Ulster Bank today announces that it has secured an additional £250 million to support SMEs across Northern Ireland in 2009. The locally administered fund forms part of a £3 billion SME package made available by Ulster Bank’s parent company Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS)*

This further commitment to the SME community in Northern Ireland will be delivered through a package of funding choices with effect from 5th February 2009. In addition to providing debt finance, the new funds will offer businesses access to other options to help them manage their capital and cashflow in the current economic downturn.

The Ulster Bank regional fund will offer customers a wide range of financial support including unsecured small business loans up to £25,000 at competitive rates and trading business loans which allow customers to postpone capital repayments. Other options available are enhanced invoice finance and stocking facilities which enable customers to better manage their working capital flows, effective ways to release cash through using the assets already owned by the business and short term trade finance essential to keep imports and exports flowing.

Henry Elvin, Head of Business Banking at Ulster Bank said, “This £250 million regional fund reinforces our commitment to support the SME community in Northern Ireland and will offer business customers a wide range of additional support. It is a major step towards addressing their concerns in such challenging economic conditions.”

He added; “We are working closely with our parent company, RBS and the UK Government on new industry-wide schemes to help viable SMEs address the challenges they are facing. We want businesses to benefit from these initiatives, which include the £250m Regional Fund and the new Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme.”

Wilfred Mitchell, FSB Policy Chair, said the Ulster Bank announcement is a “step in the right direction.”

“The FSB welcomes Ulster Bank’s announcement of £250M additional funding for the SME sector and hopes that it can be quickly translated into new credit lines for our members. Given the current economic climate Ulster Bank’s commitment to its business customers is encouraging and sets a standard for other financial institutions to follow.”

“The FSB sees this move as a step in the right direction and hopes other banks will recognise the immense pressure facing the SME sector in the current economic climate and put constructive measures in place to assist them at this difficult time.”

Also, welcoming the announcement of Ulster Bank’s regional fund, Mr Ian Murphy, Managing Director, Clients Group & Entrepreneurship at Invest NI said, “In this challenging economic climate, small and medium sized businesses in Northern Ireland will welcome today’s news that Ulster Bank is making an additional £250 million funding available to viable businesses in the province. SMEs are calling out for further support and this move by Ulster Bank should provide them with valuable reassurance.”

The announcement of this additional funding complements recent commitments made by Ulster Bank to its SME customers including honouring existing overdraft limits except in circumstances where the risk profile has changed.

Full details of Ulster Bank’s regional support initiatives for SMEs are available in each of its 92 branches and 10 business centres across Northern Ireland.

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