£94bn in new bank loans available
Businesses in Northern Ireland will have a chance to get their hands on a share of £94bn in new bank loans unveiled in yesterday's Budget.
Chancellor Alistair Darling said that part-nationalised banks Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Lloyds Banking Group had agreed to lend nearly half that total to smaller companies.
It is understood the banks pledged to lend the extra amount after both missed their 2009 targets because customers rushed to pay down loans in the recession.
RBS, which is 84% taxpayer-owned, said its deal with the Government involved extending £50bn in gross lending to firms.
Ulster Bank, the bank's subsidiary in Northern Ireland said it would be part of the scheme, but details of how much would be made available in the province were not immediately clear.
"Ulster Bank can confirm that it is part of the RBS agreement on lending, announced today by the Chancellor. Ulster Bank has made lending available to support its personal and business customers in Northern Ireland, and it will continue to do that," the company said in a statement.
The Chancellor said that RBS and Lloyd's, which is 41% Government owned, had lent £38bn to SMEs last year.
The Federation of Small Businesses in Northern Ireland welcomed the move to free up lending for businesses that have struggled with changing bank criteria.
It said: "The FSB has been critical of the banks and their lending criteria and looks forward to the introduction of the new credit adjudicator giving small businesses the opportunity to appeal against a decision by the bank to reject a loan application. More competition for the high street clearers has been a long time coming."