The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is lending €45mn to Serbia’s largest private agribusiness company, the Victoria Group, to fund its agricultural commodities.

It will also fund improvements to the energy efficiency of the company’s production facilities, marking the first time the bank has funded a Serbian agribusiness deal with a specific energy efficiency requirement.

The facility is being provided to two subsidiaries of the Victoria Group: Victoria Oil and Sojaprotein. Victoria Oil is an edible oil company, which opened the first bio-diesel production facility in Serbia in July 2007. Sojaprotein is Serbia’s largest soy processing company.

A €40mn portion of the loan will be used to support the group’s edible oil crushing subsidiaries by providing working capital to finance the purchase of agricultural commodities, such as sunflower sees and soybeans. The remaining €5mn will be used for various energy efficiency investments, with one such investment funding the installation of new biomass boilers at Sojaprotein’s production facilities.

This is the second loan provided by the EBRD to the Victoria Group. In July 2006, the EBRD provided a €10mn loan to Victoria Oil to increase oil production.

The development bank has also provided a €2.25mn loan to Express Finance in Romania, to fund the operations of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the country. It comes under a €88mn Romania micro credit facility launched in 2006 by the EBRD, EU and the Romanian government, with the intention of lending to both commercial banks and non-bank microfinance institutions servicing the MSME sector.