For the third consecutive year the EIB and BNP Paribas Fortis are joining forces again with two new loans – EUR 150 million for SMEs and EUR 50 million for the hospitals sector in Belgium.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) and BNP Paribas Fortis have signed a new partnership agreement concerning a EUR 150 million EIB loan for Belgian SMEs following strong demand from small businesses, given that nearly all the loans granted in August 2009 and December 2010 have now been allocated. Building on the previous two operations, branches of the BNP Paribas Fortis network will onlend the EIB funds in loans to small and medium-sized enterprises in support of their investment projects.

Through its “Loans for SMEs” programme, the EIB – the EU’s financing institution – makes funds available to small and medium-sized enterprises to provide backing for their investment projects. To reach SMEs, the EIB works together with commercial banks, which act as intermediaries and utilise their branch networks and knowledge of SMEs.

The “EIB Loan for SMEs” product takes the form of a credit line that BNP Paribas Fortis deploys for small businesses with fewer than 250 employees across a wide range of economic sectors eligible for EIB financing. The projects financed have to be carried out within the European Union and are capped at EUR 25 million each. They may not consist of refinancing or purely financial or property transactions. This new EIB lending formula for SMEs was introduced as part of the measures to support growth. It is flexible and transparent, including in terms of the information provided to businesses, and ensures that the final beneficiaries receive the benefits of EIB funding – mainly in the form of lower interest rates – of which they are explicitly informed. This new EIB-BNP Paribas Fortis financing facility follows on from previous loans totalling EUR 300 million deployed in 2009, 2010 and 2011 in support of projects carried out by small Belgian businesses.

Furthermore, BNP Paribas Fortis is one of four Belgian banks that have received an EIB loan in order to help finance the upgrading or construction of medium-scale hospital infrastructure selected by the competent regional and federal authorities. This EUR 50 million loan will also enable BNP Paribas Fortis to offer its customers long-term resources in a challenging economic climate and on more favourable terms than those of the market.

Max Jadot, CEO of BNP Paribas Fortis, said: “The loans granted since 2009 have been enthusiastically received by Belgian businesses. A total of more than 1 100 firms in all sectors – services and industry – have benefited from these loans on highly favourable terms. These loans are fully consistent with our role as a bank, which is to finance Belgium’s economy by supporting its businesses and public sector.”

EIB President Philippe Maystadt stressed the importance of this area of activity for the EIB: “Supporting SME projects will in 2012 and the following years continue to be a priority for the European Investment Bank as long as difficult market conditions and limited access to financing persist. The hospitals programme in Belgium addresses the country’s substantial requirements in terms of the upgrading of healthcare infrastructure.”

A growing number of SME projects have attracted EIB loans for SMEs since the beginning of the crisis; between 2008 and 2010 (the figure for 2011 is unavailable) a total of more than 160 000 SME projects in the European Union received, via their banks, a loan from EIB resources (of EUR 150 000 on average). In Belgium, over 7 000 SMEs have received these loans (amounting to EUR 1 billion) since 2008.

Close cooperation with the EIB enables BNP Paribas to contribute to the development projects of its customers in three of its European domestic markets – France, Belgium and Italy. In October 2008, BNP Paribas introduced in France the first “EIB Loan for SMEs” under the programme to support funding for SMEs initiated by the EIB.

For further information on the EIB, please visit the Bank’s website

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