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The loan to Software Group – a global technology company helping financial service providers digitise their business and successfully go through the process of digital transformation – is the first transaction with venture debt features in Bulgaria. The operation provides direct support to the company and is backed by a

guarantee from the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), a key component of the Investment Plan for Europe. EIB financing will facilitate the execution of Software Group’s R&D strategy and strengthen its global reach.

The intermediated loan agreement with Raiffeisen Leasing Bulgaria represents the second tranche of a EUR 50m loan. It will finance projects by some 300 small and medium-sized companies, supporting at least 8,000 jobs in the country.

EIB Group results in Bulgaria in 2018.  Support to corporates to foster strategic infrastructure.   In 2018, the EIB provided a loan of EUR 14m to Agria Group Holding AD to finance the construction of a new port facility close to the Port of Varna for the storage, handling and export of grain, vegetable oils and sunflower meal in the area of Beloslav. This project contributes to the development of a comprehensive trans-European transport network node by improving the capacity and efficiency of the associated supply chain. It supports sustainable transport by promoting sea transport as an alternative to other, carbon intensive transport modes, and fosters sustainable economic growth and development of a less developed region.

Fostering the development of municipal infrastructure.   The EU bank also provided two loans to Sofia Municipality: EUR 22m for the construction of the second stage of Sofia Metro Line 3. This project involves a twin-track metro line 3.8 km long, four metro stations, and a railway stop for connection to the national railway network. The new metro line will increase public transport passenger capacity, encourage a modal shift towards more environmentally-friendly transport and reduce congestion on the existing transport network; EUR 67m to support the construction and commissioning of a new combined heat and power plant for Sofia's district heating network operated by Toplofikacia. The new cogeneration plant is designed to process daily more than 100t of refuse-derived fuel from a mechanical biological treatment plant in Sofia.

Support for SMEs and mid-caps.   Following a record-breaking year, the EIF continued to support SMEs in Bulgaria by committing a total of EUR 78m in 2018 via four new guarantee operations and one new venture capital fund aimed at providing debt and equity financing of EUR 168m in total. Overall in 2018, through EIF operations in Bulgaria more than 3,000 small and medium-sized companies received financing worth approximately EUR 408m.

Last year, given the successful implementation of the JEREMIE Initiative, the EIF and the Bulgarian Ministry of Economy agreed to launch two new financial instruments with reflows generated from JEREMIE operations. The Documentary Finance Guarantee facility will use up to EUR 30m of reflows for new trade finance guarantees to support the internationalisation and diversification of the Bulgarian economy with a total loan volume estimated to reach EUR 200m. The InvestBG Equity programme will use JEREMIE reflows and EIF own resources to commit up to EUR 110m in venture capital and private equity funds investing in Bulgaria and direct equity co-investments in Bulgarian companies. The first operations under the Documentary Finance Guarantee facility and the InvestBG Equity programme are expected to be launched in 2019.

EIB advisory services in Bulgaria.   Bulgaria is one of the largest beneficiaries of EIB’s advisory services. Since 2006 JASPERS has supported the completion of numerous Bulgarian investment projects with total project costs of over EUR 5.5bn on 30 major projects, with around EUR 3.9bn of European Commission grants mobilised.  In addition to projects already completed, JASPERS currently has 28 active advisory and capacity building assignments in Bulgaria.

In 2018, four large investment projects with JASPERS support were approved by the Commission for a total investment of EUR 1.23bn, and a grant amount of EUR 882m. JASPERS was also very active in finalising advisory support for the preparation of the Natural Gas Interconnector between Greece and Bulgaria, with total costs of around EUR 240m.

The EIB’s Project Advisory Support Unit (PASU) provides flexible and targeted project advisory support to Member States. It is financed by EU funds and aims to improve the rate and quality of absorption of European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) through better management, leveraging and performance of investment. In Bulgaria it focuses on project delivery and implementation support, the preparation of strategic documents and institutional capacity building.

The European Investment Advisory Hub (EIAH) is a partnership between the EIB and the European Commission, and a single point of entry to a comprehensive package of advisory and technical assistance. Until the end of 2018, the Hub processed 79 advisory requests from Bulgaria, ranging from information enquiries to requests for technical assistance, funding, or both. Of these, 65 requests were project-specific, 35 came from the private sector and 10 qualified for comprehensive advisory assistance.

In association with Financial Instruments Advisory (FIA), a specific EIAH Advisory Services Agreement was signed in August 2017 to structure and develop a Bulgarian urban investment platform. Under this framework, FIA is providing support to the Bulgarian Fund of Funds (FoF) to develop their ESIF-based urban development financial instruments (FIs). This support was provided in relation to soft market testing in the banking sector and the selection of FI managers. Agreements between the FoF and the selected FI managers were signed in September 2018, enabling the three Urban Development Funds to start operations.

InnovFin Advisory (IFA), a joint EIB-EC initiative under Horizon 2020, aims to improve project bankability and provides non-project-specific strategic studies related to access-to-finance challenges faced by RDI investments. IFA is currently providing project advisory in relation to investments in display hardware and software development worth EUR 30m, with a view to identifying suitable funding options, including debt financing or venture capital.