The EIB signed yesterday a loan of EUR 60 million with Böhler-Uddeholm Group to finance an investment programme resulting in production modernization and extension and R&D investment for the development of the metallurgy of special, high grades steels. The project will help to maintain employment opportunities in areas that have been affected by the decline and restructuring of their traditional industrial activities. These innovative investments, out of which approx. 20% directly cover R&D, are in alignment with the EIB lending priority to provide support to the increase of productivity and competitiveness of the European economy.

The Böhler-Uddeholm Group is a world leader in tool steels and among the quality leaders in high-speed steel. The Group's output is not based on mass production, but focused on selected niches in the special steel industry. The Group undertakes an intensive Research & Development programme thanks to which it has a leading position in the sector. In addition, plants' raw material supplies are based on recycled scrap that has a positive environmental impact.

The investments will be implemented at Böhler-Uddeholm's production facilities in Austria and Sweden, located in assisted regions that have been designated as Objective 2 areas for allocations of the European Union's Structural Funds and they reflect and contribute to the respective programming objectives of the Structural Funds in these regions. The loan will help to safeguard approximately 4,500 direct manufacturing jobs, thus bolstering these regions' social economic structure that is facing a challenge of structural changes.

The European Investment Bank (EIB'), the long term financing institution of the EU financing investment projects fostering EU integration, provided loans to Austria amounting to more than EUR 4 billion during the recent five years (1999-2003). Almost one fourth of this amount (EUR 922 million) represented loans supporting the implementation of the European Union's Lisbon Strategy that is focused on developing the Union in a leading area for research and innovation.

In this regard, the Bank's financing is aimed at projects supporting R&D and innovative investments related to products and processes in the private sector, in support of large companies and small and medium-scale enterprises; education and training as well as creation and dissemination of information and communication technologies, e.g. related hardware, content and applications.