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France to set up state-backed investment bank

PARIS -- France is creating a new government-backed investment bank that will aim to spur economic growth by lending to small and medium-sized enterprises.

Jean-Pierre Jouyet, the head of French state-owned financial institution CDC, has been named chairman of the new investment bank, known by its French intials BPI.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Wednesday the bank will marshal (EURO)30 billion ($39 billion), largely from existing sources, to finance loans, investments and guarantees.

The BPI, to be owned 50-50 by the government and the CDC, will regroup under one roof existing agencies and funds with the aim of better coordinating their activity.

Opponents warn the plan, which had been a campaign promise of President Francois Hollande, brings no new money to the table and may create conflicts of interest and political interference.