Banca Sella and Biella Leasing (a leasing company forming part of the Banca Sella Group) have received from the European Investment Bank (EIB) a loan totalling EUR 70 million to be used to finance initiatives in the industrial and services sector promoted by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Financing will also be earmarked for specific projects in the energy, environmental protection and development of innovative technology sectors which help to boost the international competitiveness of industry in the European Union, especially initiatives promoted in regional development areas'.

The primary aim of this operation is to relaunch investment as the driver of development and an improved economy, explains Pietro Sella, Managing Director of Banca Sella. Indeed, we believe that now is the time to refocus our attention on Italy's entrepreneurial fabric, consisting mostly of small and medium-sized enterprises, to whom we are traditionally close, which we have always supported and with which we have in turn grown up together.

All SMEs are eligible for financing, or enterprises whose annual turnover does not exceed EUR 50 million and have fewer than 250 employees. Exceptions are permitted for enterprises with a maximum of 500 staff, but only for projects in certain regional areas that are economically less developed. In all cases, SMEs must be independent or not more than 25%-owned by companies or bodies that may not in turn be classified as SMEs. The loans, adds Pietro Sella, will be devoted to specific investment projects and therefore not used to meet liquidity needs. The terms are particularly favourable for SMEs, and they are granted without recourse to public subsidies. The financing for each individual scheme will cover up to 50% of the project cost, for a total amount ranging between EUR 20 000 and 12.5 million.

With this line of credit, the EIB wishes to pursue its commitment to advance global loans to small and medium-scale Italian banks that are particularly active. In this way, the European Union's financing institution is seeking to encourage the development of a banking and financial sector that is capable of responding effectively to the needs of the production sector.

Banca Sella, founded in 1886, is a private credit institution and the largest of over 40 companies making up the Banca Sella Group. Banca Sella provides all traditional banking services, with particular emphasis on the SMEs sector.

Banca Sella is active in 11 regions: Valle d'Aosta, Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Lazio, Campania, Puglia and Sardinia. Biella Leasing was the first company under the Banca Sella umbrella to offer credit directly on the market, and has done so since 1980.

The EIB, the European Union's long-term financing institution, funds projects promoting European integration in spheres such as regional development, trans-European transport, telecommunications and energy networks, industrial competitiveness and integration, SMEs, environmental protection and security of energy supplies. The EIB also operates outside the EU within the framework of Community development aid and cooperation policy. The EIB, owned by the Member States, raises resources on the capital markets (AAA issuer). In 2004, the EIB granted loans totalling around EUR 42.3 billion, of which 5.9 billion in Italy.