The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's financing institution, has directed additional funds for investments promoted by small and medium-sized enterprises in the South of Italy, through the signature of a new global loan of ITL 60 billion (ECU 31 million) (1) to Banco di Napoli SpA

The finance contract was signed at Banco di Napoli's head office in Naples by EIB Vice-President, Massimo Ponzellini, and the General Manager of Banco di Napoli, Federico Pepe.

On the occasion of the signature ceremony Mr Ponzellini underlined "the EIB's prominent role in supporting small and medium-sized firms, as recognised by the new mandates handed down to the Bank by the Amsterdam European Council. This loan will enable SMEs in the South of Italy to increase their productivity and competitiveness, and will promote job creation".

Funds from the global loan will also be available for small and medium-sized infrastructure investments in the Mezzogiorno, as well as ventures leading to a more rational use of energy, environmental protection and the reduction of pollution. Global loans can in addition be used to finance investments in health and education.

The global loan is a financing instrument under which the EIB makes funds available on a long-term basis to a local intermediary, for onlending in the form of smaller sub-loans in support of small and medium-scale ventures. The Bank has established an extensive network of about 100 active intermediaries for global loans to SMEs, covering the entire Union.In 1997, total EIB lending ran to some ECU 26.2 billion, of which over ECU 3.5 billion in Italy alone, where the EIB advanced global loans for a total of ECU 1.076 billion in 1997.Investments co-financed through standard global loans (ECU 2.2 billion, directed to 11,000 SMEs) have created about 10,000 jobs within small and medium-sized enterprises in the European Union in 1997, and stabilised another 15,000.

(1) The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 30 March 1998, when ECU 1 = GBP 0.64, IEP 0.79, USD 1.07 and ITL 1 958.