March 23, 2020 / 9:00 AM / 6 days ago

UK starts first stage of 330 billion pound loan guarantee scheme

FILE PHOTO: A usually crowded Canary Wharf is seen at lunchtime, as the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases grow around the world, in London, Britain March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s government opened the first part of a 330 billion pound loan guarantee scheme for businesses on Monday, which will help small and medium-sized firms borrow up to 5 million pounds to deal with coronavirus stoppages.

“Any viable business” with a turnover of up to 45 million pounds would be able to apply to banks for a 12-month interest-free loan, 80% of which will be guaranteed by the government, the finance ministry said.

“We know that businesses are in urgent need of access to funding during these unprecedented times,” business minister Alok Sharma said.

The finance ministry said further measures would be announced to ensure large and medium-sized businesses had access to the finance they needed.

The Bank of England confirmed the opening too of a programme to buy short-term debt known as commercial paper, issued by large businesses which had an investment-grade credit rating or similar financial strength before the coronavirus hit.

Last week BoE Governor Andrew Bailey said the central bank would look at whether it could widen access to the scheme to firms with lower credit quality, or buy other financial instruments such as asset-backed commercial paper.

Reporting by David Milliken, Editing by Paul Sandle/Guy Faulconbridge

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