Hungary to decide Saturday whether to extend loan moratorium: PM Orban

FILE PHOTO: Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives for the first face-to-face EU summit since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brussels, Belgium July 17, 2020. John Thys/Pool via REUTERS

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary’s government will decide on Saturday whether to extend a moratorium on loan repayments for companies and households that is due to expire at the end of this year, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio on Friday.

Orban said the government “will decide on whether the moratorium should be extended, and which parts of it”. He said there were several options.

The moratorium on loan repayments for all companies and private borrowers, imposed in March, was one of the key government measures to help reduce the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hungary’s central bank called on Tuesday for a targeted extension of the moratorium. It said about a third of the 60,000 Hungarian companies who had taken up the moratorium could face problems if it is lifted, while 10% of retail borrowers, or about 160,000 people, could face payment difficulties from next January without more help.

The government has been in talks with local banks on a possible extension of the measure after second-quarter data showed Hungary’s economy contracted by an annual 13.6%, worse than expected and the deepest downturn in Central Europe.

After a spike in new cases in recent weeks, Hungary reported 710 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of infections to 15,170, with 663 deaths.

Orban said on Friday that the daily tally of new infections was likely to jump above 1,000.

Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Kevin Liffey