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SOFIA (Bulgaria), March 15 (SeeNews) - The European Investment Bank (EIB) plans to more than double its investments in Bulgaria in 2019 - to 250 million euro ($283 million euro), keeping its focus on infrastructure and support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the bank's vice president Vazil Hudak said on Friday.
In 2018, the EIB provided 103 million euro of financing for Bulgaria, including a 22 million euro loan to the Sofia municipality for expansion of the city's underground railway network and 67 million euro for a new combined heat and power (CHP) plant running on refuse-derived fuel.
The EIB will continue to actively support SMEs and midcaps in Bulgaria, working closely with the local units of lenders like Raiffeisenbank and Piraeus Bank, Hudak told a news conference in Sofia.
Prior to the news conference, the EIB signed an 18 million euro loan agreement with Software Group, supported by the Juncker Plan – the EIB’s first venture debt operation in Bulgaria. Software Group is a global technology company helping financial service providers digitise their business and successfully go through the process of digital transformation
Earlier on Friday, the bank signed a 20 million euro credit line with Raiffeisen Leasing to back investmements in SMEs, the lender said in a press release. The loan agreement, representing the second tranche of a 50 million euro loan, will finance projects by some 300 SMEs, supporting at least 8,000 jobs, EIB added.
Last year, the European Investment Fund (EIF), part of the EIB Group, backed eight projects with a total financing of 114 million euro, which in turn mobilised 228 million euro in investments, the bank also said.
The EIF has allocated a total of 78 million euro for SMEs in Bulgaria under four new guarantee operations and a new venture capital worth 168 million euro for debt and equity financing. Thanks to the EIF activities in Bulgaria, last year 3,000 SMEs received funding of some 408 million euro.
The bank will also continue with its advisory activities, especially the JASPERS operations, Hudak stressed, adding that consultancy services have facilitated the implementation of projects worth some 2 billion euro.
Since 2006 JASPERS, a technical assistance partnership between the EIB and the European Commission, has supported the completion of 30 Bulgarian investment projects with total project costs of over 5.5 billion euro, with around 3.9 billion euro of European Commission grants mobilised. In addition to projects already completed, JASPERS currently has 28 active advisory and capacity building assignments in Bulgaria.
In 2018, four large investment projects with JASPERS support were approved by the Commission for a total investment of 1.23 billion euro, and a grant amount of 882 million euro. JASPERS was also very active in finalising advisory support for the preparation of a gas interconnector between Greece and Bulgaria, with total costs of around 240 million euro.