The Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) has announced a €50m equipment, machinery and vehicle finance programme through specialist SME lender Finance Ireland.

Finance Ireland will act as the on-lender for the programme, providing small and medium businesses with cheaper loans to fund investment.

SBCI chief executive Nick Ashmore said the move marks a “major step forward” for the SBCI.

“It is the first lending relationship with a non-bank institution,” Mr Ashmore said. “This is really phase two. Phase one was getting the first two banks up and running and phase two was non-bank institutions, so we hope to have other announcements very shortly.”

It comes as one in five of small and medium businesses here are planning new borrowings in the year ahead, up from 12pc last year, a survey has suggested.

And a similar proportion, around 20pc, are planning to raise new equity, up from less than one in ten last year, according to the initial findings of the latest PwC pulse survey.

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