A EUR 150 million loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) for Acquedotto pugliese spa (AQP) was signed today in Bari. The signing ceremony was attended by EIB Vice-President Dario Scannapieco (who is responsible for operations in Italy, Malta, the Western Balkans and Greece), Acquedotto Pugliese’s CEO Gioacchino Maselli and President Nichi Vendola on behalf of the Puglia Region, which is AQP’s sole shareholder.

“With this loan we are supporting basic infrastructure for the Mezzogiorno, an area that has historically been at the heart of the lending policies of the European Union’s bank”, commented Mr Scannapieco, adding: “In the regions of Southern Italy, in addition to public works, our activities have also concentrated on financing regional programmes and, particularly in recent years, on loans to small and medium-sized enterprises via the partnership with Italian banks. In 2013 we shall also be supporting the economies of the regions of the Mezzogiorno to help them escape from this long and serious crisis.”

The loan signed today will be for investments in both AQP’s water network, which is in need of a major overhaul and upgrading work, and in water treatment facilities, to increase the availability and quality of the potable water distributed to the local population. AQP serves a total of around 4 million people living in Puglia and 30 000 in Campania – more than 7% of the entire population of Southern Italy, where improving the water infrastructure is essential to increase people’s standards of living.

In particular, the investments planned by AQP are aimed at reducing losses, maintaining the efficiency of the facilities managed, improving water quality, increasing the amount of water available on a per capita basis, extending the areas covered by water and wastewater services and making the water purification process more efficient.

The finance the Bank is providing for AQP is the EIB’s first direct loan for integrated water services in Southern Italy since the EUR 36 million loan for Palermo’s water networks 13 years ago.

Over the past 10 years the EIB has lent a total of EUR 813 million for nine individual integrated water services projects in Italy, all located in the central and northern areas.