The European Commission has unlocked €1 billion from the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) that will serve as a guarantee to the European Investment Fund (EIF), part of the European Investment Bank Group.
This will allow the EIF to issue special guarantees to incentivise banks and other lenders to provide liquidity to at least 100,000 European SMEs and small mid-cap companies hit by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, for an estimated available financing of €8 billion. Today’s announcement fulfils the commitment in the Commission Communication of 13 March to bring immediate relief to hard-hit SMEs, with money able to flow already in April. It is part of the package of measures announced by the EIB Group on 16 March designed to rapidly mobilise support for Europe’s SMEs and mid-caps.
Lack of liquidity
One of the immediate economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic is the sudden lack of liquidity affecting small and medium-sized businesses. These companies are typically the most affected in a crisis, and it is essential to support them with adequate liquidity so they can survive the crisis. However, in a situation of liquidity crunch banks are not incentivised to lend SMEs money due to the sudden increase in perceived risk. That is why EU guarantees supporting these loans are necessary. As of today, the EIF is offering to the market dedicated EFSI-backed guarantees to contain the impact of the pandemic on small and medium sized enterprises and small mid-cap companies.
The €1 billion unlocked from the EFSI under the COSME Loan Guarantee Facility and the InnovFin SME Guarantee under Horizon 2020 allows the EIF to provide guarantees worth €2.2 billion to financial intermediaries, unlocking €8 billion in available financing. The guarantees will be offered through the EIF to the market, via a call for expressions of interest issued today to several hundred financial intermediaries, comprising banks and alternative lenders. Key features of these guarantees will be:
- Simplified and quicker access to the EIF guarantee
- A higher risk cover – up to 80% of potential losses on individual loans (as opposed to the standard 50%);
- Focus on working capital loans across the EU;
- Allowing for more flexible terms, including postponement, rescheduling or payment holidays
The new features will be accessible to new as well as existing financial intermediaries already working with EIF, who will extend special conditions to more than a hundred thousand companies benefitting from guarantees under the COSME LGF and the InnovFin SMEG programmes.
Following today’s call for expression of interest, financial intermediaries with existing EIF agreements under these COSME and InnovFin programmes will be able to access the new guarantees immediately upon their request. Other financial intermediaries can access the guarantees following a swift application process. In that way new money can already start flowing to hard-hit businesses in April. SMEs will be able to apply directly to their local banks and lenders participating in the scheme, which will be listed on www.access2finance.eu.
The Commission and the EIB Group will continue to work on additional measures and will use all the tools at their disposal to help contain the coronavirus pandemic and address its economic consequences.