo Norero, whose family was one of the original founders of La
Universal, acquired majority control of the company. La Universal expects
to double its sales within five years and increase its presence in the
Andean Region food industry through exports and strategic partnerships.
IFC Vice President Mr. Assaad Jabre, who signed the agreement on June 17,
said that IFC's investment bridges a critical period of transition for
La Universal and mobilizes financing for this competitive, family-owned
company which seeks to modernize its operations and develop a greater presence
The mission of IFC, part of the World Bank Group, is to promote private
sector investment in developing countries, which will reduce poverty and
improve people's lives. IFC finances private sector investments in
the developing world, mobilizes capital in the international financial
markets, and provides technical assistance and advice to governments and