The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's long-term lending institution, is advancing a global loan of ITL 100 billion (ECU 51 million) to Mediocredito Centrale SpA (MCC) and other financial intermediaries for on-lending to Professional Ducato Leasing SpA (PDL), the leasing subsidiary of the Casse del Tirreno banking group. Funds from the loan will be utilised in the financing of leasing contracts in favour of small and medium-sized enterprises located primarily in the region of Toscana.

This loan will enable SMEs to increase their productivity and competitiveness, and will promote job creation. As well as financing leasing in favour of industry and services, funds from the global loan will also be available for small infrastructure investments.

Leasing is the main source of external financing for SMEs in Italy and is estimated to account for about 39% of investment financing by companies with less than 100 employees and 21% for SMEs with up to 500 employees. Accordingly, the facility in favour of PDL will be consistent with the EIB's objective of sustaining employment through the development SMEs.

The global loan is a financing instrument under which the EIB makes funds available on a long-term basis to a local intermediary, for on-lending in the form of smaller credits in support of small and medium-scale ventures. The Bank has established an extensive network of over 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 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.

The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 30 September 1998, when ECU 1 = ITL 1 939.74, GBP 0.69.