The European Investment Bank, the European Union's long-term financing institution is lending £150 million (ECU 223 million) to Lombard North Central PLC under a facility, also available to customers of NatWest, to support small and medium-sized projects in the UK. Lombard is a wholly owned subsidiary of the NatWest Group.

The facility, in the form of an EIB global loan (a line of credit), will be used by Lombard to help finance investment by small and medium sized enterprises in industry, tourism and related services, as well as for small-scale infrastructure, energy and environmental ventures.

EIB President Sir Brian Unwin said: "This global loan is for investment to increase the productive and competitive capacity of SMEs contributing to economic growth and employment, a key EU policy objective highlighted for the EIB at the recent Amsterdam Summit of European Heads of State. The facility forms part of our network of global loan arrangements with UK banks, enhancing the availability of medium to long-term funds available to their SME customers."

The EIB was set up in 1958 to finance for capital investment furthering EU policy objectives, in particular: regional development; trans-European networks in transport, telecoms and energy; industrial competitiveness and integration; SMEs; environmental protection; and energy security. It also operates outside the EU within the framework of the EU's co-operation external policy. Owned by the Member States, the EIB raises its funds on capital markets (a AAA bond issuer). The President of the EIB, Sir Brian Unwin, assumed office in 1993 and is the first British President of the institution.Amsterdam European Council, 16 June 1997, agreed on a Resolution on Growth and Employment to give an new impulse for keeping employment at the top of the political agenda of the Union. It called on the EIB to continue promoting sound investment projects, and highlighted the important contribution the Bank could make to creating employment opportunities. It requested the Bank to step up its activities in areas such as large infrastructure projects, and to examine the establishment of a facility for financing high-technology SME projects (possibly with the use of venture capital with the involvement of the private banking sector), and the expansion of the scope of the Bank's activities into the areas of education, health, urban environment and environmental protection.

The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 30/6/1997, when ECU 1 = 0.68 GBP, 6.64 FRF, 1.13 USD, 0.75 IEP.