The European Investment Bank (EIB) has signed a €200m agreement with an Italian banking group to provide financing for agribusiness SMEs across Italy.
The EIB’s partnership with Gruppo Bancario Cooperativo Iccrea (Iccrea Group), a co-operative institution of rural saving banks and credit unions in Italy, is expected to extend the reach of Iccrea’s banks into rural regions. 14 banks operating under Iccrea Group will offer loans to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with fewer than 250 employees operating in the ‘productive’ sectors – industry, retail, crafts, tourism and services – with at least 25% of the total funding to be earmarked for agribusiness operators.
Loans will be made available to small businesses for a variety of purposes, including:
- Purchasing or constructing new buildings;
- Refurbishing and constructing extensions to existing structures;
- Purchasing equipment, vehicles, machinery or stock;
- Costs associated with innovation, research and development and other ‘intangible assets’ essential to project implementation; and
- Meeting the necessary working capital requirements for ongoing projects.
Banks participating in the programme will be able to transfer loan portfolios to a financing vehicle, which will then release bonds underwritten by the EIB worth a total of €200m. The banks will then be able to generate new funding worth an equal sum and accord recipient businesses the favourable interest rates and maturity terms offered by the EIB. The partnership is designed to enable small businesses in rural areas to benefit from the same type of finance investments which provide support for their urban counterparts.
Miguel Morgado, EIB’s Director of Operations in Italy, said: “The EIB is particularly pleased to be able to operate via the Iccrea Group thanks to its 140 co-operative banks and 2,600 branches throughout Italy. Its member banks are often the only reference point for families and businesses in rural, hilly or mountainous areas not served by the sector’s big players. In this respect, the favourable terms of the EIB’s funding are truly available to all.”