To support the access to finance of micro, small and medium-sized companies in Bulgaria, the EBRD is providing a €3mn loan to Unionleasing EAD. The loan, which comes under the leasing window of the EU/EBRD SME Finance Facility, will be complemented with up to €400,000 in grants from the European Commission for management improvements and as performance fees.

Unionleasing, a subsidiary of Unionbank, was established in 2001 and is a medium-sized leasing company focused micro and small size companies. The company is active in equipment and transport leasing and plans to expand its operations by developing a regional presence. It is especially here that the demand for finance among small and medium-sized enterprises remains hardly fulfilled.

Jonathan Woollett, EBRD director for non-bank financial institutions, says the loan will improve the access of small and medium-sized enterprises to leasing finance and stimulate competition in the leasing sector. Eventually, this is expected to facilitate a deeper market penetration of leasing financing in Bulgaria. At present the local leasing sector has not achieved the same degree of development as achieved by the banking sector.

The EU/EBRD SME Finance Facility, a joint programme of the European Commission and the EBRD, supports the development and growth of entrepreneurs by facilitating their access to finance.

The bank will make available funding of €1.1bn, of which more than €880mn has been committed to signed projects to date. The EC has been contributing €156.75mn in grant financing and for technical assistance since the launch of the programme in 1999.