With the signature of three separate agreements in recent weeks the European Investment Bank (EIB) and Banco Popolare have committed EUR 350 million in support of SMEs, midcaps and projects promoting youth employment in Italy. These agreements strengthen the cooperation between the European Union's bank and Banco Popolare, which is especially important for passing on new sources of finance to Italy's productive sector on favourable terms as the country shows the first signs of emerging from a protracted recession.

“We have a long tradition of working with Banco Popolare in support of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). I am satisfied with the agreements signed, particularly the loan to combat youth unemployment. This is a real emergency in all Italian regions and it is only by making it easier for businesses to start investing again that we can help create new jobs”, remarked EIB Vice-President Dario Scannapieco.

“These new agreements – explained Maurizio Faroni, General Manager of Banco Popolare – provide an important boost for youth employment and help make new financing immediately available to businesses. The initiative gives further confirmation of Banco Popolare's commitment to stimulating the economy in Italy, recently reaffirmed by its industrial programme for the next three years involving an increase in lending of several billion euros. Our collaboration with the EIB makes it easier to access and businesses can avail themselves of the Group's ordinary medium-term financial support in the hope that they will seize the opportunity to grow and develop in their respective sectors.”

Youth employment (EUR 50 million)

Specifically, a EUR 50 million loan concerns projects put forward by SMEs, midcaps and innovative start-ups to create new jobs for young people in the 15-29 age bracket. These financing operations form part of the Jobs for Youth programme launched by the EIB after the Brussels European Council of June 2013. To date, the EIB has allocated a total of EUR 440 million to Italy under Jobs for Youth. The potential beneficiaries are SMEs (up to 250 staff), midcaps (up to 3 000 staff) and start-ups that meet at least one of the following requirements:

- they have taken on at least one person (three for midcaps) aged between 15 and 29 in the six months prior to the loan application or they will do so in the following six months;

- they offer vocational training programmes for young people or internships/training programmes for young people;

- they have signed a cooperation agreement with a technical institute or school or university to employ young people (e.g. for summer internships);

- they have a shareholder structure in which the majority of the capital (over 50%) is held by people under the age of 29.

SMEs (EUR 200 million) and midcaps (EUR 100 million)

The EIB has earmarked EUR 200 million for Italian SMEs on particularly favourable terms. The loans are intended to fund either new or existing projects providing these have not yet been completed. Loans to businesses operating in all productive sectors (agriculture, crafts, industry, retail, tourism and services) can be allocated for the purchase, construction, extension and refurbishment of buildings; the purchase of plant, equipment, vehicles or machinery; expenses, additional charges and intangible assets connected to the projects, including research, development and innovation costs; the permanent need for working capital for operational purposes. Banco Popolare will also provide funding to the beneficiary SMEs, so increasing the total amount made available in support of the Italian economy.

Lastly, a EUR 100 million credit line for midcaps signed at the end of 2013 is already being disbursed.