The European Investment Bank is today unveiling details of a new programme aimed at providing up to €300m in funding for medium sized Irish companies. The midcap lending programme will see the EIB, for the first time, provide support directly to these firms.
The European Investment Bank's vice president Andrew McDowell said the EIB expects to lend €1 billion in Ireland this year - a record figure. The new round of funding being announced today is a departure from the usual type of lending the EIB engages in and is seen as an important new initiative to support the private sector on the island of Ireland. Mr McDowell said the funds are for firms who are seeking investments of between €7.5m to €50m for private sector investment here.
Up to this the EIB had supported very large companies and also supported SMEs through the banking system, but Mr McDowell said there had been a gap in funding for mid-sized Irish companies in the agri-business sector, the tourism sector, the ICT and pharma sectors. He said the financial crisis was still having an impact on these sectors in terms of the ability of private sector to finance those companies. Mr McDowell said the EIB is not trying to displace Irish banks but is trying to work with Irish banks by co-financing investments by those mid-sized firms in the Irish economy.
The EIB saw a gap in the market for higher-risk investments and with the support of the EU budget, through the Investment Plan for Europe, and the support of the bank's own balance sheet, the EIB is determined to help the Irish financial sector and the Irish Government to fill that financing gap for mid-sized companies. Pointing out that the bank is owned by the tax payers of Europe, Mr McDowell said the EIB's mission is to support economic growth in Europe.
Mr McDowell and the EIB met Michel Barnier, the European Commission's chief Brexit negotiator, this week. Their discussions focused on the effect Brexit would have on the bank and the role the EIB will have in the post-Brexit environment. While there is clear recognition that Ireland is uniquely exposed to the economic impacts of Brexit, Ireland is just one part of the 27 negotiating positions and the economic impact of that negotiation position is going to be different in different parts of Europe.
He said there is a clear obligation on European institutions, including the European Investment Bank, to help mitigate the impacts of those economic effects on Ireland. There is clear recognition of that in those discussions, he added.
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*** Bahrain is the best country in the world in which to be an expat. The 2017 report by Internations Worldwide, a network of 2.8 million expats, puts the Gulf state at number one. 41% of expats living there said they earn more than they would at home and the cost of living in the country is not seen as high compared to other countries on the list. The US and the UK both fell sharply compared to 2016. The US in 43rd place still ranks ahead of Ireland, however, which is well down the list in 45th. This is nine spots ahead of the UK.