• The €50 million fund will be managed by Iccrea Banca together with 11 Sicilian cooperative banks in the BCC Iccrea Group, and will target the SMEs most affected by the pandemic.
  • Small and medium-sized enterprises from or operating in Sicily and having lost turnover of at least 30% compared to 2019 can benefit from the fund. The funding includes €25 million for the tourism industry.
  • The fund is part of a range of EU financing instruments implemented by the Sicily Region's Department for Economic Affairs to support the recovery of production in the region following the pandemic crisis.

Iccrea Banca and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have signed an agreement to manage €50 million in funds for the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) operating in Sicily most affected by the health crisis.

The EIB-financed fund is set to launch on 1 March and will be operationally managed by Iccrea Banca, including via BCC Iccrea Group's 11 cooperative banks in Sicily. It comprises EU and regional resources made available by the Sicily Region for SMEs set up as limited companies with their registered office or operational headquarters in Sicily, and whose turnover for 2020 was at least 30% lower than in 2019. Half of the €50 million total will be exclusively reserved for the tourist industry, which has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

The resources will be distributed as loans (including subsidised loans) for meeting companies’ liquidity or investment needs or for financing existing exposures. Each operation will be for a minimum of €500 000 and a maximum of €5 million. Liquidity loans can be repaid over a maximum of 15 years, while for investment loans this can be up to 20 years. A 24-month grace period applies in both cases.

Loans of up to €2.3 million will have a zero interest rate, under the applicable terms and conditions set out in Article 3.1 of the Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy in the current COVID-19 outbreak, while loans exceeding this amount will be subject to a minimum fixed market rate.

The emergency fund for businesses aims to make a concrete contribution to the regional economy by expanding the supply of resources allocated by the Department for Economic Affairs for thematic objective 3 of the European Regional Development Fund's Regional Operational Programme 2014-2020, to meet the needs of industry and support its recovery beyond the crisis.

EIB Vice-President Gelsomina Vigliotti said: “The economic crisis caused by the pandemic has hit sectors closely linked to tourism, artisanal production and trade particularly hard. The instrument developed by the Sicily Region and the EIB together with the BCC Iccrea Group will enable us to continue supporting Sicilian SMEs in these sectors too, thereby fostering economic, social and territorial cohesion — a key priority for the EU bank. In the last five years, the EIB has provided almost €91 billion for projects supporting cohesion across Europe.”

Sicily Region Vice-President and Regional Minister of the Economy Gaetano Armao added: “This financing measure comes at a time when companies — hit hard by the economic effects of the pandemic — still have to cope with the crisis while also having to prepare for recovery through investments and modernisation to strengthen competitiveness. The Musumeci government has focused on working together with the EIB and the Iccrea cooperative banking system to make the most of the financial resources available and support economic growth.”

Head of Iccrea Banca's Enterprise Division Carlo Napoleoni concluded: “Thanks to this initiative, BCC Iccrea Group and its cooperative banks in Sicily are ready to make a major contribution to supporting the local economy, confirming its strong focus on the needs of its communities. We are also reiterating the group's role in supporting European territorial cohesion policies, together with public sector institutions and supranational bodies, with the joint goal of strengthening competitiveness and development for businesses and regions.”

Background information

The European Investment Bank (EIB) finances projects in four priority areas: infrastructure, innovation, climate and environment, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Between 2019 and 2021, the EIB Group provided more than €36 billion in financing for projects in Italy.

BCC Iccrea Group is the largest Italian cooperative banking group, the number one national banking group with wholly Italian capital and the fourth-largest banking group in Italy by assets (holding around €175 billion in assets). The group currently comprises 128 cooperative banks present in over 1 700 Italian municipalities with more than 2 500 branches, and other banking, financial and related companies controlled by parent company BCC Banca Iccrea. At 30 June 2021 and across Italy, the group's cooperative banks had gross assets of €93 million and total (direct and indirect) inflows of almost €140 million, with over 3 million customers and 833 000 members. The group had a CET1 ratio of 16.5% and a TCR of 17.2% at 30 June 2021.