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Regulation

A number of European rules and regulations apply to certain SBCI products. These include EU laws governing State aid and products.

European Rules and Regulations relevant to SBCI products

The SBCI sources its funds from the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) and a Guarantee Notes Programme with the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA). The Minister for Finance has provided a State guarantee in respect of borrowings received from the EIB. As a result of this State guarantee, SBCI products may contain an element of State aid and must comply with EU law governing State aid.

State aid can occur whenever State resources are used to provide assistance that gives certain entities, engaged in economic activity, an advantage over others by virtue of benefiting from those State resources. Generally, State aid is prohibited by the EC Treaty. However, State aid may be given legally by using approved EU schemes for State aid or by getting EC approval.

The European Commission has determined that State aid given to undertakings that comply with the De Minimis Regulations has a negligible impact on trade and competition. State aid that remains below a certain ceiling, depending on sector, and otherwise complies with the De Minimis Regulations (de minimis aid) is not subject to pre-clearance with the European Commission. The maximum amount of de minimis aid any single recipient can receive is €200,000 (gross grant equivalent) over a three-year fiscal period. The total amount of de minimis aid given to a single recipient performing road freight transport for hire or reward cannot exceed €100,000 over a three-year fiscal period. For loans, the amount of de minimis aid that is provided to a borrower (in the form of a discounted interest rate) is calculated into its “gross grant equivalent” (based on the discount prevailing at the time the aid is granted)1. The de minimis aid is not equal to the total amount of the loan. Applicants for SBCI de minimis loans must be aware that such loans are provided to applicants subject to compliance with the De Minimis Regulations.

De minimis aid is cumulative. To ensure the relevant ceilings are not exceeded and the cumulative rules are complied with, an SME application must provide a declaration about other de minimis aid covered by the Regulation or by other De Minimis Regulations received during the fiscal/calendar year concerned and the previous two years. It should be noted that a false declaration by an SME, resulting in the de minimis threshold being exceeded, could later give rise to the aid being recovered with interest. De minimis aid can be in the form of a grant, equity investment, guarantee or interest rate discount on a loan. De minimis aid could have been received from any State agency, department or local authority.

1The rate used is as specified in the Communication from the Commission on the revision of the method for setting the reference and discount rates (O) C 14, 19.1.2008, p. 6)

Examples of sources of de minimis State aid

  • Enterprise Ireland funding (e.g. Job Expansion Fund; Market Research Grant)
  • Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment – Credit Guarantee Scheme
  • An Bord Bia funding
  • Local Enterprise Offices (LEO)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The SBCI investment and working capital loans and refinance of exiting banks loan will be offered under the de minimis aid exemption contained in the regulation. In the event that de minimis aid is granted under this SBCI financing arrangement, the SBCI will confirm directly to the applicant the gross grant equivalent after drawdown of the funds.

The SBCI provides its products through its on-lending partners.

Exclusions:

Please note the following activities are excluded from SBCI loans offered under the de minimis exemption:

  • Finance of specific export operations, or finance contingent upon the use of domestic over imported products. In particular, it should not apply to financing the establishment and operation of a distribution network in other States, or current expenditure linked to the export activity
  • Finance of pure real estate development activity
  • Finance of activities constituting pure financial transactions (e.g. purchase of shares)
  • Loans to undertakings in difficulty
  • Finance of activities forbidden by national or EU law
  • Agriculture (see specific SBCI Agriculture Investment Loans product), aquaculture and fisheries loans
  • Aid for the acquisition of road freight transport vehicles by undertakings performing road freight transport for hire or reward

Please refer to Commission Regulation (EU) No 1407 2013 for comprehensive details on specific exclusions.

The Agriculture Investment Loans supported by the SBCI are subject to the provisions of the Agriculture Investment Loan Scheme 2015. This scheme has been published by the SBCI in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture under Commission Regulation (EU) no. 702/2014 of 25 June 2014, which declares that certain categories of aid in the agricultural sector are compatible with the internal market and permissible under this EU Regulation by means of a block exemption. The Agriculture Investment Loan Scheme operates within the State aid rules by virtue of this block exemption.

Full details of the Regulation can be found at Commission Regulation (EU) No 702/2014.

The SBCI provides its products through its on-lending partners.

A scheme to provide discounted loans and credit facilities to agricultural SMEs in Ireland

1. Objective of Scheme

The objective of this scheme is to provide investment aid in the form of discounted loans and credit facilities to SMEs involved in the agricultural sector. Funding for the scheme will be provided by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (“SBCI”) through third party banks and credit institutions (“on-lenders”).

2. Legal Basis and Rules

The operation of this scheme is subject to the provisions of Commission Regulation (EU) No 702/2014 of 25 June 20141 and in particular Chapter III, Section 1 (Articles 14 and 17) (the “Regulation”) and the enabling legislation of the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (“SBCI”) the Strategic Corporation of Ireland Act 2014, as may be amended from time to time). Unless otherwise stated, terms defined in the Regulation shall have the same meaning in this scheme.

1 Commission Regulation (EU) No 702/2014 of 25 June 2014 declaring certain categories of aid in the agricultural and forestry sectors and in rural areas compatible with the internal market in application of Articles 107 and 108 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

3. Budget

The average annual budget of this scheme shall not exceed €150 million.

4. Who can apply?

Loan applicants must be micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (“SMEs”) as defined in in Commission Recommendation 2003/361/EC2.

Loan applicants must be active in the agricultural sector, namely primary agricultural production, the processing of agricultural products or the marketing of agricultural products.

Loan applicants will be eligible to apply for loans once the project concerned meets the criteria set out below. The right to apply does not impose any obligation on an on-lending institution to provide funding to an applicant.

2Commission Recommendation 2003/361/EC concerning the definition of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (OJ L 124, 20.5.2003, p. 36).

5. Scope of Scheme

Loans may be advanced to support investments in tangible assets or intangible assets on agricultural holdings linked to primary agricultural production or in connection with the processing of agricultural products and the marketing of agricultural products.

Where the loan is to support investments in tangible assets or intangible assets on agricultural holdings linked to primary agricultural production, the investment should pursue at least one of the following objectives:

  1. The improvement of the overall performance and sustainability of the agricultural holding, in particular through a reduction of production costs or the improvement and re-deployment of production
  2. The improvement of the natural environment, hygiene conditions or animal welfare standards, provided that the investment concerned goes beyond EU standards in force
  3. The creation and improvement of infrastructure related to the development, adaptation and modernisation of agriculture, including access to farm land, land consolidation and improvement, the supply and saving of energy and water
  4. The achievement of agri-environmental-climate objectives, including the biodiversity conversation status of species and habitat as well as enhancing the public amenity value of a Natura 2000 area or other high nature value systems, defined in the national or regional rural development programmes of Ireland, as long as investments are non-productive
  5. The restoration of production potential damaged by natural disasters, adverse climatic events which can be assimilated to natural disasters, animal diseases and plant pests and the prevention of damages caused by those events.

Investments shall be in conformity with EU legislation and with Irish law on environmental protection under the Protection of the Environment Act 2003. For investment requiring an environmental impact assessment under Directive 2011/92/EU the aid shall be subject to the condition that such assessment shall have been carried out and the development consent shall have been granted for the investment project concerned before the date of granting the individual aid.

This scheme shall not apply to the following:

  1. Loans to support export related activities towards third countries or other EU Member States, namely aid directly linked to the quantities exported, to the establishment and operation of a distribution network or to the other current expenditure linked to export activity
  2. Loans contingent upon the use of domestic over imported goods
  3. Loans to support investments required to comply with EU standards in force
  4. Loans to an undertaking which is subject to an outstanding recovery order following a previous commission decision declaring an aid illegal and incompatible with the internal market
  5. Loans to undertakings in difficulty
  6. Loans to support the purchase of production rights, payment entitlements and annual plants
  7. Loans to support the planting of annual plants
  8. Loans to support drainage works
  9. Loans to support the purchase of animals

Investments that are linked to the production on farm-level of biofuels or energy from renewable sources are permitted provided production is limited to the average annual consumption of fuel or energy of the farm. Investments in installations, the primary purpose of which is energy production from biomass, shall not be eligible unless a minimum percentage of heat energy is utilised. Investments in connection with the production of food-based biofuels are ineligible.

6. Maximum Amounts Payable under the Scheme

The maximum amounts of aid that may be generated through the form of discounted interest rates on loans supporting investment under the scheme are:

  1. €500,000 per undertaking per investment project on agricultural holdings linked to primary agricultural production.
  2. €7.5 million per undertaking per investment project in connection with the processing of agricultural products and the marketing of agricultural products.

These limits shall not be circumvented by artificially splitting up an aid project.

7. Transparency of Aid

Only transparent forms of aid (i.e. in which it is possible to calculate precisely the gross grant equivalent as a percentage of eligible expenditure ex ante without need to undertake a risk assessment) may be provided under this scheme.

8. Incentive Effect

This scheme shall apply only to aid which has an incentive effect.

Aid shall be considered to have an incentive effect if the beneficiary has submitted a written loan application for the aid to the SBCI or its on-lenders / agents before work on the project or activity starts. The loan application shall contain at least the following information:

  1. Undertaking’s name and size
  2. Description of the project, including its start and end dates
  3. Location of the project
  4. List of project costs
  5. Declaration of any other aid obtained for the specific project

If work begins before the applicant has submitted a written application to the relevant development agency the whole project will be ineligible for aid.

9. Eligible Costs and Aid Intensity

The aid shall cover the following eligible costs:

  1. The construction, acquisition, including leasing, or improvement of immovable property, with land only being eligible to an extent not exceeding 10 % of total eligible costs of the operation concerned
  2. The purchase or lease purchase of machinery and equipment up to the market value of the asset
  3. General costs linked to expenditure referred to in points (a) and (b), such as architect, engineer and consultation fees, fees relating to advice on environmental and economic sustainability, including feasibility studies; feasibility studies shall remain eligible expenditure even where, based on their results, no expenditure under in points (a) and (b) is incurred
  4. Acquisition or development of computer software and acquisitions of patents, licenses, copyrights, trademarks.

Costs, other than those referred to in paragraph (a) and (b), connected with leasing contracts, such as lessor’s margin, interest refinancing costs, overheads and insurance charges shall not be considered to be eligible costs.

Working capital shall not be considered to be an eligible cost. VAT shall not be considered an eligible cost (except where it is non-recoverable under Irish law).

The aid intensity or total aid resulting from the loan shall not exceed 40% of the amount of the eligible costs.

For the purposes of calculating aid intensity and eligible costs under this scheme, all figures used shall be taken before any deduction of tax or other charge. The eligible costs shall be supported by documentary evidence which shall be clear, specific and contemporary.

Aid provided in the form of a discounted loan shall be discounted to its value at the moment it is granted. The eligible costs shall be discounted to their value at the moment the aid is granted. The interest rate to be used for discounting purposes shall be the discount rate applicable at the moment the aid is granted.

10. Cumulation

Aid under this scheme shall not be cumulated with any de minimis aid in respect of the same eligible costs if such cumulation would result in an aid intensity exceeding those laid down in the Regulation.

11. Publication and Information

The information referred to in Appendix 1 to this scheme will be published on the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland’s State aid website on each individual aid award where they exceed the following:

  1. €60,000 for beneficiaries active in the primary agricultural production
  2. €500,000 for beneficiaries active in the sectors of the processing of agricultural products and the marketing of agricultural products
12. Period of Validity

This scheme shall operate from 27 January 2015 until 31 December 2020.

Appendix 1 – Information to be published for Aid awards exceeding the relevant thresholds.

Information shall be published in a spread sheet data format, which allows data to be searched, extracted and easily published on the Internet, such as CSV or XML format. Access to the State aid website shall be allowed to any interested party without restrictions. No prior user registration shall be required to access the State aid website.

The following information on individual aid award shall be published:

  1. Reference of the identification number of the aid
  2. Name of the beneficiary
  3. Type of enterprise (SME/large) at the date of granting the aid
  4. Region in which the beneficiary is located, at NUTS level II
  5. Sector of activity at NACE group level
  6. Aid element, expressed as full amount in national currency
  7. Aid instrument – interest rate subsidy
  8. Date of granting the aid
  9. Objective of the aid – investment
  10. Granting authority – SBCI

Eligibility

The borrower must comply with the following:

  • It is a micro, small or medium-sized enterprise in accordance with the Commission Recommendation 2003/361/EC
  • It is at all times active in the primary agricultural sector in Ireland
  • It is not an “undertaking in difficulty” (within the meaning of the Commission Regulation (EU) 651/2014)
  • It does not have a substantial focus on one or more restricted sectors listed in Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 964/2014
  • It is not delinquent or in default under any agreement with the bank or another financial institution (save as may be agreed with the bank at its entire discretion)
  • It is not established in a Non-Cooperative Jurisdiction (meaning a jurisdiction that does not cooperate with the European Union in relation to the application of internationally agreed tax standards)
  • It is established and operating in Ireland
  • It has not received loans under the SBCI Scheme of more than €150,000 in aggregate per borrower or SME (i.e. per farm operation)
  • Is not at any time performing illegal activities according to applicable legislation in the country of Ireland or the borrower (including national, Union and international legislation, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the European Convention on Human Rights and its Supplementary Protocols) is not bankrupt or being wound up or having its affairs administered by the courts
  • In the last five years, it has not entered into an arrangement with creditors, in the context of being bankrupt or wound-up or having its affairs administered by the courts
  • It has not been convicted of an offence or subject to a ruling concerning professional conduct, fraud, corruption, involvement in a criminal organisation, money laundering or any other illegal activity where such illegal activity is detrimental to the European Union’s financial interests

The Borrower must confirm to the bank that it satisfies one of the following conditions:

  • It is applying environmental and climate friendly production methods, i.e. is participating in an agri-environment schemes as part of Ireland’s current or last Rural Development Programme (i.e. GLAS, BDGP, AEOS, REPS, Organic Farming Scheme or a locally-led EU agri-environmental scheme)
  • It is implementing quality schemes or projects aiming at promoting quality and value added, i.e. is a certified member of a Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme or is a certified member of a Quality Assurance Scheme run by a co-operative, processor or producer representative body
  • It is implementing co-operation projects, i.e. is a member of a DAFM-registered Farm Partnership
  • It is training in financial instruments and risk management tools, i.e. has successfully completed or is participating in DAFM’s Knowledge Transfer Programme or previous programmes such as BTAP and STAP (and specifically, the financial management elements of those programmes); or has participated in financial training given by Teagasc (including the Cash Flow module included in recent farm walks), and can produce a certificate to this effect; or has participated in financial training from another body (e.g. co-operative, processor, farming organisation, producer representative body or other providers of training) relating to the eligible agricultural sectors and can produce a certificate or other evidence to this effect

As at the date of the letter of sanction entered into by the customer in relation to the facility in question, it must accept that it satisfies the eligibility criteria for the scheme and that it undertakes that it shall at all times comply with those eligibility criteria.

The loan received by the customer is exclusively for working capital purposes.

Details to be Published

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the SBCI will comply with the reporting requirements as set out in Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/1613 in respect of loans to livestock and dairy farmers, and with de minimis state aid reporting requirements in respect of loans to other farmers.

Data Protection

The rights of data subjects and how they may be exercised are laid down in the Data Protection Acts, 1988 and 2003. The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner publishes a guide to your rights as a data subject.

For further information about Data Protection, click here.

Publication of CAP Beneficiaries Data

In accordance with EU Regulation 1306/2013, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is obliged to ensure annual ex-post publication of all of the beneficiaries of CAP funding, both legal and non-legal persons.

Further information is available on the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine website: www.agriculture.gov.ie

The State aid amount for a loan is arrived at by selecting the term of the loan in years (horizontal blue axis) and the value of the loan in Euro (vertical yellow axis) in the State Aid Matrix below. Where the term and/or loan amount(s) falls between two values the higher figure(s) should be selected. This is illustrated in the following example of a loan of €41,000 for 4.5 years:

  • Round €41,000 to nearest loan amount = €42,500
  • Round 4.5 years to nearest year = 5 years
  • Corresponding state aid for a loan of €42,500 over 5 years is €4,533.33

See the State Aid Matrix (indicative) for further details*.

*Source: SBCI.

Note: The State Aid Matrix provided is for indicative purposes only.