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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Buy a Bali Bank

New 'Bank of Banks' Targets to Help 45 Million Escape Poverty.

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The Oregonian reports that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has provided US$19.4 million in funding towards the US$33 million purchase of an ailing Bali bank by the Portland-based Mercy Corps.A nonprofit foundation, Mercy Corps will acquire Sri Partha Banks and its operating licenses to establish an institution specializing in micro-finance programs to assist small entrepreneurs, typically unable to access loan money from other sources.

Provisionally renamed as the Bank of Banks (BoB), the acquisition and start-up funding will come from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank and Dutch sources. The new bank will strive to move away from the "hand-out" format of assistance to the poor to a more sustainable institutional format that can offer micro loans and savings accounts, provide insurance, mortgage finance, remittance services and mobile banking.

Aiming to eventually serve 16 million Indonesians by 2011, BoB is said to be seeking to serve their clients via cell phones, ATMs and the Internet. Observers laud the project, saying that the model can be quickly expanded to other countries in the region and is capable of permanently lifting 45 million people out of poverty over the next decade.

"Bank of Banks is expected to revolutionize the way microfinance works in Indonesia and beyond," said Neal Keny-Guyer, chief executive of Mercy Corps.

PT Bank Sri Partha has two dozen branch offices. The new owners plan to move the headquarters to Jakarta.

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