Saudi Central Bank extends pandemic loan support into next year
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Saudi Central Bank extends pandemic loan support into next year

Saudi Central Bank extends pandemic loan support into next year

The programme has helped banks avoid having to recognise credit as non-performing

The Saudi central bank has extended a loan deferral programme to help small businesses cope with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic until the end of the first quarter next year.

The monetary authority said in a statement on Sunday that the plan has impacted over SAR77bn ($20.5bn) of loans and the extension was taken to help support economic growth.

Announced in March as one of the kingdom’s first responses to the economic costs of the health emergency, the measures have already been prolonged and were due to expire in December.

The central bank has been at the forefront of the kingdom’s efforts to protect the economy at a time when the government is set to cut spending in order to stop the budget deficit from widening. Last week, the Saudi central bank’s mandate was broadened to formally include promoting economic growth, partly in recognition of the role it was already playing.

In the neighboring United Arab Emirates, the central bank extended similar stimulus measures through June 2021.

Saudi policy makers provided over SAR114bn in free deposits to local lenders in liquidity injections and to cover the costs of loan deferrals for small businesses hit by the pandemic, according to estimates by Bloomberg Intelligence.

Under the payment deferral plan, lenders are able to tap into funding from the central bank to cover any costs from granting repayment holidays to customers that need to restructure credit due to the impact of the coronavirus.

The programme has helped banks avoid having to recognise credit as non-performing. Still, profit across Saudi banks for the year to September is almost 30 per cent lower than in the same period of 2019, according to official data.

Loans classified as non-performing loans rose to 2.3 per cent of the total at the end of June, the highest level since 2011.

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