EIB to lend €600m at low rates to Irish firms in 2013
Bank meeting with ministers to remove obstacles to investment
The European Investment Bank (EIB) expects to make €600m in low-cost loans to projects and companies in Ireland this year, its new vice-president Jonathan Taylor has told the Irish Independent.
Mr Taylor and senior officials from the EU-controlled bank are in Dublin for a series of meetings, with the hope they can drum up interest in the bank's loans.
The team from the Luxembourg-based EIB are today meeting separately with the three main economics ministers, Michael Noonan, Brendan Howlin and Richard Bruton
The news comes as the Government announced a €300m package of funding to suppport high-end scientific research.
Identifying sectors where there are investment gaps that could be funded through the EIB, and removing any regulatory obstacles to investment are understood to be among the topics on the agenda.
It is also Mr Taylor's first visit to Ireland since he took over as vice-president at the bank, where he is directly responsible for Irish lending.
Last year the EIB and the Department of Finance set up a joint working committee to coordinate investment activity.
Officials from the EIB are also holding talks with the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) and the banks, as well as with representatives from the private sector.
Last year the EIB loaned €505m to projects in Ireland, mainly working with state-owned companies.
That included financing schools construction, energy and water infrastructure, and working with AIB and Bank of Ireland to boost lending to small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Mr Taylor said his agency was in Ireland seeking more lending opportunities with the public and private sectors.
The EIB can lend to any borrower if the project involved meets the agency's criteria, including promoting growth, he said.
The bank typically co-invests in deals alongside a joint venture partner on a 50:50 basis.
Traditionally, the bank is most associated with funding infrastructure but can back a range of sectors, including support for financial ventures or support for research and development (R&D).
It can lend to businesses regardless of who owns them or where a corporation is headquartered, as long as the relevant project is in the EU, he said.
In the UK, the bank backed development of an electronic car by the local subsidiary of Japan's Nissan in 2011.
EIB officials are also hoping to re-open public sector partnership deals that see private investors working alongside state entities to finance projects.
Meanwhile, the Government and Science Foundation Ireland announced a new €300m R&D package to be funded by a combination of state and academic finance and by the private sector.
The funding is aimed at boosting the profile of academic research here and attracting foreign investment.