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Stewart Information Services to Increase Annual Cash Dividend to $1.00

HOUSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–

Stewart Information Services Corp. (STC) (“Stewart”), a leading provider of real estate services, including global residential and commercial title insurance, escrow and settlement services, lender services, underwriting, specialty insurance and other solutions that facilitate successful real estate transactions, today announced that its Board of Directors has approved an increase in the Company’s cash dividend payable to common shareholders from $0.10 per share annually to $1.00 per share to be paid quarterly at a rate of $0.25 per share beginning in the second quarter of this year. The Company’s existing share repurchase authorization will remain in effect and be used opportunistically based on various factors such as the Company’s stock price, operational performance and other relevant criteria.

“Today’s dividend increase highlights the solid progress we have made toward transforming Stewart and reflects our confidence in the Company’s ability to deliver solid cash flow in 2015 and beyond,” said Matthew W. Morris, Chief Executive Officer. “We continue to engage our shareholders regarding our capital return strategy. Given the continued progress in our business, we are pleased to be in a position to advance a competitive and sustainable dividend policy alongside our share repurchase program. Going forward, we will remain committed to returning meaningful amounts of capital to shareholders on a regular basis while also maintaining our ratings and a capital base that supports the growth in our business.”

The continuation of the quarterly cash dividend is subject to certain factors, including, among others, the ability to obtain excess capital from Stewart’s regulated insurance subsidiary, the performance of the Company’s business, the Company’s ratings and the capital surplus position of the Company.

About Stewart

Stewart Information Services Corp. (NYSE:STC) is a customer-focused, global title insurance and real estate services company offering products and services through our direct operations, network of approved agencies and other companies within the Stewart family. Stewart provides these services to homebuyers and sellers; residential and commercial real estate professionals; mortgage lenders and servicers; title agencies and real estate attorneys; home builders; and United States and county governments. Stewart also provides loan origination and servicing support; loan review services; loss mitigation; REO asset management; collateral valuations; due diligence for capital markets; home and personal insurance services; tax-deferred exchanges; and technology to streamline the real estate process. Stewart offers personalized service, industry expertise and customized solutions for virtually any type of real estate transaction, and is the preferred real estate services provider. More information can be found at http://www.stewart.com/news, subscribe to the Stewart blog at http://blog.stewart.com or follow Stewart on Twitter @stewarttitleco.

Forward-looking statements

Certain statements in this news release are “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such forward-looking statements relate to future, not past, events and often address our expected future business and financial performance. These statements often contain words such as “expect,” “anticipate,” “intend,” “plan,” “believe,” “seek,” “will,” “foresee” or other similar words. Forward-looking statements by their nature are subject to various risks and uncertainties that could cause our actual results to be materially different than those expressed in the forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include, among other things, the tenuous economic conditions; adverse changes in the level of real estate activity; changes in mortgage interest rates, existing and new home sales, and availability of mortgage financing; our ability to respond to and implement technology changes, including the completion of the implementation of our enterprise systems; the impact of unanticipated title losses or the need to strengthen our policy loss reserves; any effect of title losses on our cash flows and financial condition; the impact of vetting our agency operations for quality and profitability; changes to the participants in the secondary mortgage market and the rate of refinancing that affects the demand for title insurance products; regulatory non-compliance, fraud or defalcations by our title insurance agencies or employees; our ability to timely and cost-effectively respond to significant industry changes and introduce new products and services; the outcome of pending litigation; the impact of changes in governmental and insurance regulations, including any future reductions in the pricing of title insurance products and services; our dependence on our operating subsidiaries as a source of cash flow; the continued realization of expense savings from our cost management program; our ability to successfully integrate acquired businesses; our ability to access the equity and debt financing markets when and if needed; our ability to grow our international operations; and our ability to respond to the actions of our competitors. These risks and uncertainties, as well as others, are discussed in more detail in our documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the Form 10-K, our quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, and our Current Reports on Form 8-K. We expressly disclaim any obligation to update any forward-looking statements contained in this news release to reflect events or circumstances that may arise after the date hereof, except as may be required by applicable law.

Trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

FinanceInvestment & Company Informationreal estate Contact:

Stewart Information Services Corp.

John Arcidiacono, 713-625-8019

Chief Marketing Officer

jarcidia@stewart.com

Nat Otis, 713-625-8360

Director-Investor Relations

nat.otis@stewart.com […]

easyhome Ltd. Enters into Agreement to Acquire Cash Store Locations

MISSISSAUGA, ONTARIO–(Marketwired – Jan 18, 2015) – easyhome Ltd. (EH.TO) (“easyhome“), the Canadian leader in providing goods and financial services to the cash and credit constrained consumer, today announced that its subsidiary, easyfinancial Services Inc. (“easyfinancial” or the “Company”), has entered into a binding agreement (the “Agreement”) to purchase the lease rights and obligations for up to 47 retail locations across Canada, together with certain related assets at certain locations (the “Transaction”) from The Cash Store Financial Services Inc. (“Cash Store”). Upon completion of the Transaction, these retail locations will be opened as new easyfinancial branches providing consumer loans to Canadian consumers.

easyfinancial submitted its proposal in accordance with Cash Store’s secondary sale process conducted under Cash Store’s proceeding under the Companies Creditors Arrangement Act (Canada). The Agreement and the completion of the Transaction remain subject to Court approval in Canada and the satisfaction of certain closing conditions customary to transactions of this nature. The Company anticipates closing the Transaction within the first quarter of 2015.

Under the terms of the Agreement, easyfinancial will assume the lease rights and obligations for up to 32 retail locations currently occupied by Cash Store immediately upon closing, subject to, among other conditions, Court approval. Additionally, the Company will also assume the lease rights and obligations for up to a further 15 retail locations currently occupied by Cash Store upon successful negotiation of lease extension or new agreements with the relevant landlords. The purchase price will not be disclosed until the Transaction closes.

“We are excited by the opportunity to acquire additional locations in Canada,” said David Ingram, easyhome‘s President and Chief Executive Officer. “This acquisition will allow us to accelerate our retail footprint at easyfinancial as we were able to carefully select the best locations to match our unfilled targeted geography. The timing aligns very well as consumer demand for an alternative to banks and payday loans has grown significantly over the last 12 months and these branches will provide further access and convenience.”

“In addition, the leading macro indicators that influence our customers’ financial health are progressively improving,” continued Mr. Ingram. “The price of gas has reduced, food and clothing inflation is minimal and employment levels are returning to pre-recession levels.”

Impact on earnings

The Company expects the Transaction to be accretive to earnings over the long term, as it accelerates loan book growth and provides further economies of scale. As a result of the Transaction, easyfinancial will increase its 2015 new easyfinancial openings from 40-45 to 60-65 branches and the loan book target for 2015 will increase from $260-$270 million to $280-$295 million. In the short term, the new store drag associated with the incremental 20 store openings is expected to reduce earnings per share in 2015 by approximately $0.10, but increase earnings per share by approximately $0.15 in 2016 and add $0.25 in 2017.

About easyhome

easyhome Ltd. is the Canadian leader in providing goods and financial services to the cash and credit constrained consumer. easyhome Ltd. serves its customers under the master brand goeasy through its two key operating divisions, easyhome Leasing and easyfinancial. easyhome Leasing is Canada’s largest merchandise leasing Company, offering top quality, brand-name household furnishings, appliances and home electronic products to consumers under weekly or monthly leasing agreements through both corporate and franchise stores. easyfinancial is a leading provider of consumer loans as an alternative to traditional banks and payday lenders. easyhome Ltd. is listed on the TSX under the symbol ‘EH’. For more information, visit www.easyhome.ca.

Forward-Looking Statements

This news release includes forward-looking statements about easyhome Ltd., including its business operations, strategy and expected financial performance and condition. Forward-looking statements include statements that are predictive in nature, depend upon or refer to future events or conditions, or include words such as ‘expects’, ‘anticipates’, ‘intends’, ‘plans’, ‘believes’ or negative versions thereof and similar expressions. In addition, any statement that may be made concerning future financial performance (including revenue, earnings or growth rates), ongoing business strategies (including number of new store openings) or prospects about future events is also a forward-looking statement. Forward- looking statements are based on certain factors and assumptions, including expected growth, results of operations and business prospects and are inherently subject to, among other things, risks, uncertainties and assumptions about our operations, economic factors, the industry generally and estimated costs and business opportunities associated with the proposed acquisition and integration of the new locations. They are not guarantees of future performance, and actual events and results could differ materially from those expressed or implied by forward-looking statements made by us, due to, but not limited to important factors such as our ability to enter into new lease and/or financing agreements, collect on existing lease and/or financing agreements, open new locations on favourable terms, secure new franchised locations, purchase products which appeal to our customers at a competitive rate, cope with changes in legislation, react to uncertainties related to regulatory actions, raise capital under favourable terms, manage the impact of litigation (including shareholder litigation), control costs at all levels of the organization and maintain and enhance our system of internal controls. We caution that the foregoing list is not exhaustive. The reader is cautioned to consider these and other factors carefully and not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements, which may not be appropriate for other purposes. We are under no obligation (and expressly disclaim any such obligation) to update or alter the forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, unless otherwise required by law.

[…]

University Bancorp Signs Agreement to Acquire Final 20% of Midwest Loan Services for $3.1 Million

ANN ARBOR, MI–(Marketwired – Nov 24, 2014) – University Bancorp, Inc. (OTCQB: UNIB) announced that it executed an option agreement that gives it the right to acquire the final 20% of Midwest Loan Services Inc. that it does not own for total consideration of $3,101,463.57. The consideration to be paid at closing will be:

Cash of $521,389.89; 309,361 newly issued shares of University Bancorp common stock valued at $6.95 per share, or $2,150,061.40, approximately 6.11% of the pro forma issued and outstanding shares of University Bancorp’s common stock; and Additional potential interest earn-out from interest on our zero interest rate cost mortgage subservicing escrow deposits of $430,012.28, as discussed below.

Currently University Bancorp owns 100% of University Bank which owns 80% of Midwest Loan Services, a residential mortgage subservicing firm based in Houghton, Michigan which manages over 100,000 residential loans totaling over $15.8 billion for over 360 financial institutions nationwide. The American Bankers Association, through its Corporation for American Banking subsidiary, recently exclusively endorsed Midwest Loan Services to provide an array of residential mortgage subservicing services to member banks and their borrowers nationwide. Midwest is known for friendly, responsive service and industry-leading technology that help lenders retain customers, reduce costs and ensure regulatory and operational compliance. The ABA’s exclusive endorsement was based on both Midwest’s superior technical solution and its superior customer service. Midwest’s customers have 14x fewer complaints than the industry average for the nine months ended September 30, 2014 according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau consumer complaint database, despite the fact that 58% of all the complaints in the CFPB database relate to residential mortgage servicing. Since 2001 Midwest has grown its mortgages subserviced at 26% per annum compounded.

We are acquiring the shares from Ed Burger, former Founder and CEO of Midwest, who recently retired. Midwest’s President & CEO is currently Peter T. Sorce, a credit union and banking industry veteran with 23 years of experience in the mortgage servicing industry. Since Mr. Burger owns 20% of Midwest, this places a value on Midwest of $15.5 million versus Midwest’s shareholders equity as of 9/30/2014 of $10.75 million. Our legal counsel is unaware of any regulatory requirement to seek approval of the transaction since it would result in a 100% owned subsidiary of the Bank, however we are in the process of confirming with our regulators that no approval is required, and if we receive that confirmation we intend to immediately close the acquisition. If the transaction had closed 9/30/2014, we currently estimate that the book value per share of common stock of University Bancorp would have increased from $2.174 to $2.466 per share, or an increase of $0.292 per share.

President Stephen Lange Ranzini noted, “The book value of Mr. Burger’s shares in Midwest Loan Services as of 9/30/2014 was $2,150,061.40; therefore, the bank would pay a premium of approximately $950,000 for his shares, which is reasonable considering the long history of profitability and growth of the firm and that it controls about $190 million in zero interest escrow deposits. Midwest and the zero interest rate cost mortgage subservicing escrow deposits that it controls are a cornerstone of the Bank’s profitability and owning 100% of the firm greatly enhances the value of the Bank and its earnings as interest rates begin to normalize from record low levels.”

With respect to the $430,012.28 interest earn-out, we will pay to Mr. Burger in cash following each month-end period, 20% of the amount of the average monthly balance of Midwest escrow deposits held at University Bank and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis, or any other depository where University Bank actually receives the benefit of interest earned on these escrow deposits, times the Fed Funds interest rate minus 0.5% with a floor of 0%, until the cumulative sum of $430,012.28 is paid. If interest rates never rise, no amounts will be owed. For example, if the Fed Funds rate is 1.0% and the sum of the average monthly balance of Midwest escrow deposits held at University Bank and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis continues to be $190,000,000, then the monthly payment would be $15,833.33 (20% x $190,000,000 x (1%-0.5%)/12) until the cumulative sum of $430,012.28 is paid. If interest rates rise, University Bank will continue to benefit from 80% of the increase until the contract is fulfilled and then 100% after. The Federal Reserve Bank currently projects that the normalized Fed Funds Rate is currently 3.75%.

Because there is an insufficient number of authorized and unissued shares of common stock to complete the deal, the board of directors has authorized and has the authority to create a new series of convertible stock that would be issued to Mr. Burger, and plans to call a special shareholder meeting to increase the authorized number of shares of common stock so that these convertible preferred shares can then be converted into common stock. We hope to both close the transaction and call the shareholder meeting prior to year-end.

Shareholders and investors are encouraged to refer to the financial information including the audited financial statements, Company strategic plan and prior press releases, available on our investor relations web page at: http://www.university-bank.com/bancorp/.

Ann Arbor-based University Bancorp owns 100% of University Bank which, together with its Michigan-based subsidiaries, holds and manages a total of over $16 billion in loans and assets and our 336 employees make us the 9th largest bank based in Michigan. Founded in 1890, University Bank® is proud to have been selected as the “Community Bankers of the Year” by American Banker magazine and as the recipient of the American Bankers Association’s Community Bank Award. University Bank is a Member FDIC and an Equal Housing Lender. The operating subsidiaries of University Bank which are members of our corporate family, ranked by their size of revenues are:

University Lending Group, a retail residential mortgage originator based in Clinton Township, Michigan; Midwest Loan Services, a residential mortgage subservicer based in Houghton, MI; University Islamic Financial, an Islamic banking firm based in Farmington Hills, MI; Community Banking, based in Ann Arbor, which provides traditional community banking services in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area; Ann Arbor Insurance Centre, an independent insurance agency based in Ann Arbor.

CAUTIONARY STATEMENT: This press release contains certain forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements concerning future business development, pre-tax income and net income, budgeted income and capital levels, the sustainability of past results, and other expectations and/or goals. Such statements are subject to certain risks and uncertainties which could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements, including, but not limited to, economic, competitive, governmental and technological factors affecting our operations, markets, products, services, interest rates and fees for services. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date of this press release.

[…]

Evaluating All Your Alternatives With Payday Loans – Security and …


Evaluating All Your Alternatives With Payday Loans September 24, 2014

Get quick $ 700 from instantcashcall.com $1,500 Wired to Your Account No Credit Checks 99% Approval Get Fast Loan Now instantcashcall.coml no faxing 25 minutes approval

Cash… Sometimes it is a several-letter expression! If finances are some thing, you want much more of, you really should think about payday loan. Prior to deciding to jump in with the two feet, ensure you are generating the ideal determination to your scenario. These write-up contains details you may use when it comes to a payday advance.

It may be beneficial to look about prior to deciding over a paycheck loan company. Various loan companies will provide distinct costs and cost distinct charges. In the event you go for your initial give you get, you could possibly wind up paying far more. Looking around will save you a lot of cash.

When determining if your payday loan suits you, you have to know the quantity most payday cash loans enables you to obtain is just not too much. Typically, the most money you can find from your payday loan is all about $1,000. It might be even lower if your revenue is not too high.

You might like to look into the business along with the regards to the financing upfront, for you to do this prior to decide on a cash advance. Ensure there is a good track record and therefore the problems are crystal clear. Frequently once we are dealing with a financial turmoil, we track out what we don’t wish to listen to and later on locate ourselves in very hot water above it.

Just because you might have bad credit does not always mean you cannot get yourself a payday advance. So many people could truly take advantage of a payday loan.Will not even take the time trying to get 1, simply because they have poor credit. Most companies will, the truth is, supply you with a pay day loan, just provided that you are hired.

Make every endeavor to get rid of your payday advance promptly. In the event you can’t pay it back, the loaning organization might make you rollover the money into a replacement. This another one accrues their own group of service fees and fund fees, so technically you happen to be paying out those service fees two times for the similar funds! This may be a significant strain on the bank account, so plan to pay for the bank loan off of immediately.

Find out the regulations in your state about payday loans. Some creditors try and pull off increased interest levels, charges, or a variety of service fees they they are not lawfully able to ask you for. Most people are just happy to the loan, and you should not issue this stuff, making it easier for loan providers to carried on acquiring aside with them.

Make sure you remain up to date with any tip adjustments in terms of your payday advance financial institution. Legal guidelines is usually becoming passed on that alterations how creditors can operate so be sure you recognize any tip adjustments and just how they affect both you and your personal loan prior to signing an agreement.

Need a wide open communication funnel with your lender. Should your payday loan financial institution can make it seem to be nearly impossible to go over the loan with a people, you may then be in a poor business deal. Good firms don’t work in this way. They have got an open type of interaction where you can make inquiries, and obtain responses.

Spend time shopping around prior to deciding to invest in one loan company. You can find a great deal of diverse pay day loan companies, each and every may have different rates, and other terms with their financial loans. If you take some time to have a look at a number of organizations, you can save a lot of your challenging-gained funds.

Make a note of your payment due times. After you get the pay day loan, you will have to shell out it back again, or at best create a payment. Even though you neglect each time a transaction date is, the business will make an effort to withdrawal the amount through your checking account. Listing the days can help you recall, so that you have no problems with your banking institution.

It is vital to merely utilize one cash advance firm. When you use several payday advance organization, it will probably be tough to pay the financial loan off of. It is because the lending options are due and payable on the after that paycheck. In addition to the expected date, these loans have very high fascination.

Since you now provide an boost knowledge about what exactly is involved with pay day loans you must sense significantly better about getting one. The main reason lots of people have a hard time obtaining a payday advance is because don’t know very well what is included in buying one. However, you may make knowledgeable selections soon after nowadays.

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[…]

Visio Financial Services Increases Maximum Loan Amount to $200k On Loans for Real Estate Investors

We are leading the market in responding to investors’ unique needs as the only nationwide lender exclusively loaning to investors on individual residential properties, said Jeff Ball, CEO of VFS.

Austin, Texas (PRWEB) August 05, 2014

Top residential investor lender, Visio Financial Services (VFS), announced today that they have increased the maximum amount of their loans to $200,000 on both purchase and cash-out refinance loans. Designed for the unique needs of residential real estate investors, Visio Financial’s now-higher loan amounts will provide customers more options for their financing needs, helping them build their portfolios and invest in higher-priced properties.

Ranked by Scotsman Guide as the fifth-largest hard-money lender by loan amount and second largest in loan volume nationwide, VFS differentiates themselves in the market by offering no credit check, no asset verification and no income documentation through their property-based loan model. Whether investors plan to rehab and sell properties or hold and rent properties, Visio Financial lends based on the value of the property, which results in a short two-week close from start to finish. With a $200,000 maximum loan balance, VFS can now loan against properties with values from $30,000 to $400,000 and up.

“By increasing our loan amount, we are leading the market in responding to investors’ unique needs while expanding our offerings to existing and future customers,” said Jeff Ball, CEO of Visio Financial. “We feel that this improvement to our loan products will better position us while we continue our rapid growth as the only nationwide lender exclusively loaning to investors on individual residential properties.”

VFS rolled out the higher loan amount soon after releasing the results of their recent survey, which showed that the more successful investors buy houses at multiple pricing levels. The full survey results, based on responses from nearly 1,300 investor clients were released in June, 2014 and are available for download here. VFS currently offers three loans products, for both purchase and refinance, geared toward investors including a 6-month interest-only loan, a 10-yr. due-in-three loan and a five-year loan. All three products are available as both purchase and cash-out refinance loans.

About VFS
Visio Financial Services Inc., or VFS, is a national mortgage lender focused on the needs of local, residential real estate investors. Its mission is to provide fast, simple and dependable mortgage financing that assists investors in the redevelopment of distressed properties into quality, affordable homes. Having originated more than 2,000 loans since its inception, VFS maintains a highly targeted, investor-focused approach, including the use of their proprietary contact database, distinct in the residential real estate market. Visit http://www.visiolending.com for more information.


[…]

Kenmare agrees refinancing for Mozambique mine

1. CRH Construction View profile 2. Microsoft Technology View profile 3. Google Consumer Technology View profile View the full list in View profile

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[…]

U.S. Leveraged Loan Volume Slips To $9.2B, Though Market Remains Heated

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U.S. leveraged loan volume totaled $9.2 billion during the week, down from $14-15 billion in each of the previous two weeks, as issuers continue to take advantage of a relatively hot market, though with smaller deals, according to S&P Capital IQ/LCD.

With the recent activity, year-to-date loan volume totals $367 billion, compared to $384 billion at this point last year (of course, there was a record $605 billion in leveraged loan issuance in all of 2013). July is turning out to be a relatively sleepy month volume-wise, with $38 billion in issuance so far, down noticeably from the $64 billion during June.

Despite the dip in issuance, the loan market remains hot, as LCD’s Chris Donnelly explains in his weekly market commentary:

Judging by activity over the past week, recent chatter about an overheated loan market looked to be largely justified. Investor Investor demand was hot and heavy this week, with pricing tightening on no fewer than a dozen transactions alongside other aggressive moves. It was primarily the marginal transactions that saw any degree of difficulty.

Of note this week, Expro Oilfield Services brought to market a $1.52 billion term loan that backed repayment of mezzanine debt. The issuer, which is owned by Goldman Sachs PIA, Arle Capital Partners, Alpinvest Partners and management, has filed for an IPO. The credit is covenant-lite, meaning it has less restrictions on the issuer than does traditional leveraged loans.

Also of note this week, Berkshire Partners launched $415 million in loans to institutional investors, backing the LBO of Portillo Restaurant Group. The credit is covenant-lite as well, and includes a second-lien portion rated CCC by S&P, says LCD’s Kerry Kantin.

Befitting the hot market, leveraged loan yields continue under pressure. The average single-B credit priced over the past 30 days did so to yield 5.10%, down from 5.32% at the end of June, while better-quality (double-B) loans are yielding 4.16%, down a bit from 4.19% at month-end, according to LCD.

This activity comes as investors continue to back away from the leveraged loan asset class. U.S. loan funds this week saw a $413 million cash outflow, the 13th withdrawal in the past 15 weeks, totaling $6.6 billion, according to Lipper. That’s nothing compared to high yield bond investors, however, who are fleeing the market at a pace not seen since Ben Bernanke’s Taper Talk pummeled the market in June 2013.

[…]

Rolex for Casino Cash Fuels Singapore Pawnshop Growth

Yeah Lee Ching recalls when a lady walked into her pawnshop in Singapore and pledged a $10,000 diamond-studded gold Rolex watch to bankroll casino spending. She never came back for her jewelry.

Pawnbrokers are proliferating across Singapore as gamblers seeking short-term loans add to demand for quick cash from people struggling to make ends meet in the world’s most expensive city. The number of pawnshops in the city-state surged to 214 this year from 114 in 2008, according to a report by DMG & Partners Securities Pte. Loans disbursed by the industry jumped to S$5.5 billion ($4.4 billion) in 2013 from S$1.6 billion in 2007, government data show.

More from Bloomberg.com: Wealthy Clintons Use Trusts to Limit Estate Tax They Back

“Pawnshops are the most-frequent automated teller machines for regular gamblers,” Ivan Ho, president of Singapore Pawnbrokers’ Association, said in an interview this month. “They need capital and pawnshops offer them loans that are reasonably priced.”

Since Singapore‘s two casinos opened in 2010, about 20 percent of the increase in pawnbroking activity is driven by clients raising money for gambling, said Ho, who’s also the owner of Heng Seng Pawnshop Co. The rest comes from business owners and low-income individuals who need quick cash to pay hospital bills and other unexpected costs.

More from Bloomberg.com: Retirees Suffer as $300 Billion 401(k) Rollover Boom Enriches Brokers

“I pawn my jewelry when the need arises,” said Vikki, a businessman who runs his own security agency and asked to only be identified by his first name. “The biggest loan I got was S$70,000 to cover salaries of my staff when payments from customers got delayed.” He was speaking last week outside the ValueMax Group Ltd. pawnshop in Little India, just across the street from competitor Maxi-Cash (MCFS) Financial Services Corp.

Shares of ValueMax and competitor MoneyMax Financial Services Ltd. (MMFS) were little changed at 9:29 a.m. in Singapore today. Maxi-Cash declined 1.6 percent to 30 Singapore cents while the benchmark Straits Times Index gained 0.2 percent.

More from Bloomberg.com: Russian $8.2 Trillion Oil Trove Locked Without U.S. Technology

Living Costs

S. Pandian, a 50-year-old construction supervisor from India, was pawning a chain and gold ring at the same ValueMax shop. He said he earns about S$1,600 a month and sends most of it back to his family, making it hard to cover living costs.

ValueMax, Maxi-Cash and MoneyMax Financial Services Ltd. dominate the industry, owning almost 40 percent of all pawnshops in Singapore, according to DMG. Yeah Lee Ching, in whose shop the $10,000 Rolex was pawned, is the executive director of ValueMax.

The three companies raised a combined S$103 million from initial public offerings in the past two years to fund expansion, regulatory filings show. For MoneyMax, which forecasts revenue will climb to S$100 million in two years, it was the opening of the casinos that created a market opportunity.

Soaring Prices

“In Macau, you see casinos and pawnshops,” MoneyMax founder Peter Lim Yong Guan said in an interview on June 12. “That gave us an idea.” While Macau might have been the inspiration, MoneyMax’s Singapore clientele has turned out to be mainly people seeking money for living costs rather than gambling, he said.

The republic topped Paris, Oslo, Zurich and Sydney in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living Survey released in March. An influx of foreign workers has contributed to competition for jobs, congested public transportation and surging home prices. The gap between the richest and the poorest Singaporeans rose in 2012 to the widest since 2007, before narrowing last year, according to government data.

The pawnbroking industry also got a boost as surging gold prices increased the amount of collateral borrowers could access, said Yeah, executive director of ValueMax, the biggest such broker by market value in Singapore. Spot gold climbed to a record $1,921.17 an ounce in 2011 before tumbling 28 percent last year.

Get Lucky

Whatever the reason clients need cash, it’s not a pawnbroker’s job to ask. “Sometimes, we hear the customers saying maybe we’ll get lucky this time,” said Henry Kiew, who works at the ValueMax outlet in Little India, a 15-minute drive from the Marina Bay Sands casino. “Then we know they’ll go to try and win back losses.”

Shadow lenders, also known as “matao,” extend loans to gamblers backed by valuables, according to Ho of the pawnbrokers’ association. The client gets 50 percent to 60 percent of the value of their jewelry, lower than the 80 percent to 90 percent rate offered at pawnshops.

If the customer doesn’t pay in three days, the matao takes the valuables to pawnshops and passes on the pawn ticket to the original borrower, Ho said. The pledge can be redeemed by anyone who produces the ticket, said Ho, adding that pawnshops do not know mataos or their representatives.

Spokesmen for Marina Bay Sands and Genting Singapore Plc (GENS)‘s Resorts World Sentosa declined to comment for the story.

Revenue Growth

The combined revenue of Maxi-Cash, MoneyMax and ValueMax will increase 8.7 percent to S$577.7 million in 2014 from a year earlier, according to DMG. MoneyMax will add four outlets to bring its total to 40 by the end of the year, said Chief Financial Officer Choi Swee Weng.

Singapore identified pawnbroking as an industry where controls can be improved to curb money-laundering and terrorism financing risks, according to the country’s national risk assessment report in January. As transactions in the industry are mainly cash-based, risks are posed by pawners repaying debt using illicit funds and pawning illegally-obtained items and leaving them unredeemed, the report said.

Combined gaming revenue of the city’s two casinos will rise to $6.5 billion this year from about $6.3 billion in 2013, according to CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets. There were 15.6 million overseas visitors to Singapore in 2013, compared with 11.6 million in 2010, when the gaming venues first opened, according to data from the tourism board.

“The performance of the casino resorts will be one of the key drivers empowering the pawnbroking industry moving forward,” DMG analysts Jarick Seet and Terence Wong wrote in their May 30 report.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jonathan Burgos in Singapore at jburgos4@bloomberg.net; Sanat Vallikappen in Singapore at vallikappen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sarah McDonald at smcdonald23@bloomberg.net; Chitra Somayaji at csomayaji@bloomberg.net

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Bank Watch: Bank of America joins NY effort to stop payday lending

Bank of America has become the first financial institution to use a tool developed by a New York regulator to crack down on online payday lending in that state, officials announced Monday.

The tool, created by the New York Department of Financial Services, is a database of companies that have faced actions from the department based on evidence of payday lending, the department said. Payday lending in all forms, including online, is illegal in New York.

The Charlotte-based bank will use the tool to identify and stop online payday lending in New York, in the latest move by officials in that state to do something about short-term lending over the Internet. A press release from the Department of Financial Services says Bank of America will use the database to, among other things, identify companies that might be involved in illegal lending.

Nationwide, the online payday lending industry has been under scrutiny by regulators, who say such lenders are attempting to skirt state bans on payday lending by offering loans over the Internet. As regulators across the country increasingly crack down on payday lenders, big banks that finance those businesses have also come under scrutiny.

“Our administration is continuing to aggressively combat online payday lending, and today we are urging the private sector to join us in protecting New Yorkers from this illegal activity,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “I applaud Bank of America for stepping up as an industry leader in this area and doing the right thing to help safeguard New York’s consumers.”

In an email to the Observer, Bank of America spokeswoman Anne Pace said the New York initiative provides the bank with another tool to help protect its customers from predatory lending practices in New York. The bank will use the database to spot and manage potentially problematic activity affecting customers who have deposits in the bank, she said.

Payday loan businesses are banned in North Carolina, but state officials say that hasn’t prevented the products from being offered here.

Late last year, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper filed suit against South Dakota-based payday lender Western Sky. In filing the suit, Cooper said more than 100 complaints had been logged with his office about the company.

[…]

Federal Judge Rules Against AMG Payday Lending Operation

U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro in Nevada has ruled that Kansas-based payday lending operation AMG Services intentionally deceived borrowers about the cost of their loans. AMG and some of its affiliated companies that had ties to American Indian tribes were found to have inflated fees and failed to disclose charges.

The inflated fees left borrowers with debts higher than the original amount they borrowed, Navarro said. In her May 28 decision, she wrote that employees of the lending firms “were instructed to conceal how the repayment plans worked in order to keep potential borrowers in the dark.”

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed charges against the companies in April 2012, accusing them of failing to disclose loan terms and of improperly requiring customers to preauthorize electronic payments before they received a loan. AMG and affiliates used deceptive documentation for at least 5 million loans, the FTC reported. Last July, the companies reached a partial settlement with the agency on several issues. Under this settlement, the lenders were prohibited from using threats of arrest to collect loan payments and were banned from requiring advance bank account withdrawals. Navarro ruled in March that the lenders’ tribal affiliations did not exclude them from the FTC’s jurisdiction.

[…]