The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) have launched, with support from the TaiwanBusiness fund for technical cooperation, the SME Growth Market Project, a project aimed at opening the financial market to small and medium businesses.

The purpose of the project is to increase the availability of funding for SMEs in this region through financial markets, in line with the EU's Capital Market Action Plan, ZSE CEO Ivana Gazic said at a presentation of the project in Zagreb on Thursday.

Gazic said this was only one in a number of projects whereby the ZSE wanted to open the financial market to entrepreneurs, particularly those starting a business, as an alternative to banks as sources of business financing.

Recently the Funderbeam SEE project was presented, which is a crowdfunding platform for start-up companies enabling investors to start trading in their shares immediately after the initial investment as if they were companies listed on a stock exchange. The ZSE holds a 20% interest in the project.

Another joint project is SEE Link, formed by the Bulgarian, Macedonian and Zagreb stock markets as infrastructure for trading in securities listed on the three stock markets and implemented with support from the EBRD, said Gazic.

The latest project is supported by the Taiwanese fund for technical cooperation TaiwanBusiness. The head of the Taipei City office in Great Britain, David Yung-Lo Lin, said the fund had supported EBRD projects for 25 years. By supporting this project, TaiwanBusiness wants to support Croatia's SME sector, which is crucial for the country's economic growth and development, he said.

Assistant Economy Minister Zdeslav Matic said that SMEs accounted for 99.7% of all businesses operating in Croatia. Around a million Croatians work in the SME sector.

However, around 70% of SMEs finance their operations with their own funds or through reinvested profit because access to bank funding is either too expensive for them or implies too much red tape, he said.

"This project fills that gap in sources of funding for entrepreneurs," said Matic. 


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