The European Investment Bank, the European Union's financing institution, is lending ECU 31 million (ITL 60 billion(1)) to Gardaland SpA for the expansion and upgrading of the theme park of Castelnuovo del Garda, in the province of Verona. The loan was channelled via Efibanca and IMI.

Re-focusing the existing park, from mainly child-oriented towards thrills and education will broaden the potential client base. The project is also expected to create both new permanent jobs and additional seasonal employment, as well as having a spillover effect on the region's SMEs active in the tourist sector.

"The loan to Gardaland confirms the EIB's commitment towards medium-sized enterprises, and the Bank's role to support investment and to encourage employment within the European Union", said EIB's Vice President Massimo Ponzellini.

In 1997 Gardaland registered a turnover of over ITL 130 billion, and a 10% increase in visitors to over 2.7 million.

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, environment, industry and energy. Owned by Member States, the EIB raises funds on capital markets (AAA bond issuer). After the EU Amsterdam Council, 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.