Under its Amsterdam Special Action Programme (ASAP) set up in 1997 to bolster growth and employment in Europe, the European Investment Bank announces two new operations in France:

  • The EIB is making available to SOFARIS (a French company guaranteeing finance for SMEs), which manages the National Guarantee Fund for Technological Development (FDT), FRF 100 million (ECU 15 million)(1) for guaranteeing equity operations carried out by venture capital funds in support of innovative SMEs. The importance of this facility, which is underpinned by SOFARIS' proven track record in this field, lies in the substantial leverage effect that it will have for development of venture capital instruments in France. Indeed, it is expected that the EIB's loan, matched by a similar amount of FDT resources, will contribute to guaranteeing, during the period 1998-2000, equity commitments in support of SMEs for ten times this amount.
    This is the first operation carried out in France under the ASAP "SME Window", whose purpose is to strengthen the capital base of SMEs through provision of custom-made risk-sharing financial instruments, thereby facilitating these companies' access to bank financing.
  • The EIB is also advancing to Crédit Local de France/Dexia a global loan for FRF 1 billion (ECU 151 million) for financing small and medium-scale urban renewal schemes, notably those contributing to social and economic development and environmental protection.

These new loans follow on from two initial operations carried out under ASAP, in France, in 1997:

  • A loan for FRF 150 million (ECU 23 million) for building or modernising six secondary education establishments on the Island of Réunion;
  • A global loan for FRF 1 billion (ECU 151 million) to Crédit Local de France/Dexia for financing infrastructure in the education (secondary schools, colleges, universities) and health (notably hospitals) sectors.

The EIB set up the Amsterdam Special Action Programme in the second quarter of 1997 in response to the Amsterdam European Council's Resolution on Growth and Employment in Europe (June 1997). The purpose of ASAP, which will last three years, is to direct a substantial proportion of EIB lending towards projects in labour-intensive sectors. Thus, the Bank has expanded its operations to include the fields of education, health and urban renewal, whilst stepping up its action in support of trans-European networks and environmental protection infrastructure. ASAP also includes a "SME Window" designed to help meet the equity requirements of innovative enterprises or undertakings in their start-up phase.Overall, ASAP is designed to increase the volume of EIB lending to these sectors by some ECU 10 billion over the period 1997-2000. Already in 1997, ASAP gave rise to a number of concrete initiatives at European Union level:

  • ECU 151 million was made available under the "SME Window" for setting up an ECU 125 million venture capital fund (the "European Technology Facility"), managed by the European Investment Fund (EIF) under mandate from the EIB, and for launching an operation worth ECU 26 million in cooperation with Istituto Mobiliare Italiano. Some ten operations involving eight Member States are nearing finalisation.
  • ECU 728 million was advanced for individual projects or in the form of global loans in the health and education sectors in Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and Portugal.
  • EIB lending for trans-European networks and environmental protection - notably in Germany, Spain, Greece and Italy - rose by ECU 1.5 billion.

(1) The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 31 December 1997, when ECU 1 = FRF 6.61.