The European Investment Bank, the European Union's financing institution, this week concluded a loan of ECU 12.8 million (ITL 25 billion) (1) to Quarella Spa, the world's leading producer of agglomerated marble, for the expansion and upgrading of four plants located in the province of Verona. The loan was channelled via Efibanca and Banca Popolare di Verona.

The project will create new capacity and jobs in a niche segment of the construction material industry based on local raw materials. The upgrading of the plants should enhance production flexibility and introduce a competitive new product line.

With a staff of 380 employees and a turnover of about ITL 120 billion Quarella Verona, a family-owned company run by its owners, sells to 79 countries.

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. Owned by Member States, the EIB raises funds on capital markets (AAA bond issuer). After the EU Amsterdam summit, the EIB has reinforced its role in the support of SMEs, complementing its traditional global loans with funds made available for risk capital, for small and medium-sized enterprises and with loans for projects in labour intensive areas, also including health and education.In 1997, the EIB provided ECU 26.2 billion for project financing, of which 22.9 within the EU. Italy accounted for ECU 3.517 billion of total lending.

(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 = ITL 1942.