South Africa banks offered loan relief of $31 billion during pandemic: statement

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African banks have given voluntary relief on loans to individuals and corporates of up to 537 billion rand ($31 billion) during the coronavirus pandemic so far, the finance ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

“In total, as at the end of the first week of August, banks had provided voluntary relief on loans with a book value at risk of R537 billion,” it said.

South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni held a meeting with bank chief executives on Wednesday.

Banks in South Africa are seeing one of their worst crises in ages with rising bad loans and hefty impairment charges in an economy which was already in recession before the pandemic. The country's bank index .JBANK is currently trading at a discount of almost 40% to the country's top 40 index .JTOPI.

However, fund managers have said the banks have requisite balance sheet strength, management depth and strong profitability to weather the storm.

Besides temporary loan relief, the banks have disbursed 14% of the 100 billion rand loan guarantee scheme announced by the government in May, according to the statement.

To Aug. 1., the scheme has disbursed around 14 billion rand out of the 100 billion rand on offer, benefiting almost 10,000 businesses and 15,000 applications still under process, it said.

The loan guarantee scheme, with a total outlay of 200 billion rand, is part of a 500 billion rand package announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa to cushion the impact of coronavirus on South African businesses and individuals.

However, disbursals have still been low as companies are wary of piling up debt and hence changes in the scheme are being worked out, the statement said.

Reporting by Promit Mukherjee; editing by David Evans