The Chairman of Aer Rianta, Mr Noel Hanlon, and Vice President Michael Tutty of the European Investment Bank, today signed an agreement for a EUR 115 million loan facility. The loan will be used to part-finance the development of Cork Airport where Aer Rianta is currently building a new terminal facility and significant additional infrastructure.

Construction work on the redevelopment of Cork Airport commenced last July and is progressing well, with completion of the new terminal scheduled for 2005. The new terminal will initially have capacity for three million passengers per year in a visually exciting glass and steel structure, and has the potential to expand to five million in the longer term in response to demand. The new development includes a multi-storey car park, internal roadways and upgraded utility services. Fire fighting and technical facilities will also be upgraded to match the new terminal.

Traffic growth through Cork has been very strong in recent years and passenger numbers are up 16% year to date. The airport is planning to celebrate a significant new milestone later this month when, for the first time, two million passengers will pass through its facilities in the same calendar year.

Welcoming the loan agreement, Mr Hanlon said: This is a significant and cost effective source of capital being made available by the European Investment Bank to fund the development programme at Cork Airport. It represents a strong vote of confidence by the Bank in the quality and value of the facilities under construction and a recognition of the importance of the airport to the economy of Cork and the wider Munster region.

Commenting, Mr Tutty said: The extension of Cork airport will significantly support continued economic development in the Cork area and the South West region of Ireland. The need for support for economic development in the region is underlined by its Objective 1 status until the end of 2005. EIB has also reflected the need for rapid improvements in facilities at Cork by providing funds under the Accelerated Finance Initiative, which is designed to bring forward important infrastructure investments across the Union. The increased airport capacity will generate economic benefits by accommodating future traffic growth and relieving current pressure on facilities.

Cork Airport Development Fact File

New 25,000 sq metre terminal building; Capacity, three million passengers with potential for five million; Three new airbridges linked to terminal; Three new 45m baggage reclaim belts; Thirty passenger check-in desks; 3,400 sq metres of retail/catering space; 4,500 car park spaces including new multi-storey short-term car park with 600 spaces; New internal road facilities including dual carriageway to Cork/Kinsale road; Upgraded fire station and other essential utility services

Cork Airport Passenger & Route Fact File

Passenger traffic in 2003 up 16% year-to-date to record 2.18 m at year end; Two million passenger threshold to be breached in late November for first time; An extra 300,000 passengers will pass through Cork Airport in 2003 over 2002; Twelve scheduled airlines on 24 routes; Recent scheduled route development includes: - CSA Czech Airlines to Prague, Bmi Baby to Manchester and East Midlands and Cardiff -Air Wales to Dublin ;Jet Magic to Alicante, Belfast, Barcelona, Nice, Milan, Rome, Jersey and Nantes, Liverpool, London City, Paris, and Edinburgh

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 future Member States; 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.