The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's financing institution, announces a EUR 75 million global loan to Banca Popolare di Sondrio (BPSondrio) for supporting ventures mounted by small and medium-sized enterprises in the fields of industry, services, commerce, tourism and infrastructure, as well as schemes focusing on the following sectors: energy, environmental protection and innovative technology development.

This credit line will be used to underpin projects geared to increasing the productivity and competitiveness of SMEs in the industrial, service, health, education and tourism sectors.

Through this operation, the EIB is seeking to give renewed impetus to global loans for medium-sized regional banks in Italy, following a period characterised by lending to major banking groups and operators in the leasing sector.

BPSondrio was established in 1871 in Sondrio, in the Valtellina valley, and has gradually expanded its sphere of activity. Some 80% of the group's operations are concentrated in the Lombardy region.

The EIB, the European Union's long-term financing institution, funds capital investment promoting European integration in areas such as: regional development; trans-European transport, telecoms and energy networks; industrial competitiveness and integration; SMEs; environmental protection; security of energy supplies. The EIB also operates outside the EU within the framework of the Community's development aid and cooperation policy. Owned by the Member States, the EIB raises resources on the capital markets (AAA issuer). In 2000, the EIB lent some EUR 36 billion, of which EUR 5.6 billion in Italy.