The European Investment Bank (EIB) is advancing to Caisse Nationale des Caisses d'Epargne (CNCE), the central body of the Caisse d'Epargne Group, a EUR 100 million loan for financing SME projects via the Group's national and regional leasing subsidiaries.

The finance agreement between the two institutions was signed on 27 September 2004 in Paris by the Chairman of CNCE's Executive Board, Mr Charles Milhaud, and EIB Vice-President Mr Philippe de Fontaine Vive. The EIB, the EU's development bank, and the Caisse d'Epargne Group, which are both heavily involved in regional development, are therefore continuing to work together to assist French SMEs, in parallel with their joint initiatives to finance local authority infrastructure projects. Since 2000, EUR 200 million has thus been intermediated by the Caisse d'Epargne Group in support of the SME sector (property and equipment leasing).

The agreement concluded is aimed at financing SMEs in the industrial and service sectors. With its 31 Caisses d'Epargne and network of over 4 600 branches, the Caisse d'Epargne Group covers the whole of France and has an in-depth knowledge of the local economic fabric. It channels operations towards the Group's national and regional leasing companies, to which the EIB funds will be allocated.

This EIB loan will enable the Group's leasing subsidiaries to offer favourable financing terms to their SME customers.

The EIB Group underpins SME investment with its medium and long-term global loans, venture capital finance and counter guarantees for the banking sector. During the past five years, the EIB has advanced EUR 54 billion in global loans to partner institutions in the European Union, of which EUR 11.2 billion in France for SME and local authority projects. For its part, the European Investment Fund (EIF) has acquired stakes totalling EUR 2.5 billion in venture capital funds in Europe, including EUR 400 million in France.