The European Investment Bank (EIB) has advanced a loan for FRF 250 million (ECU 38 million)(1) for the construction of a high-tech semi-conductor manufacturing facility in Rousset, France (in the Department of Bouches-du-Rhône). The beneficiary is Atmel Corporation, an international company growing rapidly in the high-technology field. The project will be implemented by the company's French affiliate in Rousset, near Aix-en-Provence, an area suffering from a loss of traditional industrial activities and eligible for Community regional development aid (Objective 2).

The new integrated-circuit manufacturing facility will be principally dedicated to producing non-volatile memories, flash memories and micro controllers, with a focus on a low-voltage range. This will allow Atmel to reinforce its presence in several markets including telecommunications, consumer and automotive applications.

The investment mainly covers the construction of a new manufacturing facility with a floor space of 16 000m2 on a 10-hectare site, as well as the purchase of equipment needed to manufacture the silicon wafers for the integrated circuits. The plant will initially have a workforce of 300 and in the longer term will employ some 700 people following subsequent expansion schemes.

This project is part of a wide programme of expansion embarked on by the company, which has included its facilities in Colorado Springs (USA) and in Rousset (F). A first phase of expansion was undertaken in France in 1995-96 to enlarge production capacity at the existing plant and to expand its range of products.

This lending operation ties in with the support provided by the EIB, the European Union's financing institution, towards enhancing the competitiveness of European industry, an objective to which the Bank devoted more than ECU 3.7 billion in 1996, two thirds going to projects situated in regional development zones.

(1) The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 31 March 1997, when ECU 1 = FRF 6.58.