The European Investment Bank (EIB) and NIB Capital Bank signed today in The Hague a finance contract funding the venture capital fund Amsterdam Action Fund B.V., which will provide all forms of equity and quasi-equity finance for innovative small and medium-scale enterprises with strong growth potential. EIB and NIB Capital Bank are each participating to the tune of EUR 11.5 million (25 million Dutch guilders)(1) in the fund. The EIB's participation forms part of its venture capital operations under the "SME Window", set up in late 1997 under the Bank's "Amsterdam Special Action Programme". NIB Capital Bank provides long term credit for public investment and industrial projects and has established a specialised equity investment company. Its predecessor, De Nationale Investeringsbank, (DNIB) has been an intermediary for EIB global loans in the Netherlands for over ten years.

The EIB contributes to the European Union's policy of strengthening the capital base of innovative SMEs by providing equity and quasi-equity finance. It entered the European venture capital markets following the Amsterdam European Council's call to the Bank to step up its lending in support of growth and employment in Europe. To date, the Bank has approved over EUR 1 billion in favour of some 40 venture capital funds targeting high-technology and job-creating SMEs throughout the European Union. The EIB is ready to take part in the Lisbon European Council's initiative to create a European economy based on innovation and knowledge. Supporting innovative small businesses is a key element of this policy.

EIB Vice-President Rudolf de Korte stressed the importance of the Lisbon European Council's measures. "In fact, Europe is on the brink of a new era, considering the rapid development of the New Economy in the United States and elsewhere in the world. The EIB can help in implementing the European Union's measures since the Bank has long financing experience supporting SME investment. Its"Innovation 2000 Initiative", to be set up as the EIB's contribution to implementing the Lisbon Summit's policy objectives, will mobilise another one billion euro for venture capital operations, in addition to the initial one billion made available since 1997. Furthermore, a dedicated lending programme of an estimated EUR 12 to 15 billion over the next three years will serve to promote: investment in human capital; SMEs and entrepreneurship; research and development; IT and telecommunications networks; and increased innovation. It could underpin total investment of some EUR 40 billion, when implemented in partnership with other financial institutions. The Bank will cooperate closely with the European Commission and the EU Member States, the EIB's shareholders".

Over the past five years (1995-1999), total EIB loan signatures in the Netherlands amounted to EUR 2.2 billion, including some EUR 600 million in the form of global loan finance. Individual loans went inter alia towards the construction of household incineration plants in Nijmegen, Alkmaar and Moerdijk; improvements to the air traffic system; a new motorway tunnel in the Province of Noord-Holland; upgrading of water supply systems in the Provinces of Noord-Holland and Limburg; an urban development project in Amsterdam; commissioning of a mobile telephony network; construction of a factory near Zwolle to produce diesel engines; and the strengthening of river dykes in the Province of Gelderland.

As the European Union's financing institution, the EIB finances capital investment contributing towards one or more of the following EU objectives: regional development; transport, telecommunications and Trans-European Networks (TENs); secure energy supplies; improvements to the natural and urban environment; development of infrastructure in the health and education sectors; enhanced competitiveness and integration of European industry; investment by SMEs; and venture capital finance. Outside the EU, the Bank participates in implementing the EU's development policy in accordance with the terms of the various agreements which the Union has concluded with some 130 countries. Owned by the EU Member States, the EIB raises its funds on the capital markets (AAA issuer).

(1) EUR 1 = 2.20 NLG; 0.621700 GBP.