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Singapore banks roll out relief assistance for SMEs, retail customers

SINGAPORE banks have stepped up with relief measures to help businesses and retail customers navigate disruptions caused by the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak. 

OCBC on Thursday said it will offer targeted support to customers across its core markets affected by the virus outbreak. These include Singapore, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong and Macau.

The bank's measures include allowing customers to restructure their loans (including home mortgages and business loans), providing a moratorium on principal repayment for loans, extending the due date of the affected business' trade finance bills, and extending bridging loans in the form of additional working capital financing to affected businesses. 

The initiatives have been put in place to ensure both businesses and individuals are able to manage their cashflows to overcome the market challenges, said the lender. 

OCBC chief executive Samuel Tsien said the bank "will not put a cap" on the help it will extend to customers, noting that the scale of the virus outbreak is "different from that of previous challenges" due to increased connectivity in the region.

DBS, too, on Thursday announced that it will provide small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with liquidity relief packages to address their "most urgent cashflow needs" during this period.

In particular, the bank will provide a six-month principal repayment moratorium for SME property loans. It will also offer an extension of import facilities of up to 60 days to act as immediate cashflow support for businesses coping with disruptions from the Covid-19 situation. These initiatives will be available upon application to customers with good repayment histories, said the lender in a statement. 

Ensuring consistent cashflow for ongoing operating costs was found to be the top concern among SMEs during this period, according to a recent poll by DBS that involved about 100 SME clients. 

On the retail side, affected customers with good repayment histories can apply for a six-month principal repayment moratorium for mortgage loans. More details will be shared on DBS/POSB's website from Feb 17.

DBS said it will also partner transport operator ComfortDelGro to encourage commuters to use the bank's debit or credit cards for street hail fares, which will help in contact tracing. 

"We hope the liquidity measures will go some way in easing the financial pressure that some individuals and SMEs may face. Other initiatives are intended to help customers adjust to the little changes they may have to make in daily living," said DBS Singapore country head Shee Tse Koon. 

On Wednesday, UOB said it has set aside S$3 billion to provide Singapore-based companies, especially SMEs, with relief assistance. 

Such measures would mean allowing affected businesses to rework their principal repayments and to service only their loan interest for up to one year, extending up to one year working capital financing of up to S$5 million, and offering financing liquidity against mortgage security.

For the latter, UOB is offering flexibility for businesses' secured loans, which could come in the form of an increased loan amount or an overdraft facility.

The bank will also assess retail customers who are affected by the current circumstances on a case-by-case basis. 

Meanwhile, Standard Chartered will look into offering loan tenor extensions and principal moratoria of up to 12 months for affected clients with business banking instalment loans, at their request.

Other forms of support could include bill maturity extensions of up to three months for clients with trade facilities who face delayed trade payments, waivers of business banking late fees and related charges such as restructuring costs, for up to six months, and extra loans or overdrafts against their property for clients with commercial mortgages.

Malaysian lender CIMB, through its Singapore branch, has also stepped forward to help affected companies that require longer credit terms from their suppliers to conserve cashflow.