Innovative support to SMEs in Cyprus: signatures of EUR 150m under the Trade Finance Facility and Cyprus Entrepreneurship Scheme
The European Investment Bank (EIB) is putting in place two innovative instruments in support of small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) in Cyprus:
A EUR 50 million first contract under the Trade Finance Facility. The Facility is geared to support foreign trade activities of Cypriot SMEs and Mid-Caps. Under this instrument, the EIB offers guarantees to foreign banks providing trade finance to Cypriot SMEs and Mid-Caps. By mitigating the risks involved in trade financing, the Facility should contribute to re-ignite trade flows with Cyprus, favouring an export-led recovery promoted in particular by SMEs and mid-caps.
The EIB, as a long-term lender, has adapted to the real economic needs of EU Member States under adjustment programmes and enlarged its tool-kit with a short-term lending instrument to support international trade. The Facility represents the EIB’s second guarantee supporting trade finance following the implementation of the Greek SMEs Trade Finance in June 2013.
The EIB guarantees provided to foreign banks under the Facility will cover risks related to letters of credit and other trade finance instruments issued by Cypriot banks. This will both alleviate cash collateral constraints otherwise imposed on most SMEs and increase access to international trade instruments at a time when trade has a significant role to play in economic development.
A EUR 100 million first loan to the Republic of Cyprus under the Cyprus Entrepreneurship Scheme. The Republic of Cyprus will use the EIB finance to establish a fund mechanism under which the State and commercial banks operating in Cyprus will lend to Cypriot SMEs on a risk-sharing basis. Once operational, this innovative EIB product, developed in synergy with the Cypriot Government, will develop support for the investment and working capital needs of Cypriot SMEs.
The day-to-day management of the scheme, is expected to be entrusted to the European Investment Fund (EIF) – the financing arm of the EIB Group specialising in SME risk-taking products. The EIF has substantial pan-European experience in managing funds at a regional and national level aimed at providing access to finance for SMEs. Moreover, the EIF possesses significant market experience in Cyprus, developed through the implementation of the JEREMIE initiative and other transactions under the Progress microfinance programme.
The finance agreements were signed today in Nicosia in a public ceremony by Mihai Tanasescu, EIB Vice-President responsible for Cyprus. The agreement for the entrepreneurship scheme for SMEs was signed with Harris Georgiades, Minister of Finance. The trade finance agreements were signed by Charis Pouangare, Director General, Bank of Cyprus, Emilios Kyriacou Managing Director, Citi, and Frank Mayer, Managing Director, Commerzbank AG.
On this occasion, Mihai Tanasescu, EIB Vice-President stated: “I am pleased to be back to Nicosia for the signing of 2 important new instruments that aim to support local SMEs; the trade finance and the entrepreneurship scheme. The EIB is a long-term lender, so trade finance products have never featured in our portfolio. As the EU bank, however, we felt that we should provide new tailor-made support products needed by EU Member States. Under the innovative trade finance facility the EIB will play a critical role in mitigating the risk perception of the commercial banks at a time when Cyprus needs trade finance in order to pursue export-led growth for its economic recovery. The entrepreneurship scheme will provide additional support to SMEs in Cyprus, as the deep recession in Cyprus is heavily constraining the liquidity of SME businesses and the availability of medium and long-term funding to sustain their activities. Moreover, the borrowing cost for SMEs is at significantly higher levels than the EU average. The EIB funding tries to address such market weaknesses in a flexible manner. Our presence here today underlines our commitment to, as well as our trust in, Cyprus.”