Банкеръ Weekly



The EBRD is lending ?10 million to United Bulgarian Bank (UBB), the leading universal bank in Bulgaria, to support the country's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The European Commission (EC) is also providing up to ?2 million to cover the costs of expanding the company's business into the SME sector, such as staff training.The loan is being provided through the EU/EBRD SME Finance Facility, a programme of the EC in cooperation with the EBRD to facilitate the access to finance of small and medium-sized enterprises and to promote SME growth and development. This is the first loan of its kind to UBB, bringing the total number of banks in Bulgaria receiving such financing to four. This latest loan brings the EBRD's commitments under the SME Facility in Bulgaria to ?32 million. Jean Lemierre, President of the EBRD, who is in Bulgaria on a two-day visit, said UBB's participation in the Facility is a significant boost for supporting the country's small and medium-sized businesses. Mr Lemierre said that in Bulgaria nearly ?20 million has been disbursed under the Facility, benefiting over 1,000 SMEs, and this loan will even help more businesses to benefit.UBB was established in 1992 through the merger of 22 local banks - the first and most comprehensive consolidation project in the banking sector. In 1997 the EBRD participated in its privatisation, the first for a bank in Bulgaria. The SME Facility was launched on April 1999 under the Phare Programme of the European Commission, with the EBRD, to encourage the growth and development of SMEs by facilitating their access to loans, leasing and equity finance from local financial intermediaries in the countries lined up to join the EU. There are currently 24 other banks and one leasing company participating in the Facility across central and eastern Europe.The Phare Programme is currently the main channel for the European Union's financial and technical cooperation with the candidate countries. The budget earmarked for the Phare Programme as a whole is about ?1.5 billion a year.

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