The European Investment Bank (EIB) has granted a EUR 200 million loan to Banco BPI (BPI) for financing investment projects promoted by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The finance contract was signed today in Lisbon by EIB Vice-President Magdalena Álvarez Arza and the CEO of BPI, Fernando Ulrich.

Vice-President Álvarez, whose responsibilities include the Bank’s operations in Portugal and Spain, emphasised that “the Bank is pleased to support small and medium-sized Portuguese companies through this operation. Improving SMEs’ access to finance is indeed one of the strategic objectives of the European Investment Bank, as it helps to boost economic activity and job creation, in particular in convergence regions. I am confident that this operation will represent a new step forward in our excellent relationship with BPI and will bear very positive fruit for the Portuguese economy”.

CEO Fernando Ulrich said that “the new credit line, which we are pleased to sign early in the year thanks once again to the highly professional cooperation of the EIB, is an important tool and incentive for achieving BPI’s overriding objective for 2011, which is to maintain support for small and medium-sized businesses in the prevailing and quite challenging economic environment.  As the leading bank in support for the best performing SMEs in Portugal, BPI strives to obtain the finest and most appropriate financial conditions, primarily those from the EIB, and to on lend them efficiently in support of relevant SME investments.”

The credit line is designed to support small-scale projects mainly in the areas of industry, tourism and services, including research and development, energy, and environmental protection. It may also be used for infrastructure projects mainly carried out by municipalities. Most of these projects will be located in Portugal’s convergence areas. The EIB will finance up to 100% of the total project cost for SMEs (with a maximum of EUR 12.5 million per project) and up to 50% for other types of project.

The loan will help to strengthen the productivity and competitiveness of SMEs, reducing the impact of the current economic crisis on these enterprises, and will foster regional development and economic and social cohesion in Portugal.

This EIB loan offers first class financial terms to BPI, which will be passed on to its borrowers.

The present facility – the 18th credit line signed between the two banks – builds upon long-standing and fruitful cooperation between the EIB and BPI, which is one of the EIB’s leading banking partners in Portugal in support for small and medium-scale projects and the pursuit of other EU policy objectives.

Background information:

The European Investment Bank is the long-term financing institution of the European Union (EU), working to further European objectives. The Bank’s financing is geared to well-defined European policies. As an EU objective, support for SMEs is also an investment priority of the EIB.

BPI is the 4th major Portuguese financial group, with a market share of 10% in deposits and loans and above 15% in asset management. It is the leading bank in support for the best performing SMEs in Portugal, notably in the framework of the various incentive programmes made available by the Portuguese State to mitigate the negative impact of the economic crisis.