The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's long-term financing arm, is extending its support for projects by small and medium-sized Italian enterprises with a EUR 50 million(1) global loan. This is being channelled to a syndicate comprising Mediocredito Centrale (MCC) and other banks, which will on-lend the funds to ABF Leasing SpA (ABF), the leasing subsidiary of Banca Popolare Commercio e Industria and Banca Popolare dell'Emilia-Romagna.

The purpose of the loan is to finance small and medium-scale ventures that will help to increase productivity and competitiveness and to create new jobs.

The loan will finance leasing contracts by small and medium-sized enterprises in the industrial, services and commercial sectors.

Leasing represents one of the main external sources of SME investment funding in Italy, particularly for enterprises with fewer than 100 employees. This global loan brings the EIB's aggregate lending for SME leasing operations since the beginning of 1999 to some EUR 500 million.

A global loan is a line of credit which the partner financial institution uses to finance small and medium-scale ventures meeting the EIB's lending criteria. The Bank has an extensive network of 130 active intermediaries that administer global loans for SMEs throughout the European Union.Over the past five years (1995-1999), the EIB has concluded loans in this sector totalling over EUR 12.8 billion. This lending has helped to start up, modernise or expand the activities of 55 000 SMEs in productive sectors.

(1) 1 EUR : 0.613400 GBP; 1 936.27 ITL.