The EIB, aware of the key role to be played by digital technologies in the economic competitiveness and attractiveness of the regions, the European Investment Bank (EIB) has made superfast broadband coverage one of its priorities in France. Capitalising on its partnership with the French banking network, the bank of the European Union is providing EUR 750m to meet the financing requirements of publicly-owned networks launched by local authorities, associations formed by them or their proxies. This financing is the EIB's immediate contribution to France's superfast broadband plan aimed at providing superfast broadband coverage across all French regions by 2022.
The financing agreements were signed on Friday 19 December 2014 with the banks Crédit Mutuel Arkéa, BPCE Group, Banque Postale, Crédit Agricole Group and Société Générale at the Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Industry in the presence of Michel Sapin, Minister of Finance and Public Accounts, Emmanuel Macron, Minister of the Economy, Industry and the Digital Sector, Axelle Lemaire, Secretary of State with responsibility for the Digital Sector, Philippe de Fontaine Vive, EIB Vice-President, and Odile Renaud-Basso, Deputy Director General of the Caisse des Dépôts Group.
This pragmatic financing operation will enable local and regional authorities to carry out the investments required to provide access to superfast broadband in rural areas and areas with a low population density whilst benefiting from favourable financial terms thanks to the EIB's AAA rating. The eligible projects will be selected under cooperation arrangements between the EIB and the French Government's superfast broadband task force "Mission Très Haut Débit": the EIB will base each project examination on the Mission's reports in order accelerate the appraisal procedure. In addition, projects costing less than EUR 200m will benefit from a simplified procedure so that the EIB funds will be rapidly made available to the project promoters.
The EIB financing granted to the intermediary banks may have a term of up to 25 years, including a grace period of up to five years, and the interest rate may be fixed or variable.
Caisse des Dépôts, a partner of the EIB, will also co-finance these projects by providing very long-term loans to the local and regional authorities through its Savings Funds Directorate. This arrangement will help to complete the financing plans of the local public bodies under the best possible conditions.
"The roll-out of superfast broadband is essential for economic development and competitiveness at regional level and is also a key factor for employment and social cohesion," stated EIB Vice-President Philippe de Fontaine Vive. "This is a winning financial operation for the local authorities and the beneficiaries as it is designed to ensure efficiency and customer proximity thanks to our partner banks. By innovating in this way, Europe will be able to restore growth on a sustainable basis. "
Since 2013, the EIB has been striving to improve the access of the French regions to superfast broadband by bringing together expertise and resources to finance projects aimed at economic development, innovation and social cohesion. SYANE's superfast broadband network in Haute-Savoie was the first public network to be financed jointly by the EIB and Caisse des Dépôts. The EIB has also launched the first "project bond" in France and Europe involving digital infrastructure. As a result, it has enhanced the bond finance put into place by Axione Infrastructures (EUR 189m in July) by introducing a EUR 38m contingent mezzanine tranche and is thus supporting the roll-out of superfast broadband technology in sparsely populated areas.