During President Obama’s first term, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Investment Company program has committed more capital to investors backing growth plays at the current—and dirt cheap—interest rate of about three percent.
It’s because investors are increasingly seeking out SBIC funding to support mezzanine deals, growth plays and smaller buyouts. The SBIC program lent $1.2 billion last fiscal year (each ends Sept. 30) and will surely approve funds exceeding that amount this year, but it still has hundreds of millions of dollars that go unused thanks to too few applicants and too few approvals. Yet, the capital committed by the program over the past full fiscal year represents an increase over the four prior years’ commitment levels by a whopping 55 percent. Experts believe the gap in capital allotted to the program and the amount it actually deploys will continue to shrink; difficulty raising debt has turned more investment firms that would usually sneer at the prospect of partnering with the government instead into eager recipients of discount debt.