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Today in Nicosia, the European Investment Bank inaugurated unprecedented cooperation with the three largest Cypriot banks for the support of entrepreneurial activity by small businesses in Cyprus. The cooperation is in the form of three lending facilities totalling EUR 228 million signed with the Bank of Cyprus, Marfin Popular Bank and Hellenic Bank, which will match this amount with equal funding from their own resources.

The contracts were signed in a public ceremony in the presence of Mr Charilaos Stavrakis, Cypriot Minister of Finance, and some 150 entrepreneurs, by EIB Vice-President Mr Plutarchos Sakellaris, Mr Vassos Shiarly (Bank of Cyprus Group General Manager, Domestic Banking), Mr Thimios Bouloutas (Managing Director of Marfin Popular Bank) and Mr Makis Keravnos (CEO of the Hellenic Bank Group).

The three EIB partner banks, which are the leading banks in Cyprus, with extensive branch networks and large SME portfolios in the country as well as the wider region, are joining forces with the European Investment Bank for the first time.  EUR 120 million will go to the Bank of Cyprus, EUR 50 million to Marfin Popular Bank and EUR 58 million to Hellenic Bank.  The funds will be used to provide finance to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the fields of industry, commercial services and tourism in Cyprus.  The lending facilities signed with the Bank of Cyprus and Hellenic Bank will also be able to fund SMEs located in Greece. At the end of May Marfin signed via MARFIN EGNATIA Bank (Greece) a EUR 80 million EIB facility for SMEs in Greece.

The Cypriot Minister of Finance, Mr Stavrakis, stated:  "The new EUR 228 million EIB financing facility will offer enhanced possibilities for meeting the liquidity needs of Cypriot SMEs in the current economic crisis.  The funds will be used for financing enterprises in industry, tourism, trade and, more generally, services.  I am sure that these funds will be used for the benefit of our enterprises.  We are interested in considerably improving financing opportunities for smaller companies, by increasing the amounts available and offering greater flexibility as well as new financial products.  Our objective, which is also our obligation, is to utilise all available development tools, such as those offered by the EIB to the European economies.  We therefore signed recently with the EIB Group a EUR 20 million funding and management agreement for the implementation here in Cyprus of the Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises initiative, known as JEREMIE.  Today we take a further big step forward".

EIB Vice-President Mr Sakellaris commented at the signing ceremony:  "The signature today marks a milestone in our activity in Cyprus:  quantitatively as it is the biggest-ever for SMEs, qualitatively, as it is a new product and involves a wide alliance with Cypriot partners, and, in terms of timing, it coincides with the fifth anniversary of Cyprus's accession to the European Union.  Now is the time to work together to restore the growth that can only come from strong and flourishing enterprises that harness innovation and advance opportunity.  The success of the Cypriot economy is inextricably linked to small businesses, so we are therefore acting boldly in favour of Cypriot SMEs.  Our action is amplified by the synergy with our partner banks Bank of Cyprus, Marfin Popular Bank and Hellenic Bank.  Further synergies to benefit Cypriot SMEs have been sought within the framework of JEREMIE, for which we held a working session here yesterday, involving most banks working in Cyprus as well as  representatives of SMEs.  Our future action, though, will not be limited to SMEs."

Mr Shiarly, Bank of Cyprus Group General Manager Domestic Banking, stated: "SMEs are undoubtedly the backbone of the economy of Cyprus.  Throughout our 110 years of history we recognised their importance and consistently, through good times and bad, at times of peace or war, we stood by and supported Cypriot SMEs, which comprise almost 100% of all businesses in Cyprus. In today's troublesome times and in the midst of an international financial crisis, these loans from the EIB will enhance our lending liquidity and our ability to continue our support for and offer competitively priced loans to SMEs."

Mr Efthymios Bouloutas, Chief Executive Officer of Marfin Laiki Bank, said, "Marfin Laiki Bank puts special emphasis on the financing of SMEs, which form an important part of our customer base in Cyprus. Some months ago, when the crisis was seen as a serious threat, the management of the bank took the decision to strengthen our presence in this sector, and we are very pleased that this aim will now have the support of the European Investment Bank. I would like to take this opportunity to underline that the capital provided for under the present agreement will be directed exclusively towards supporting SMEs in Cyprus, since we have signed another agreement with the EIB for the Greek market."

Mr Keravnos, CEO of the Hellenic Bank Group, welcomed the signing of the agreement with the European Investment Bank. "These new funds of approximately EUR 250 million drawn from the EIB will enhance our ability to help small and medium-sized enterprises with loans on favourable terms, a grace period and on much improved terms than the ones offered today." Mr Keravnos emphasised that "Hellenic Bank, being a socially responsible organisation, predicted at a very early stage the adverse effects the global financial crisis would have on both the real economy and SMEs. For this reason, Hellenic Bank was the first Cypriot bank to apply promptly to the European Investment Bank for lending facilities regarding the funding of SMEs, in an effort to provide effective help and support both its customers and the entire business world of Cyprus". Mr Keravnos also announced Hellenic Bank's decision to use the funds not only for Cypriot but also for Greek enterprises.

The signing ceremony was organised in cooperation with the Cypriot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) and the Cyprus Employers and Industrialists Confederation (CEIF). Both organisations actively supported the event and promoted it to their members to ensure broad, quick, efficient and effective utilisation of the facility by the Cypriot business community.

EIB involvement is expected to generate positive effects for the underlying investments in view of the availability of longer maturities, lower financing costs and improved conditions for enterprises. Simpler and more flexible, this new lending arrangement will enable EIB partner 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.

Note to editors:

EIB activity in Cyprus

EIB lending in Cyprus started in 1981. It increased in volume after 1996, when the country commenced accession negotiations with the EU. In the 12 years that have passed since then, total EIB financing in Cyprus amounted to more than EUR 1.5 billion, of which almost half was after the country's accession in 2004.  In the five-year period 2004-2008, the EIB provided a total of EUR 645 million for projects in Cyprus in support of the Union's objectives and the Bank's priorities. In this period 49% of total EIB financing in Cyprus was for a cleaner environment and an enhanced quality of life. Flagship projects for urban environment infrastructure, notably water and wastewater collection networks, have been financed in almost all major cities, including Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca and Paphos.  27% of total EIB lending in Cyprus in this period was for priority combined infrastructure investments, such as the development of transport, urban and public service information technology infrastructure.  20% of total EIB financing in Cyprus was in the energy sector, with the construction of new combined-cycle and internal combustion power plants in Vassilikos and Dekeleia. EUR 32 million went on financing projects in synergy with Cohesion and Structural Funds. The Bank works closely with the Cypriot authorities and the European Commission on the programming and implementation of projects supported by the Structural and Cohesion Funds in Cyprus, in order to maximise the impact of its action.

JEREMIE

The Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises - or JEREMIE - will sit alongside the JASMINE, JESSICA and JASPERS programmes already set up by the EIB Group with the support of EU budgetary funds.

JEREMIE is the joint initiative to improve access to finance for SMEs in the EU within the Structural Funds framework for the period 2007-2013.  JEREMIE enables the EU Member States and regions to put money from the structural funds, and also national resources, into holding funds that can finance SMEs in a flexible and innovative way.  Since the products will be provided on a repayment basis, the funds will be reinvested and hence more SMEs will benefit from EU resources.

Managed by the EIB Group's European Investment Fund (EIF), this initiative aims to develop and foster the role of entrepreneurship within the EU in order to meet the objectives of the Lisbon Agenda and help the Structural Funds to deliver greater benefits to the market.

About the EIB

What is the EIB?

The European Investment Bank was created by the Treaty of Rome in 1958 as the long-term lending bank of the European Union. The task of the Bank is to contribute towards the integration, balanced development and economic and social cohesion of the EU Member States.  The EIB raises substantial volumes of funds on the capital markets, which it lends on favorable terms to projects furthering EU policy objectives.  The EIB continuously adapts its activity to developments in EU policies.

The EIB:

  • enjoys its own legal personality and financial autonomy within the EU;
  • operates following strict banking practice and in close collaboration with the wider banking community, both when borrowing on the capital markets and when financing capital projects.

Who are the shareholders?

The EIB's capital is owned by the 27 member countries of the EU. France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom each have 16.2%, followed by Spain, with just over 9%.

What types of project does it finance?

There are six financing priorities, which are laid down by the shareholders and the EU, mainly in the following sectors:

  1. convergence and cohesion, involving the poorest regions of the EU;
  2. small and medium-sized enterprises;
  3. energy;
  4. research, development and innovation;
  5. infrastructure;
  6. environmental protection.

Key figures: the EIB in 2008

Total financing operations: EUR 57.6 billion (+21%, compared with EUR 47.8 billion in 2007), of which:

  • EU countries: EUR 51.5 billion
  • Accession countries: EUR 3.4 billion
  • Non-EU countries: EUR 2.7 billion.

Total stock of financing operations as at 31 December 2008: EUR 355 billion (+ 9.2%, compared with EUR 324.8 billion in 2007).

Total raised by issuing bonds on the international markets in 2008: EUR 59.5 billion (+ 9%, compared with EUR 54.7 billion in 2007), raised via 247 issues in 18 currencies.

Total stock of funds raised as at 31 December 2008: EUR 253 billion (EUR 246 billion in 2007).