Europcar nears rescue deal with lenders - sources

PARIS (Reuters) - French car hire firm Europcar EUCAR.PA, hit by the coronavirus outbreak, is in talks with banks on a 223 million euro liquidity line guaranteed by the French government, a source familiar with the matter said.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of French car rental company Europcar is seen at Bordeaux Airport in Merignac, France, February 4, 2016. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Europcar’s shares rose 13% on Tuesday after Le Monde newspaper first reported that talks about the credit line were close to a conclusion.

The company’s shares are down by 65% this year as a Brexit-related drop in demand, declining business-to-business rental volumes and a softening economic environment have been compounded by the global coronavirus pandemic.

Europcar has previously said it is in talks with key lenders over additional liquidity details, but declined on Tuesday to give any further details.

France has offered to support companies hit by the coronavirus crisis if they qualify. Europcar is one of the biggest names so far to seek assistance.

The source familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the consortium was made up of more than 10 banks and that 90% of the 223 million euros (197.14 million pounds) under discussion would be guaranteed by the French state via a scheme operated by state bank Bbifrance.

“Discussions are still ongoing but the conclusion is near,” the source said. The Le Monde report also gave the 223 million euros figure.

A second source, also familiar with the discussions, described the same arrangement and said the talks were close to a conclusion, but could not confirm the 223 million euros figure.

Europcar, which has 10,000 employees worldwide, is also in discussions for financial aid with governments in other countries where it is present, the source added.

A Bpifrance representative was not immediately available for comment and the French Finance Ministry had no immediate comment.

Eurazeo, Europcar’s biggest shareholder with a 29.9% stake, declined to comment.

The first source familiar with the matter and a third source also close to the situation, said that Eurazeo had signalled it was ready to participate in the deal, as long as the other parties concerned would do their part too.

It was not yet clear how much money Eurazeo would give, one of the sources said.

Europcar's main lenders are Crédit Agricole CIB CAGR.PA, the London branch of Deutsche Bank DBKGn.DE, BNP Paribas BNPP.PA, Natwest RBS.L, Lloyds LLOY.L, HSBC HSBA.L, Credit Mutuel CIC, Societe Generale SOGN.PA, Natixis CNAT.PA, as well as Bank of America BAC.N, according to Europcar's 2018 annual report.

Last month, Europcar suspended its 2020 financial goals, saying it was premature to estimate the impact of the coronavirus crisis on its short and medium-term outlook,

Moody’s last month downgraded Europcar’s credit rating and placed it on review, citing “the rapid spread of the coronavirus outbreak across many regions and key car rental markets, which will exert severe pressure on Europcar’s earnings and on its credit metrics”.

Previously owned by Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE, Europcar was bought by Eurazeo in 2006 and subsequently listed on France's Euronext in 2015.

Reporting by Gwenaelle Barzic, Dominique Vidalon, Maya Nikolaeva, and Sudip Kar Gupta; Writing by Dominique Vidalon and Maya Nikolaeva; Editing by Christian Lowe and Jane Merriman