The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's financing institution, announces a loan of EUR 300 million (1) to the UniCredito Italiano Group for promoting smaller scale ventures in Italy.

The agreement was signed in Milan by EIB Vice-President Massimo Ponzellini and the Managing Director of UniCredito Italiano, Alessandro Profumo. Mr Ponzellini commented :"Through this operation, the EIB is strengthening its commitment towards small and medium-sized enterprises in Italy, the most dynamic in the European Union".

The loan is designed to enhance the productivity and competitiveness of SMEs, as well as to assist energy saving, environmental protection, pollution-reducing and infrastructure ventures.

Banks in the UniCredito Group and the leasing subsidiary Locat SpA, the largest leasing company in Italy, will also be able to draw on this credit line.

Leasing represents one of the main sources of external financing for SMEs in Italy, especially those with a workforce of less than 100 persons.

Global loans are lines of credit deployed by partner financial institutions in support of smaller scale ventures complying with EIB lending criteria. The Bank has a vast network of 130 intermediaries administering global loans for SMEs throughout the European Union.

Over the past five years (1995-1999), the EIB has concluded loans under this heading for more than EUR 12.8 billion, the proceeds of which have contributed towards setting up, modernising or expanding 55 000 SMEs in the productive sector.

(1) EUR 1 = 1 936.27 ITL, 0.632300 GBP.