The Small Business Administration (SBA) licenses Small Business Investment Companies (SBICs) as part of a program designed to stimulate the flow of private debt and/or equity capital to small businesses. SBICs use funds borrowed from the SBA, together with their own capital, to provide loans to, and make equity investments in, concerns that (a) do not have a net worth in excess of $18 million and do not have average net income after U.S. federal income taxes for the two years preceding any date of determination of more than $6 million, or (b) meet size standards set by the SBA that are measured by either annual receipts or number of employees, depending on the industry in which the concerns are primarily engaged. The types and dollar amounts of the loans and other investments an SBIC that is a BDC may make are limited by the 1940 Act, the SBA Act and SBA regulations. The SBA is authorized to examine the operations of SBICs, and an SBIC’s ability to obtain funds from the SBA is also governed by SBA regulations.
In addition, at the end of each fiscal year, an SBIC must have at least 20% (in total dollars) invested in “Smaller Enterprises”. The SBA defines “Smaller Enterprises” as concerns that (a) do not have a net worth in excess of $6 million and have average net income after U.S. federal income taxes for the preceding two years no greater than $2 million, or (b) meet size standards set by the SBA that are measured by either annual receipts or number of employees, depending on the industry in which the concerns are primarily engaged. The Corporation has maintained compliance with this requirement since inception of the SBIC subsidiary.
SBICs may invest directly in the equity of their portfolio companies, but they may not become a general partner of a non-incorporated entity or otherwise become jointly or severally liable for the general obligations of a non-incorporated entity. An SBIC may acquire options or warrants in its portfolio companies, and the options or warrants may have redemption provisions, subject to certain restrictions.
The SBA raises capital to enable it to provide funds to SBICs by guaranteeing certificates or bonds that are pooled and sold to purchasers of the government guaranteed securities. The amount of funds that the SBA may lend to SBICs is determined by annual Congressional appropriations.
In order to obtain SBA borrowings, also known as leverage, an SBIC must demonstrate its need to the SBA. To demonstrate need, an SBIC must invest 50% of its Leverageable Capital (defined as Regulatory Capital less unfunded commitments and federal funds) and any outstanding SBA leverage. Other requirements include compliance with SBA regulations, adequacy of capital, and meeting liquidity standards. An SBIC’s license entitles an SBIC to apply for SBA leverage, but does not assure that it will be available, or if available, that it will be available at the level of the relevant matching ratio. Availability depends on the SBIC’s continued regulatory compliance and sufficient SBA funds being available when the SBIC applies to draw down SBA leverage. Under the provisions of the SBIC regulations, the Corporation may apply for the SBA’s conditional commitment to reserve a specific amount of leverage for future use. The Corporation may then apply to draw down leverage against the commitment. All SBICs must obtain a leverage commitment in order to draw leverage from the SBA. Commitments expire on September 30 of the fourth full fiscal year following issuance and require the payment of a fee equal to one percent of the total commitment at the time of issuance. An additional fee equal to two percent of the amount drawn is deducted at the time of each draw.