The European Investment Bank (EIB) closed on 15 December 2014 the purchase of a EUR 196 million covered bond issued by UniCredit Bank Czech Republic and Slovakia, a.s (UniCredit Bank CZ&SK). The bond forms part of UniCredit Bank CZ&SK’s EUR 5 billion international covered bond programme, which was launched last year. This first international bond has an issue size of EUR 800 million and an annual nominal coupon of 1.875%, with bullet maturity in December 2018. The EIB is the first investor to purchase the UniCredit Bank CZ&SK covered bond under this international programme; other investors are expected to join in 2015, when other covered bond transactions may follow.

This is the first time that the EIB has purchased a covered bond in the Czech Republic. The objective for the EIB behind this transaction is twofold: (i) to increase its support to the Czech and Slovak SME sector – the EIB purchased the bond as loan substitute, which means that UniCredit Bank CZ&SK will use the proceeds of the sale to expand its medium/long-term funding to SMEs in the Czech Republic and Slovakia on attractive terms; and (ii) to support the emerging Czech covered bond market – the EIB sees high potential in this bond market, which in the current market and regulatory environment constitutes an attractive alternative for channelling EIB funding to investment projects.

On this occasion, EIB Vice-President Wilhelm Molterer said: “This is an excellent example of the EIB’s ongoing support for SMEs in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which is now taking the new form of a direct purchase of covered bonds. The EIB sees the Czech covered bond market as a competitive source of funding for the real economy and local investment.”

UniCredit Bank CZ&SK’s CFO and Board Member Gregor Hofstaetter-Pobst said: “I am very happy that we have been able to execute this transaction together with the EIB. Funding via rated covered bonds as a loan substitute is an innovative funding solution whose sole aim is to be able to be more competitive in providing loans to our SME customers, which benefit from the attractive terms. I am proud that UniCredit Bank CZ&SK was chosen by the EIB as its partner for the first time execution of such a deal in the Czech Republic”.