EXCLUSIVE: Talk about a damp squib. After much fanfare and tub-thumping, I’ve been told that the European Commission has only received two offers to run its much-heralded European Guarantee Fund. State lenders Ifcic in France and Audiovisual SGR in Spain have both applied to run the €8 million ($10 million) fund. The EGF is designed to underwrite lending to movies being made in smaller European countries – precisely those riskier territories which banks are reluctant to lend to. Brussels has said that its fund will help put €50-100 million worth of features into production. Ifcic already acts as the back stop for French banks Cofiloisirs and Coficine, guaranteeing up to 50% of loans which go bad. Audiovisual SGR does the same thing for film and TV companies in Spain. Didier Duverger, co-chairman and managing director of Coficine, tells me that he will be able to lend to more non-French films if Ifcic does win the tender. Coficine has been doing more business in Britain over the past 18 months, lending to Ealing’s It’s A Wonderful Afterlife and Film4’s Four Lions, for example. It currently finances around 15 non-French films out of the 100 it backs each year. “It’s not a question of having more money to lend, but of lending to more productions outside France,” Duverger says. “Ifcic has traditionally been wary of using French government money to underwrite foreign films.” Given that Spain is tipped to fall over after Portugal in the domino effect of European countries going bust after Greece, I suspect Brussels will play safe and award the fund to France.
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