July 23, 2020 / 11:30 AM / 23 days ago

UPDATE 1-S.Africa expands virus loan scheme, may stop lenders blacklisting borrowers

* Virus loan scheme changes aimed at boosting take-up

* Blacklisting proposals could provide further relief

* Critics fear they will lead to deeper indebtedness (Recasts on Treasury document, updates banks’ responses, bullets)

JOHANNESBURG, July 23 (Reuters) - South Africa’s government outlined on Wednesday changes to boost take-up of its 200 billion rand ($12 billion) coronavirus-related loan scheme and said it might temporarily bar lenders from blacklisting borrowers whose credit records have been hit.

In a document on budget adjustments in the wake of the pandemic, the National Treasury said it had made changes to the loan scheme to help more virus-hit firms benefit. Only 10.6 billion rand of the funds had been paid out by July 7.

Changes included replacing a cap on the turnover of eligible companies with a 100 million rand limit on loan size, expanding what the money could be used for and doubling the period over which it could be drawn down to six months, it said.

South Africa’s Department of Trade (DTI) said it was consulting with lenders on proposals to prohibit blacklisting of borrowers whose credit profiles had deteriorated and removing adverse information from their records, until Sept. 30 or when a national state of disaster ends, whichever came first.

“Government will carefully consider any proposals ... and will take all views into account before making a decision,” the DTI said, adding Trade Minister Ebrahim Patel would not consider the draft proposals until consultations were complete.

The consultation document, published by main opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA), said changes would be backdated until April 1 and were aimed at those whose credit profiles had deteriorated due to the national state of disaster.

The DA said the move would hit banks’ lending appetite, pushing up the cost of credit, and hurt already indebted borrowers by enabling them to rack up more debt.

South Africa’s six biggest lenders and the Banking Association of South Africa had no immediate comment.

$1 = 16.5722 rand Reporting by Emma Rumney; Editing by Edmund Blair

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