SERBIA – Comex, a Serbian company specialising in the production of flexible food and non-food packaging and wrapping materials, is the latest beneficiary of an EBRD and European Union (EU)-supported programme that helps small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) access credit lines.
Through the program, Comex invested in a new printing machine, financed with a €1 million (US$1.19 million) loan from Banca Intesa. In addition to the loan, the company also received a €150,000 grant, funded by the EU.
According to EBRD, the grant which is 15% of the loan secured by businesses through its programme was aimed at significantly reducing the overall cost of the investment.
“The investment allowed us to replace old equipment with the latest technology, which led to several improvements, primarily in reducing our primary energy consumption, but also in boosting occupational health and safety standards,” says Rajko Pribilović, General Director of Comex.
With new updated technology, Comex became competitive and was now able to generate higher sales, better-quality products, and greater production capacity, among other things.
Comex now sells its products to more than 200 customers, with exports accounting for around 40 percent of sales, a clear testimony of the power of having a competitive advantage.
Despite the power of credit in helping economies grow, surveys among companies in the Western Balkans suggest that limited access to finance is one of the main obstacles for firms in doing business.
A recent study by the European Central Bank suggested that limited access to credit has serious implications for economic growth and hampers the transmission of monetary policy.
To bridge this gap, the EBRD and the EU launched a programme in the Western Balkans to improve SMEs’ access to well-structured finance and business advice, helping them grow.
To date, the programme has supported more than 100 businesses in Serbia with more than €26 million (US$30.85 million) worth of loans and grants, available through Banca Intesa and UniCredit Bank.
This is just a small portion of the total amount the EBRD provides to the private sector in Serbia. In 2020 alone, the EBRD provided more than €480 million (US$569.59 million) in financing to privately-owned companies, the majority of which went to SMEs.
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