The European Investment Bank, the European Union's financing institution, is providing IEP 10 million (EUR 12.7 million) (1) in an equity capital arrangement with ICC Private Equity Fund Limited Partnership to support growing Irish private companies.

The Private Equity Fund will be managed by ICC Venture Capital, a division of ICC Bank plc, which is an important intermediary for EIB global loan facilities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Ireland. The new Fund, which is expected to reach up to IEP 100 million, will focus on supporting growth-oriented, technologically innovative small and medium-sized businesses mainly in Ireland. Investments in other EU countries may also be supported, particularly in Northern Ireland. The EIB is sharing risk and return in the Fund on the same basis as other investors.

The Fund will help support the Irish economy by improving the capitalisation of promising small and medium-sized businesses. The EIB provides funds for the European Union's SME venture capital industry under a special programme, set up following the European Council's resolution on growth and employment in Amsterdam in June 1997 calling for investment to help job creation. The EIB's programme includes a special window to provide risk capital for growth-oriented SMEs through participation in venture capital funds.

This is the second EIB facility arranged for venture capital in Ireland this year and underlines the Bank's strong commitment to this new business segment for the development of SMEs in Ireland.

The European Investment Bank, the European Union's long-term lending institution, finances capital investment furthering EU integration, in particular: regional development; trans-European networks in transport, telecoms and energy; industrial competitiveness and integration; SMEs; environmental protection; and energy security. It also operates outside the EU within the framework of the EU's co-operation external policy. Owned by the Member States, the EIB raises its funds on capital markets (AAA issuer).The EIB's Amsterdam Special Action programme (ASAP) was set up following the European Council's request that the EIB should to step up lending for investment to help job-creation. The ASAP includes a special window to provide risk capital for high-growth SMEs; new lending for education, health and urban renewal; and expansion of financing for trans-European networks and other major infrastructure schemes. The EIB may draw up to ECU 1 billion from its reserves over the next three years to cover risk capital financing under the SME Window.

(1) 1 euro : 0.666300 GBP, 0.787564 IEP.