TJX draws down $1 billion from credit line, suspends share buybacks

(Reuters) - Discount store operator TJX Cos Inc TJX.N said on Thursday it was drawing down $1 billion from its existing credit line and suspending its share buyback program to maintain liquidity in a difficult period brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

All stores in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia will be closed for two weeks and websites shut down, the company said.

Smaller rivals Ross Stores Inc ROST.O and Burlington Stores Inc BURL.O also suspended their buyback programs on Thursday, with Ross saying it would draw down $800 million from its existing credit line.

All three companies ditched their full-year forecasts as the fast spreading virus sends the U.S. retail industry spiraling.

Retail outlets, restaurants, theaters and other places which usually draw crowds have shut their doors in recent days to help stop the infection from spreading.

TJX said it was evaluating its dividend program and reviewing all operating and capital expenditures, as companies around the globe hoard cash on the growing prospect of a global economic downturn.

A retail industry group on Wednesday asked the White House for a direct, government-backed loan program to help pay workers’ salaries, rents and repay loans.

Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli