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€200m European support for faster COVID-19 recovery of Croat SMEs

    Date: 28 April 2021
  • European Investment Fund, part of the EIB Group, extends guarantees to Erste&Steiermärkische Bank d.d. and Erste&Steiermärkische S-Leasing d.o.o. to enable up to €200 million of financing to SMEs to support faster recovery of Croatian SMEs.
  • Guarantees fall under Pan-European Guarantee Fund (EGF), a €25 billion guarantee fund established by the EIB Group to accelerate post-COVID recovery of European companies.
  • First EGF operation in Croatia; the country’s maximum liability within the EGF is limited to EUR 106 million

The European Investment Fund (EIF), a part of the European Investment Bank Group (EIB) will provide guarantees worth €140 million to Erste Group in Croatia, allowing the Croatian lender to originate a portfolio of €200 million of financing for Croatian small and medium enterprises, to help alleviate the economic consequences of COVID-19 pandemic and accelerate the recovery. 

The EIF guarantees stem from the Pan-European Guarantee Fund (EGF), a €25 billion guarantee facility set up by the EIB Group in 2020 to accelerate the post-COVID-19 recovery of European economies, safeguard jobs, and provide much needed liquidity to European SMEs.

This is the first EGF operationsigned in Croatia, one among 21 EU-member countries participating and benefiting from the EGF. The EGF guarantees will allow Erste to offer loans and finance leases to Croatian SMEs under more favourable terms including, among others, reduced interest rates, longer grace periods, lower collateral requirements or extended maturity.

EIB Vice President, Chairman of the EIF Board of Directors, and Chairman of the EGF Dario Scannapieco said: The EIB Group created the EGF to allow European SMEs to accelerate their recovery from COVID-19 pandemic. Today, Erste Croatia and the EIF extend for the first time ever this kind of support to local companies in Croatia. The EGF is a result of prompt reaction to the pandemic by the EIB Group. The Fund is just one of the support mechanisms the EIB offered to the EU member states to accelerate economic and social recovery of the EU.”  Being also the VP responsible for EIB Group operations in Croatia, VP Scannapieco added: “I would like to thank the Government of Croatia for their decision to participate in the EGF which allowed this signature today.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance in the Government of the Republic of Croatia, Zdravko Marić said: “We are delighted to have the first EGF operation signed in Croatia. Together with other Member States of the European Union, at the start of the unprecedented crisis last year we have approved a unique set of measures to help the European economy. The EGF established within the EIB Group is the key element in this emergency economic response. The EGF guarantees present a unique opportunity for making available additional financing for small and medium companies, mid-caps and corporates in order to help them bridge the current crisis. We look forward to further new EGF operations signed in Croatia and to their successful deployment for the benefit of businesses in Croatia.”

Boris Centner, Member of the Management Board of Erste Bank, said: “We are very pleased to be the first partner bank within the EIB Group's Pan-European Guarantee Fund and we are happy to continue and further deepen our long-standing successful cooperation. So far, in partnership with the EIB and EIF we have provided a total of €390 million in funding to our clients. Support for small and medium-sized enterprises, as important drivers of growth and economic development, is one of our key strategic pillars. With the help of this guarantee instrument, we will provide support to our clients through liquidity loans and investment loans, and – with more favourable lending terms – help them quickly and easily implement many successful projects in the future."

Chief Executive of the European Investment Fund, Alain Godard, added: “This first transaction under the pan-European Guarantee Fund is good news for Croatian SMEs. The EIF is working hard to make available financing to aid companies in a swift recovery from the COVID-crisis and the EGF is the perfect tool for that.”

With its financing protected by the EGF guarantees, Erste Croatia will be able to provide loans and finance leases to Croatian SMEs at more favourable terms, ensuring that companies have sufficient funds to mitigate the economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, and continue with growth and development in the medium to long-term.

Background information:

The European Investment Fund (EIF) is part of the European Investment Bank Group. Its central mission is to support Europe’s micro, small and medium-sized businesses by helping them to access finance. The EIF designs and develops both venture and growth capital, guarantees and microfinance instruments which specifically target this market segment. In this role, the EIF fosters EU objectives in support of innovation, research and development, entrepreneurship, growth and employment.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the long-term lending institution of the European Union (EU) owned by its Member States. It makes long-term finance available for sound investment in order to contribute towards EU policy goals both in Europe and beyond.

The European Guarantee Fund (EGF) was set up by the EIB Group with contributions from Croatia and other EU Member States to shield companies suffering from the COVID-19 crisis. Using nearly EUR 25 billion in guarantees, the EGF allows the EIB and the EIF to quickly make loans, guarantees, asset-backed securities, equity and other financial instruments available to mostly small and medium-sized enterprises. The EGF is part of the European Union’s recovery package aiming to provide a total of €540 billion boost those parts of the EU economy that have been hit the worst.

About EIB response to COVID-19

To combat the economic impact of this crisis in Europe and as part of the package of measures the EU is deploying to tackle the economic effects of the pandemic, on 23 April the European Council approved the EIB Group’s creation of a €25 billion Pan-European Guarantee Fund (EGF) focusing primarily on supporting SMEs across the EU. The fund will make it possible to mobilise up to an estimated €200 billion of additional financing.

The EIB Group is playing a key role in directly combating COVID-19 by supporting EU efforts to halt the spread of the pandemic, find a cure for the illness and develop a vaccine. To this end, the EU bank is prioritising all investments related to the health sector and research and development programmes focusing on this goal.

The EIB’s current project portfolio for supporting both critical healthcare infrastructure and research and development investments in the EU health sector stands at around €6 billion. The EIB and the World Health Organization also recently signed an agreement to drive cooperation between the two institutions and work together to strengthen healthcare systems in the countries most vulnerable to the pandemic. More detailed information on the support offered by the EIB and EIF

Press contacts:

EIB Group:  Tibor Jona, E-mail: t.jona@eib.org, Tel.: +352 691 287 052
Website: www.eib.org/press - Press Office: +352 4379 21000 – press@eib.org
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