The Soros Economic Development Fund was used to operating in risky environments. Its mission was to make program-related equity investments in developing countries, and it had built up a sound track record in countries like Bulgaria, Liberia, and India.
Haiti was another place where SEDF was investing, and since 2003 the organization had been successfully funding a microfinance institution in Port-au-Prince. SEDF had focused on financial services and logistics, but in 2009 it learned about an attractive opportunity in Haiti's agriculture sector.
JMB S.A. had been in the mango processing business since 1998, and CEO Jean-Maurice Buteau had built up a profitable business that exported around 2,000 tons of mangoes per year. The company was eager to expand by starting a factory for freezing and packaging mango chunks; this process could make good use of second-quality mangoes that were not suitable for export. JMB had borrowed money to construct a new plant and to purchase the instant-quick-freeze equipment. But it did not have enough capital to get the freezing business up and running, and it was paying so much interest on its loans that its profitability was suffering. In 2009 JMB applied to SEDF for a loan and equity funding.
SEDF made numerous visits to Haiti to learn about the processing plant, the mango farmers, and the lenders who had already invested in JMB. By December 2009, SEDF had completed its due diligence process and had concluded that given the inherent risks of working in Haiti, JMB looked like a good investment.
The January 2010 earthquake devastated Haiti, but JMB appeared to survive intact, and SEDF was eager to move forward. What better way to help Haiti recover than to back one of its established businesses? In spring 2010 SEDF proceeded with a $1.3 million loan and a $1 million equity investment in JMB.
Then the problems began. Over the next two years JMB spent the funds on loan repayments, salaries, and repairs to the IQF facility, but little mango business was conducted. In emails, phone calls, and meetings, JMB explained its numerous challenges and requested additional funding to get the IQF operational. By spring 2012, after pouring $2.55 million into JMB, SEDF realized that it had to make a decision: invest another $2 million and reorganize the company under new management; sell the company; or shut down JMB S.A. altogether.
Published Date: 10/04/2012
Suggested Citation: Andrea Nagy Smith and Douglas Rae, "Haiti Mangoes," Yale SOM Case 12-011, April 10, 2012
Keywords: Agriculture, Haiti, Supply chain, Women in Leadership