EBRD supports municipal projects

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Romania is important for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), with the investment of EUR 7 billion throughout the whole region of operation this year being aimed at assisting the banks, at providing loans for the SMEs, the energy sector, infrastructure and energy efficiency, director of the EBRD Office in Romania Claudia Pendred has said in an interview, in which she explained the main lines of the EBRD involvement in Romania, following the recent annual meeting (AM) of the EBRD Governors in London.
Here follows the full interview.
Has the AM brought any change of the Bank’s priorities in Romania?
Claudia Pendred (CP): The key conclusion was that the region is enjoying the support of very committed investors in the context of the exceptional global financial and economic circumstances. The Governors endorsed the speed and agility of the EBRD’s response to the crisis including as part of the IFIs prompt and effective cooperation.
There was clear support for the EBRD’s strong role in terms of: further strengthening the financial sectors in region, developing deeper local capital markets to decrease reliance on foreign borrowing, working with economies to diversify, developing higher value-added industries via more knowledge-based economies and spearheading investments in sustainable energy.
It is known that bankers are as cautious with words as they are with money. Nevertheless, a few arguments sustained by figures would not harm…
CP: If it’s about figures, then I think we can say that Romania is important for the EBRD. Let’s not forget that our Bank plans to invest EUR 7 billion throughout the whole region of its operation this year, of which we have invested EUR 2.3 billion to date which is 50 percent more than this time last year. This gives you the dimension of the seriousness and engagement with which we approach the crisis. In Romania we invested EUR 490 million so far this year.
Which are the sectors of the Romanian economy in which EBRD is investing?
CP: A great attention is given to the banking sector. But ľd like to underscore that EBRD is focused both on assisting the banks and on providing loans for SMEs. In other words, our money is supporting the relaunching of the SMEs financing, which is well known that assures the dynamism of an economy and creates new jobs, essential to combat the crisis. Examples in this respect are Banca Transilvania and BCR.
In addition, the EBRD funds are directed to the energy sector, infrastructure and energy efficiency. And, of course, we provide financing to private corporates, of which Petrom should be mentioned, we have provided the company with two loans: one, an environmental loan and another for the construction of a state of the art gas fired power plant.
Last, but not least,we are currently syndicating a loan for the rehabilitation of one unit of the Turceni power plant which demonstrates that EBRD is supporting the modernisation of the Romanian energy sector.

While speaking about the energy sector, could you please reveal the plans of the EBRD Bucharest office regarding the energy generated from renewable sources, moreover since the EU is focusing on increasing the ration of green energy in the energy basket of the member states?

CP: One key decision announced at the AM was that the Bank will invest up to EUR 5 billion in the second phase of our Sustainable Energy Initiative (which promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy) and plans to attract up to an additional EUR 10 billion from other sources, in total a maximum EUR 15 billion for sustainable energy initiatives in our region.

Regarding Romania, we will support especially wind projects, but there is the need that the legislative framework in this field is clarified, since we understand it may be subject to further changes. This is very much requested by the wind farms developers with whom we have been talking.
Do you think that these projects can be big enough in order to bring new wind turbines in Romania, given that until now, key world producers, who should provide also service for the equipment sold, have not been interested to sell new turbines in Romania?

CP: I think so. We have been talking to important developers, both foreign and local. Equipment producers have seen a fall in demand during the crisis, and therefore, they will be interested to get involved in big projects with funding provided by EBRD in Romania. But financing is not enough. I repeat, it’s necessary to have a clear and stable legislative framework.

It is to be noted that the success of these projects will not only mean a better protection of the environment in Romania, but it is also important to diversify energy sources.
You have referred to infrastructure projects, and as far as I am aware, recently, the EBRD has invested in a company specialised in water supply and treatment projects. This is another sensitive field in Romania…
CP: No doubt and that’s precisely why we wish to get involved in this field in Romania, and at the moment we are working to set up a fund to support smaller municipalities. As you have just mentioned, we invested EUR 80 million equity in Aqualia to be used for water projects in the region, including in Romania.
The project was signed at the AM in London.
If a bigger project occurs, we will be able to co-invest in the water project alongside Aqualia. Infrastructure is a priority for the EBRD in Romania. We are keen to address infrastructure difficulties, including water supply, water treatment, waste management, district heating and transport.
Finally, I can’t miss asking you the key question of the day: what forecast do you have on the recovery from the crisis?
CP: As I said earlier, the EBRD is actively responding to the crisis. We hope that the end of 2009 will bring the bottoming out of the crisis, and in 2010 we will see a slow recovery. In Romania, the GDP fell by 6.4 percent in Q1 which is of concern.
As far as I know, in April the results have been more optimistic, so I hope the country can meet the minus 4 percent annual GDP growth rate target for 2009. But this will only happen if we continue to see improvements.
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