First “EIB loan for SMEs” through BNP Paribas signed today in the presence of Minister Christine Lagarde.

Addressing her ECOFIN counterparts meeting in Nice on 12 and 13 September, Christine Lagarde, French Minister of the Economy, Finance and Employment, requested that EUR 30 billion of European Investment Bank funding be raised, of which EUR 15 billion in 2008 and 2009, to support investment by European SMEs.

Less than three weeks after that decision, BNP Paribas and the European Investment Bank have signed the first financing agreement amounting to EUR 300 million and BNP Paribas has granted the first “EIB loan for SMEs” under this credit line.

The loan was signed at the offices of Laboratoires Prodene Klint, an innovative SME customer of BNP Paribas and the first European enterprise to receive an “EIB loan for SMEs”. Simpler and more flexible, this new lending arrangement will enable European banks to finance all types of investment or expenditure required to grow European businesses with fewer than 250 employees, whether in the form of tangible or intangible investment or working capital.

Christine Lagarde, French Minister of the Economy, Finance and Employment and current Chair of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN), Philippe de Fontaine Vive, EIB Vice-President, and Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, Chief Operating Officer of BNP Paribas, took this opportunity to visit Laboratoires Prodene Klint.

This company, which has 230 employees and is based near Marne la Vallée, received a EUR 180 000 loan from BNP Paribas to purchase equipment to develop a skin disinfectant for use in both medical (to prevent nosocomial diseases) and industrial environments.

Christine Lagarde remarked: “On 12 and 13 September, I asked my European counterparts meeting in Nice to take action to support our SMEs to the tune of EUR 15 billion. Handing over the first cheque less than three weeks after that decision was taken is a feat that illustrates Europe’s determination to soften the impact of the credit crisis on the real economy as much as possible”.

Philippe de Fontaine Vive said: “For the EIB, granting loans worth EUR 15 billion through commercial banks sends out a message of confidence in the future of both Europe’s economic fabric and its financial system. The transparent support for small businesses that this new facility will provide shows that the financing institutions are listening to their needs”.

Jean-Laurent Bonnafé stated: “I am delighted that BNP Paribas is the first bank to sign this loan for European SMEs at a time when the Group is expanding its presence in Europe. As a bank of the real economy, BNP Paribas is continuing to assist its SME customers in their development projects”.