The European Investment Bank (EIB) announced today that it has provided a Eur 100m lending facility to Bank of Ireland for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and small and medium-sized infrastructure projects. Earmarked for the improvement of SME competitiveness, Eur 50 million of the facility will be lent by Bank of Ireland for productive capital investments by SMEs. The remaining Eur 50 million will be available for long-term loans (of up to 20 years) to promoters of small to medium-sized infrastructure projects in sectors such as education, health and urban renewal.

The Eur 100 million facility is to be provided in Ireland through Bank of Ireland and through its UK Financial Services Division in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The loan was signed by Michael G. Tutty, Vice-President, European Investment Bank and Brian Goggin, Chief Executive, Bank of Ireland, Wholesale Financial Services Division on 6 December.

Commenting on the loan, EIB Vice-President Michael G. Tutty said: "EIB Group is delighted to continue its relationship with Bank of Ireland in providing financial support tailored to the needs of SMEs. SMEs play a key role in creating jobs and developing the economy, particularly in the less-developed areas of Ireland, Northern Ireland as well as Great Britain. Through this facility to Bank of Ireland, EIB is renewing its support to businesses seeking to increase their productivity and, therefore, competitiveness. EIB is also pleased to support Bank of Ireland's activities in the small to medium-sized business and infrastructure sector where development is a necessary complement to sustained economic growth."

Brian Goggin, Chief Executive, Bank of Ireland, Wholesales Financial Services Division said: "The continued provision of EIB funding is an invaluable source of finance for many small and medium Irish companies. Bank of Ireland is pleased that it has been chosen to manage the distribution of this recent funding in this market and in the U.K. Our footprint in the small and medium sized business sector through Bank of Ireland Business Banking is significant. We have an excellent team of business bankers in our extensive network who are uniquely positioned to advise companies on their financial requirements. Research that we conducted earlier this year indicated that most companies have planned investment in 2002 and 2003. The EIB funding will support their continued competitive development."

Bank of Ireland is a major provider of banking services to small and medium-sized businesses in Ireland. EIB Group's relationship with Bank of Ireland is well established and long-standing.

The EIB is owned by the EU Member States. Set up in 1958, its mission is to contribute to the EU's policy objectives by financing sound investment. Though a not-for-profit organisation, it is self-financing, raising its funds by borrowing on capital markets.

EIB's key operational objectives are to finance: regional development and economic and social cohesion of the EU, including integration of Candidate countries; knowledge and R&D intensive industries; environmental protection and improvement; improved international competitiveness of industry; SMEs; trans-European networks in transport, telecom and energy; human capital: education and health. EIB also supports the EU's development and co-operation policies in Partner Countries outside the EU by providing finance under mandate.

The European Investment Fund (EIF), in which the EIB has a majority stake, is the EU specialised vehicle providing venture capital and guarantee instruments, mainly for small and medium sized enterprises. EIF's venture capital instruments consist of equity investments in venture capital funds that support SMEs, particularly those that are in their early stages of development and those that are technology-oriented.