U.S. Markets

Italian companies ask for $20 billion in state-guaranteed loans: credit agency

FILE PHOTO - A logo of the Atlantia Group is seen outside their headquarters in Rome, Italy August 31, 2018. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

MILAN (Reuters) - Large Italian companies have requested 18.5 billion euros ($20 billion) in state-guaranteed loans to weather the coronavirus crisis, state-backed export credit agency SACE said on Saturday.

Last month the Italian government approved a package of emergency measures offering liquidity and bank loans to companies hit by the health emergency.

One of the measures allows medium-sized and large companies to ask SACE to guarantee new bank loans, provided the firms refrain from approving dividend payments for a year.

The credit agency said that banks had received 250 requests for state-guaranteed loans so far. It pledged to act quickly to ensure fresh funds were available for cash-starved companies, adding that once it received a request from a bank it could issue the guarantees within 48 hours.

SACE said it had already given the green light to requests for 30 million euros in loans.

The motorway and airport units of infrastructure group Atlantia ATL.MI and high-street retailer OVS OVS.MI are among companies to have expressed interest in such loans.

More than 30,000 people have died as a result of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy since the crisis started in February, the third highest death toll in the world.

Rome, which shuttered all businesses not deemed essential until May 3, has forecast a full-year GDP drop of 8% this year, before a partial rebound of 4.7% next year.

($1 = 0.9225 euros)

Reporting by Francesca Landini; Editing by Pravin Char