EBRD and BTK support small businesses in Tunisia

By Nibal Zgheib

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) today signed its first investment in the Tunisian financial sector, by providing a €40 million loan to BTK for on-lending to micro, small and medium sized-enterprises (MSMEs).

The loan is part of a financing package with BTK that also includes a US$ 10 million trade finance line, which is expected to be signed shortly.

Access to finance remains a challenge for a large number of Tunisian MSMEs, which represent the backbone of the country’s economy, and which have the potential to contribute significantly to economic performance and overall employment levels.
Francis Malige, the EBRD’s Director for Financial Institutions, said: “The EBRD is delighted that its first loan in the Tunisian financial sector is made in support of MSMEs, which are crucial for the sustainable development of the country’s real economy. Together with BTK, the EBRD will be able to reach out to the Bank’s growing MSME client base across Tunisia. This project will also provide further long-term funding to this sector, at a time when its access to finance remains limited.”

As Houssein Mouelhi, BTK’s Managing Director, explained, “Tunisia’s economic development depends on large groups but also on a web of small and medium-sized enterprises, which may be less visible and little known but are also capable of creating value and jobs. Within the economic context of the political transition, it is these enterprises that most often have difficulty in financing their projects. With this agreement, we are going to be able to provide support for a greater number of Tunisian MSMEs.”

Likewise, Philippe Garsuault, Chief Executive Officer of BPCE International et Outre-mer and BTK President of the Board of Directors, pointed out that “during the last three years we have continued to expand our business lending. In the process, BTK has benefited from the support of its main shareholder, the French banking group BPCE, which has provided it with new lines of finance. BTK has also played its part in intermediation by mobilising public savings through bond issues. We are glad to be the EBRD’s first banking partner in Tunisia and to be able to provide Tunisian MSMEs with this additional line of credit.”

The EBRD also expects to support Tunisia’s foreign trade activities by providing a US$ 10 million trade finance facility to BTK. This funding will be accompanied by technical cooperation to provide an e-learning programme, advisory services for new issuing banks, and interactive workshops on various trade finance topics.

BTK is a joint stock company incorporated in Tunisia, established in March 1981.The bank was privatised in 2008 through the sale of 60 per cent of the company’s shares to the French banking group, BPCE, with the Tunisian state and Kuwait Investment Authority each retaining a 20 per cent stake.

Since September 2012 – the beginning of the EBRD’s operations in Tunisia – the Bank has invested €133 million in nine projects.