The European Investment Bank (EIB) is contributing BEF 9 billion (ECU 223 million)(1) towards the mobile telephony network in Belgium, the concession for which has been awarded to Mobistar. This operation, concluded at the end of December 1997, has been mounted in partnership with a pool of some twenty banks, lead-managed by ABN AMRO and Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) and co-arranged by Dresdner Bank, Kredietbank and Sumitomo Bank.

The Bank's involvement, in co-operation with the above pool of banks, should enable Mobistar to enjoy attractive financing conditions.

For the EIB, this operation ties in with its policy of providing support for communications networks, in keeping with the European Union's directive on mobile telephony and on establishing competitive national networks.

Mobistar's investment centres on improving the quality and uprating the capacity of Mobistar's facilities, offering a digital mobile radio network using the GSM standard in the 900MHz band and covering all of Belgium. Some 540 jobs are expected to be created between now and 1999, with the likelihood of further subsequent increases as the subscriber base expands. Moreover, part of the capital investment will target assisted areas.

Users should enjoy an even better quality of service at competitive prices as a result of opening up of the Belgian market, together with the arrival of a third operator scheduled in the near future.

The EIB, the European Union's financing institution, actively supports development of trans-European communications networks. Over the past five years, it has devoted nearly ECU 8 billion of lending towards establishing advanced fixed and mobile telecommunications systems not only in Belgium but also in Austria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Of particular note was the loan for some ECU 190 million, i.e. BEF 7.5 billion, made available to Belgacom in December 1996 towards modernising its fixed telecommunications network.

(1) The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 31 December 1997, when ECU 1 = BEF 40.76, GBP 0.66, IEP 0.77, USD 1.10.