14th July, 2011
The European Investment Fund (EIF) has signed 5 guarantee agreements with CIBANK, ProCredit Bank (Bulgaria), Raiffeisenbank (Bulgaria), UniCredit Bulbank and United Bulgarian Bank under the Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises (JEREMIE) initiative, allowing them to provide up to EUR 400 million of new loans to Bulgarian small and medium enterprises.
Following the agreements, the banks will offer financing at preferential conditions to over 3,400 SMEs across Bulgaria looking to start-up or expand their businesses, helping to increase the competitiveness of the Bulgarian economy. Information on how to access loans guaranteed through the JEREMIE initiative will soon be available from the selected banks.
Commenting on the five operations, EIF Chief Executive Mr. Richard Pelly said “We are pleased to be signing 5 financing agreements to support lending to Bulgarian SMEs, which are facing numerous challenges in the current economic environment, especially difficulties in accessing finance. Through our agreements SMEs will benefit from better terms and reduced collateral, which will stimulate investment and growth”.
The guarantee product, the so-called First Loss Portfolio Guarantee (“FLPG”) instrument, provides an adequate risk sharing balance for the five financial intermediaries, further allowing them to supply additional finance to SMEs in Bulgaria. By benefitting from the guarantee, the banks can increase their lending to more risky businesses, including in certain cases, new businesses without credit history which often face difficulties in accessing finance. With the signature of the guarantee agreements the total debt allocation under the JEREMIE Holding Fund in Bulgaria has now been fully utilised.
The five agreements result from a Call for Expression of Interest launched at the end of 2010, which attracted a high level of interest from financial intermediaries operating in Bulgaria. In order to select the financial intermediaries, the EIF checked and assessed thoroughly the expressions of interest received against set criteria, using the EIF’s expertise built up through providing guarantees to financial institutions across Europe over the past 15 years.
JEREMIE (Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises) is a joint initiative launched by the European Commission (Directorate General Regional Policy) and the European Investment Bank group to improve access to finance for SMEs in the EU within the Structural Funds framework for the period 2007 – 2013. JEREMIE enables the EU Member States and Regions to put money from the structural funds and also national resources into holding funds that can finance SMEs in a flexible and innovative way. The new initiative aims at developing and fostering the role of entrepreneurship within the EU in order to meet the objectives of the Lisbon agenda and help structural funds to deliver greater benefits to the market. At the level of the European Union, the EIF has currently signed 8 national and 3 regional Holding Fund agreements.
In Bulgaria, the JEREMIE Holding Fund is financed from the European Regional Development Fund and co-financed by 15% by the State Budget within the framework of the Operational Programme Development of the Competitiveness of the Bulgarian Economy 2007 – 2013. The EUR 80 million from the Bulgarian Operational Programme will allow the 5 banks to create a total loan portfolio of up to EUR 400 million for SMEs.
Within the framework of the JEREMIE activity, there have been three more calls for expression of interest directed to the venture capital/private equity segment of the market. The calls targeted to the selection of financial intermediaries to implement a Risk Capital Fund, a Mezzanine Capital Fund and a Growth Capital Fund with total size up to EUR 150 million. The retained fund managers are currently in the process of fundraising and the establishment of these funds is expected to be achieved within 2011.
About the EIF
EIF’s central mission is to support Europe’s small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) by helping them to access finance. EIF primarily designs and develops venture capital and guarantees instruments which specifically target this market segment. In this role, EIF fosters EU objectives in support of innovation, research and development, entrepreneurship, growth, and employment. The EIF total net commitments to venture capital and private equity funds amounted to over EUR 5.4bn at end 2010. With investments in over 300 funds, the EIF is the leading player in European venture capital due to the scale and the scope of its investments, especially in the high-tech and early-stage segments. The EIF commitment in guarantees totalled over EUR 14.7bn in close to 160 operations at end 2010, positioning it as a major European SME loan guarantees actor and a leading micro-finance guarantor.
More information about EIF is available on www.eif.org.
CIBANK is one of the leading commercial banks in Bulgaria, with an extensive branch network throughout the country, a modern banking approach and a wide range of products and services for individuals, corporate clients and small and medium-sized enterprises. In 2007, CIBANK became part of the Belgian KBC group. Its integration, together with DZI Insurance, into KBC’s structure facilitates the development of a good partnership between both institutions and an innovative approach to offering bancassurance products on the Bulgarian market.
Since the end of 2010, when KBC became the sole owner of CIBANK, the bank’s main and clear focus has been put on the SME market in Bulgaria. CIBANK has developed key expertise in cooperation with supranational financial institutions and European projects and is continuously increasing the number of dedicated SME advisors in its extensive branch network in order to facilitate its clients in achieving cheaper funding and grants.
About ProCredit Bank Bulgaria
ProCredit Bank Bulgaria is a development-oriented full service bank founded in October 2001. The bank offers excellent customer service and a wide range of banking products, while the lending operations are focused on very small, small and medium-sized enterprises, because these businesses create the largest number of jobs and make a vital contribution to the economy. ProCredit Bank’s corporate values embed principles such as transparency, open communication, and professionalism into our day-to-day business. The bank’s approach is based on building strong long-term relationships with its clients and a thorough understanding of their business.
ProCredit Bank have always been a trusted partner to small and medium-sized businesses and we will continue to encourage responsible banking, in line with our mission. The guarantee agreement will provide an incentive to our clients, who have been cautious to invest in the last few years, to further their development by taking out loans under considerably alleviated conditions for guaranteed collateral.
ProCredit Bank (Bulgaria) is part of an international group of 21 target-oriented financial institutions whose business activity is oriented to the developing countries and the transition economies in three regions of the world: Eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa. ProCredit Bank (Bulgaria) was founded in October 2001 and offers bank products and services to small-sized and medium-sized enterprises, large companies and physical persons. In contrast to other banks, ProCredit Bank does not develop consumer loans in priority. Instead, we are focused on responsible banking through creating culture of saving amongst our customers.
About Raiffeisenbank (Bulgaria)
Raiffeisenbank (Bulgaria) EAD (www.rbb.bg) was established in 1994 as the first greenfield investment on the Bulgarian banking market. More than 3,000 employees of Raiffeisenbank service over 730,000 customers through about 200 branches. The bank ranks fourth in terms of total assets. Raiffeisenbank (Bulgaria) is fully owned by Raiffeisen Bank International AG (RBI).
RBI regards both Austria, where it is a leading corporate and investment bank, and Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) as its home market. In CEE, RBI operates an extensive network of subsidiary banks, leasing companies and a range of other specialised financial service providers in 17 markets. RBI is the only Austrian bank with a presence in both the world’s financial centres and in Asia, the group’s further geographical area of focus. Around 60,000 RBI employees service about 14 million customers through around 3,000 business outlets, the great majority of which are located in CEE.
About UniCredit Bulbank
UniCredit Bulbank is the largest Bulgarian bank with assets exceeding BGN 11 billion at the end of 2010. The Bank services more than one million individuals and households, private clients, small and medium-sized companies, large local and international companies, etc. in over 230 branches throughout the country. UniCredit Bulbank has won many awards, including “Best Bank in Bulgaria” and “Best investment bank in Bulgaria” by Euromoney, “Bank of the year for Bulgaria” by The Banker, “Best bank in Bulgaria” by Global Finance, “Best custodian services in Bulgaria” by Global Custodian and many other.
Since the beginning of this year alone UniCredit Bulbank has won two awards – from the Banking awards of Pari Daily and Customer’s Bank of “Bank of the Year” Association. UniCredit Bulbank’s credit rating is BBB/A-3 with stable outlook, given by the prestigious rating agency Standard and Poor’s. The Bank’s rating is identical to the country’s rating and this is the highest assessment which can be given to a bank in this country from S&P.
About United Bulgarian Bank
United Bulgarian Bank (UBB) is one of the biggest Bulgarian banks, founded in 1992. Since 2001 UBB is a member of the National Bank of Greece Group (NBG Group) – the biggest financial institution in South East Europe and the Mediterranean.
Having reaffirmed its leading position in the Bulgarian market, UBB is further modernizing its operations, backed by investments in new technologies, so as to better serve its customers and maintain its profitability. At the end of 2010 the Bank managed assets of EUR 3.823 bn.
UBB altogether with its subsidiaries provides a full range of financial products and services that meet the constantly changing needs of corporate customers and private individuals including investment banking services, brokerage, insurance, asset management and factoring.
UBB provides a large number of specialized own and joint programs and products specially tailored for specific needs and operations ensuring access to finance for the Bulgarian micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.