Smaller Italian firms to get 300 mn euro boost

Milan, Nov 28 ( One of Italy’s largest banks, the UniCredit Group, and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have signed a 300 million euro agreement to help small and medium-sized firms hard hit by the credit crisis.

The accord is part of a European Union policy to help small businesses get better access to credit as countries begin to emerge from the economic crisis.

The policy is being implemented by the EIB in cooperation with banking groups.

The EIB funds will be channelled to small businesses via UniCredit under new financing rules designed to streamline loan application and disbursement procedures.

Through UniCredit’s lease financing schemes, it will be possible to finance up to 100 percent of the total value of projects, up to a maximum of 12.5 million euros per project.

Similar schemes involving the EIB will soon be put in place in Austria, Germany, Poland and elsewhere in Europe, the EIB said.

The EIB grants long-term loans for economically viable investment projects. The EIB’s shareholders are the 27 member states of the European Union.

Italy is one of the four leading shareholders in the EIB along with Britain, Germany and France; each of these countries holds a 16.2 percent stake in the bank.

At the end of 2008, the EIB’s total financing commitments amounted to 355 billion euros, of which 45 billion went to Italy.