As part of its remit to stimulate the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) throughout the European Union, the European Investment Bank (EIB), the EU's long-term financing institution, announces, as part of an overall credit line of ECU 100 million, its maiden global loan of ECU 42.4 million (approx. ATS 544 million) (1) to Creditanstalt-Bankverein. This latest operation brings EIB lending for projects in Austria since the beginning of the year to some ATS 7 billion.

1997 has also seen the EIB working jointly with Creditanstalt-Bankverein (CA) on deployment of other loan finance for ATS 470 million targeting individual projects in the environmental and energy sectors, namely modernisation and expansion of the sewage disposal systems in the Greater Salzburg area (ATS 220 million) and in Bruck (ATS 150 million), plus extension of the natural gas distribution network in Burgenland (ATS 100 million). In all, some ATS 1.4 bn of EIB lending should be directed via CA into these different schemes.

Creditanstalt-Bankverein is one of the four intermediary institutions in Austria (together with Investkredit, BAWAG and ÖHT) with which the EIB works in channelling its global loan financing towards small and medium-scale industrial and tourism ventures. Dr Prehofer, CA Head of Financing and Consulting, views partnership with the EIB as a further means of offering Austrian SMEs optimum financing and investment support facilities. The CA will, in the process and in conjunction with special measures, be able to provide an attractive combination of money market conditions, which are currently very interesting, together with long-term interest rates. The EIB's cooperation with CA also extends to Central and Eastern Europe, where the Austrian intermediary manages EIB global loans in support of SMEs in a number of countries (Poland, Slovak Republic, Czech Republic and Hungary).

On the occasion of today's signature ceremony with CA, held in Luxembourg, Claes de Neergaard, EIB Vice-President responsible for operations in Austria, stated: "This year the EIB has again maintained its position as the world's largest multilateral borrower, with a volume of over ECU 20 billion in all due to be raised in 20 different currencies by the end of the year. By virtue of the mutual ties forged between the EIB and select national and local banks, offering excellent client contacts and thorough familiarity with local conditions, numerous SMEs can enjoy the benefits of the keen terms obtained by the EIB on the capital markets."

Since the country's accession to the EU, Austria has had unlimited access to the full range of EIB financing facilities, contributing to regional development, the promotion of SMEs, security of energy supplies, environmental protection and projects maintaining the competitiveness of European enterprise. EIB credit lines arranged for financing projects in Austria currently run to ATS 14 billion, of which some ATS 10 billion approved this year.

(1) The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 30 September 1997, when : ECU 1 = ATS 13.9, DEM 1.97, GBP 0.69, USD 1.113.