Belfast Telegraph

Invest NI £5m small firm fund to roll out in spring

By Margaret Canning

Economic development agency Invest NI has revealed more details of loan funds to help businesses struggling to obtain finance in the downturn.

Chief executive Alastair Hamilton gave more information on its £50m growth loan fund and unveiled a separate £5m fund for small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs).

During a performance update yesterday for the financial year 2011 to 2012 so far, Mr Hamilton said it had ‘promoted’ 3,272 jobs in Northern Ireland and 1,282 through local business starts.

That means it has signed letters offering to help firms planning to create that number of jobs.

Economist John Simpson said: “That is more progress than would be expected in such a deep recession.”

Invest NI said the volume of its offers was up but that overall assistance and planned investment had fallen. But the agency said Northern Ireland companies were showing a strong appetite to learn more about exports and research and development.

Mr Hamilton said a new £5m loan fund to help small, medium and micro enterprises will begin operating in spring 2012.

John Simpson said the SMME fund “could be a significant addition”.

More details also emerged of the £50m loan growth fund, which is to be jointly funded by local government pensions fund NILGOSC and Invest NI.

If a loss is made on a loan from the fund, repayment to NILGOSC would take precedence over repayment of Invest NI loans.

Around 50 loans every year are to be made out of the fund of an average of £200,000 each.

The agency said business owners faced a range of challenges including banks trying to tidy their credit portfolios.

Others faced declining demand while slow economic activity was hitting supply chains in a number of sectors.

There were also more insolvencies and bankruptcies with most coming too late for any restructuring or rescue to help matters.

Belfast Telegraph