A boost for Serbia’s private sector

By Axel  Reiserer

The EBRD is strengthening the private sector in Serbia by providing loans and leasing finance to small and medium-sized enterprises through local subsidiaries of UniCredit. The Bank will extend a loan of €30 million loan to UniCredit Bank Serbia for on-lending to private SMEs and up to €15 million to UniCredit Leasing Serbia d.o.o. especially to strengthen equipment leasing.

The funds are being provided under the international financial institutions’ joint Action Plan agreed between the EBRD, the World Bank Group and the European Investment Bank in November 2012. The Action Plan, developed within the context of the ”Vienna Initiative”, includes more than €30 billion of joint commitments for the period 2013-2014.

Access to finance remains challenging for many small private enterprises in Serbia and the Western Balkans, especially regarding long-term financing. This is a burden on the expansion of existing operations and the development of new market opportunities, which the EBRD financing aims to overcome.

UniCredit Bank Serbia is one of the key Serbian banks with a 8.5 per cent market share of total banking assets as of end-2012. UniCredit Leasing Serbia is a leading leasing company with the largest market share in equipment in terms of new business volume in Serbia.

Henry E. Russell, Director for Western Balkans, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine at EBRD Financial Institutions Group said: "We welcome the opportunity to further strengthen our partnership with the UniCredit Group in a strategic market where UniCredit represents one of the vital sources of funds for the real economy in the country."

Matteo Patrone, Director for Serbia said: “These transactions are in line with EBRD's strategy to support the development of Serbia’s private sector, with a particular focus on SME. The EBRD is prepared to provide long-term funding both through our partners and through direct financing instruments in order to help overcome remaining market constraints.”

Claudio Cesario, CEO of UniCredit Bank Serbia added: “We are very pleased to continue our long-term collaboration with EBRD, especially in the field of SMEs which, as we are all well aware, is one of the backbones of Serbian economy. Particularly in this business segment we have managed to establish ourselves as one of the most important lenders in the country. This credit line will give us additional funding to continue to provide financial support to SMEs, therefore motivating them to become the growth engine of the Serbian economy.”

Joachim Ahrer, CEO of UniCredit Leasing Serbia, added: “The partnership with EBRD is a very important pillar for our ongoing efforts in supporting SME´s to realize their investment plans for 2013. The outstanding cooperation with EBRD over many years contributes significantly in supporting the development of small and medium sized business in the entire country and therefore provides a positive impact on the overall Serbian economy”

To date the EBRD has invested almost €3.2 billion in some 170 projects in Serbia throughout all sectors of the economy. Going forward, the Bank is focusing on the corporate and financial sectors and infrastructure and continuing to play a crucial role in developing the transport, energy and municipal infrastructure in the country.