Under its Amsterdam Special Action Programme (ASAP) set up in the second half of 1997 to bolster growth and employment in Europe, the EIB is making available to SNCI LUF 350 million for on-lending in the form of subordinated loans to innovative SMEs to boost their capital base. SNCI will act as co-investor in each operation and itself lend a matching amount to the final beneficiaries, while sharing the credit risk with the EIB. The purpose of this operation is to strengthen the equity of SMEs through provision of custom-made risk-sharing financial instruments, thereby facilitating these companies' access to bank financing.

A second operation, for an identical amount of LUF 350 million, is aimed at supporting small and medium-scale projects in industry and the service sector. These two operations will allow the European Investment Bank substantially to step up its action to promote productive investment in the Luxembourg economy, in close partnership with an intermediary offering a proven track record in this field.

SNCI, for its part, is adding further to its range of operations to consolidate the capital base of industrial and service enterprises in Luxembourg, as well as underpinning their capital investment schemes.

Also in this connection, SNCI, acting jointly with local commercial banks, has just established Société luxembourgoise de capital-développement pour les PME, due to start up this autumn.

The EIB set up the Amsterdam Special Action Programme in response to the Amsterdam European Council's June 1997 Resolution on Growth and Employment in Europe and further to the measures decided by the Luxembourg Special European Council on Employment (November 1997). The purpose of ASAP is to direct a significant proportion of EIB funding towards SME investment and leading edge or labour-intensive sectors.

Against this background, the EIB has thus expanded the scope of its financing to include the fields of education, health and urban renewal, whilst stepping up its action in support of infrastructure, in particular trans-European networks, and projects with a substantial environmental component. Overall, the programme is designed to increase the volume of EIB lending to these sectors and to SMEs by some ECU 10 billion over the period 1997-2000.

Exchange rates obtaining at 30 March 1998: ECU 1 = LUF 40.9755.