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03.10.2012

First RSI guarantee agreement in Europe to benefit innovative businesses in Austria

The European Investment Fund (EIF) and UniCredit Bank Austria have today signed the first guarantee agreement to support lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) under the Risk Sharing Instrument (RSI), a joint initiative of the European Investment Bank Group and the European Commission. Thanks to the agreement, UniCredit Bank Austria can now offer up to EUR 120 million of new loans to innovative companies over the next two years, enabling entrepreneurs to gain easier access to finance.

UniCredit Bank Austria is the first bank in Europe to offer RSI-backed loans, but others are expected to follow before year end. Banks are being selected by the EIF following a call for expressions of interest from financial intermediaries. The RSI aims to encourage banks to provide loans and leases of between €25,000 and €7.5 million to SMEs and small mid-caps undertaking research, development or innovation, and seeking finance for investments and/or working capital.

Speaking at the signature ceremony in Vienna, EIF Chief Executive Richard Pelly said: "I am delighted to be signing our first agreement under the new Risk Sharing Instrument (RSI) in Austria in support of innovative small and medium sized enterprises. Within a very short period this new European Commission facility is being implemented and further agreements are expected to be signed across Europe in the coming months.

Through the provision of a 50% guarantee, EIF will be assisting UniCredit Bank Austria to channel much needed finance efficiently to innovative businesses and to help stimulate the Austrian economy."

Rainer Hauser, the Management Board Member responsible for Family & SME Banking of UniCredit Bank Austria commented: "We are very pleased to be the first bank in Austria – and, indeed, in Europe – to offer our customers the Risk-Sharing Instrument, the EU's new guarantee scheme managed by the EIF. This initiative enables us to make available loans with a total volume of EUR 120 million to innovative and research-oriented small and medium-sized enterprises and mid-corporates on very favourable terms. SMEs will benefit in two ways: they will get additional collateral from the EIF at a very low price and they will benefit from even more attractive terms as we fully pass on to our customers the guarantee-related cost advantages. Bank Austria is thereby offering additional financing opportunities for innovative companies, underlining its role as the leading provider of loans in Austria."

European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, welcomed the signature: "We are committed to supporting innovative SMEs, both directly through our research programmes and indirectly through our risk sharing instruments with the European Investment Bank Group.  This is the first of a number of agreements to come under the RSI. Furthermore, we are proposing a dedicated SME facility from 2014 under our future research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020."

About the EIF
EIF's central mission is to support Europe's small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) by helping them to access finance. EIF designs and develops venture capital and guarantees instruments which specifically target this market segment. In this role, EIF fosters EU objectives in support of innovation, research and development, entrepreneurship, growth, and employment. The EIF total net commitments to private equity funds amounted to over EUR 6bn at end 2011. With investments in over 370 funds, the EIF is a leading player in European venture due to the scale and the scope of its investments, especially in high-tech and early-stage segments. The EIF guarantees loan portfolio totalled over EUR 4.4bn in close to 220 operations at end 2011, positioning it as a major European SME guarantees actor and a leading micro-finance guarantor.

About UniCredit Bank Austria

UniCredit Bank Austria is the leading bank in Austria and Central and Eastern Europe. The bank has been a member of UniCredit, one of the largest European banking groups, since 2005. Bank Austria is constantly striving to maintain the highest level of customer satisfaction. During the recent financial and economic crisis, Bank Austria demonstrated its financial strength: it was the only major bank in Austria that did not use state aid to strengthen its capital. Bank Austria is a modern and dynamic universal bank offering its customers access to international financial markets. Bank Austria serves as UniCredit's hub for the banking network in Central and Eastern Europe, a region where the Group is the clear market leader.

Bank Austria supports Austria's economy by providing special offers for innovative SMEs – from excellent advisory services in the start-up phase to modern, flexible financing solutions including funding all the way to business planning and succession planning. Bank Austria has successfully passed the extensive application and due-diligence process for RSI regarding its SME strategy, financial standing, risk models, origination power, marketing initiatives and proved, in particular its bundled know-how in export- and investment promotion funding and advisory and therefore is an ideal partner for EIF to start this important new EU facility in Austria.
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The Risk-Sharing Instrument (RSI)

RSI is a pilot guarantee scheme which supports the financing of R&D and/or innovation driven SMEs and Small Mid-Caps. The RSI is a joint initiative of the EIF, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Commission. It is supported by the European Union under the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7) and uses EIF's risk-taking capacity. It is part of, and complements, the existing Risk Sharing Finance Facility (RSFF), managed by the EIB.

Under this facility, the European Investment Fund (EIF) is, in return for a fee, providing guarantees to banks and leasing companies that lend to SMEs and Small Mid-Caps. The guarantee covers, upon default, 50% of the outstanding amount of each loan. Some 10 or so banks are expected to be involved in the pilot phase, allowing the RSI to reach up to 1000 beneficiaries with a total loan volume of up to €1.0 billion.
The call is open to financial or credit institutions, established and operating in the EU and/or countries associated to FP7, including, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, Switzerland, Israel, Turkey, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, the Faroe Islands and Moldova:

More details about RSI are available on: http://www.eif.org/what_we_do/guarantees/RSI/index.htm

Press contacts:
EIF: David Yormesor, tel : +352 42 66 88 346 , e-mail : d.yormesor@eif.org
UniCredit Bank Austria: Matthias Raftl, tel.: +43 (0)5 05 05-52809, e-mail: matthias.raftl@unicreditgroup.at

European Commission: Michael Jennings, tel. +322 296 33 88, e-mail:
michael.jennings@ec.europa.eu

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