The European Investment Fund (EIF) and UniCredit have agreed to increase the InnovFin SME guarantee aimed at improving access to finance for innovative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and small mid-caps in nine countries.
This new agreement will allow UniCredit to offer, via its nine banks and six leasing entities across Central and Eastern Europe, additional financing worth EUR 500m to innovative companies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia. This means that SMEs and mid-caps across these countries will have access to a total of EUR 1bn via UniCredit’s extensive network in the CEE region.
This transaction benefits from the support of Horizon 2020, the EU’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, and the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) – the heart of the Investment Plan for Europe.
The banks in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Serbia and the leasing company in Serbia will benefit from the support of a guarantee provided by the EIF and backed under Horizon 2020, while the guarantee agreements with the banks and leasing companies in Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Slovenia will be backed by EFSI, the financial pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe.
Lilyana Pavlova, EIB Vice-President said: “This second increase of the UniCredit Umbrella transaction is a testament to the successful cooperation between EIF and UniCredit. Going forward, we hope that by leveraging on our existing relationship, together we will continue to design efficient ways to offer support to those in need of it and thus fulfil our policy objectives. This is of even higher importance when tackling market gaps in the CEE region.” Alessandro Tappi, EIF’s Chief Investment Officer continued: “The operation signed today will increase the overall portfolio from EUR 500m up to EUR 1bn for the benefit of some 1,300 SMEs and small mid-caps. This growth is proof of EIF’s and UniCredit’s dedication to enhancing access to finance for SMEs operating in Central and Eastern Europe”.
Gianfranco Bisagni and Niccolò Ubertalli, Co-CEOs of Commercial Banking, CEE, at UniCredit, said: “Over the last eight years, UniCredit has launched more than ten initiatives in cooperation with EIF across CEE with total capacity of more than EUR 1.7bn, including JEREMIE, RSI, the SME Initiative, COSME, the Microfinance Facility, WB EDIF, Fund of Funds under EAFRD, EaSI and, InnovFin SMEG. These instruments are already utilised above 50%, benefitting more than 5,000 clients in the region.
Thanks to InnovFin SMEG, more than 350 clients have already received support for the development of their innovative projects. With the doubling of our umbrella facility to EUR 1bn, we can further facilitate the development of innovative SMEs across the CEE countries, allowing easier access to finance and supporting local economies. It further highlights our strong commitment to serving our clients in the Central and Eastern European region”.
The transaction reflects the EU’s commitment to rapidly launch concrete initiatives aimed at accelerating lending and guarantee transactions capable of boosting jobs and growth in the EU.