May 10, 2020 / 11:43 PM / 15 days ago

Morocco's central bank asks banks to halt dividends during coronavirus pandemic

RABAT, May 10 (Reuters) - Morocco’s central bank has asked banks to withhold dividends this year so they are better placed to deal with any fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The request to withhold payments to shareholders was first reported by Boursenews on Sunday and confirmed to Reuters by an official source at the central bank.

Moroccan banks have already been asked to defer payments on loans to both individuals and companies as lockdown measures, which began on March 20 and have been extended until May 20, hit the economy.

The country’s planning agency expects the economy to contract 6.8% in the second quarter after growing 0.7% in the first quarter. It has estimated the crisis will cost economy $3 billion in the first half of this year. A special fund set up to deal with the response is receiving donations from the private sector as well as government funds.

Health Minister Khalid Ait Taleb said on Friday that requirements for ending the lockdown have yet to be met, citing concerns about a rise in virus hotspots within families and factories.

By Sunday evening, Morocco had 6,063 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 188 deaths.

Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; editing by Jane Wardell

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