The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's long-term financing institution, is lending EUR 73 million(1) to the Hellenic Petroleum S.A. (HEPE), Greece's leading oil refiner and petrochemichals producer, for the construction of the country's first polypropylene production facility, at Aspropyrgos (near Athens) and Thessaloniki.

HEPE, whose 77% of share capital is held by the Hellenic Republic, was created following the 1998 merger between ELDA S.A., operator of the Aspropyrgos refinery near Athens, and EKO S.A., operator of the Thessaloniki refinery and petrochemicals plant.

The turnkey project concerns the design, construction and operation of two vertically integrated units: the first is a splitter unit to recover and purify propylene from the Aspropyrgos waste gas stream, and the second is a new polypropylene plant, located at HEPE's site in Thessaloniki. Upon completion in year 2001, the plant will produce polypropylene, used in a wide range of applications in packaging, household goods, electrical appliances, fibres and in the automotive industry. With environmental aspects With environmental aspects being considered, following a detailed environmental impact assessment study, the plant's production will help satisfy 50% of the domestic demand, currently entirely met through imports, three years after commissioning.

The European Investment Bank (EIB), established in 1958 under the Treaty of Rome setting up the European Community, is the European Union's long-term financing institution supporting capital investment projects that further European integration. While strengthening economically weak regions in the European Union (EU) has always been its main objective, the Bank also finances projects in support of other EU policies. In some 120 countries outside the Union the EIB is participating in the implementation of the EU's development and co-operation policy.In 1998, the EIB provided loans totalling some EUR 29.5 billion, of which EUR 736 million for projects in Greece. In 1999 EIB lending in Greece totals todate EUR 616.8 million. The Bank borrows on the capital markets the funds for its lending. Its bonds have regularly been rated "AAA" by the leading rating agencies. As the EIB works on a non-profit basis it can pass on to project promoters the excellent conditions it obtains on the markets. The EIB normally finances up to 50 percent of project cost; on average it provides one third of the funding and co-finances investments with other institutions.

(1) 1 EUR = 328.4 GRD.