China's Tsingshan agrees standstill agreement on LME nickel margins with banks

LONDON, March 14 (Reuters) - China's Tsingshan Holding Group has reached an agreement with banks under which they will not make margin calls on or close out the producer's nickel positions on the London Metal Exchange (LME), the company said on Monday, a move sources said should help calm the market.

During the standstill agreement, the company and banks will discuss a standby secured liquidity facility, Tsingshan said. It did not provide any other details, such as how long the standstill period would last.

JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and other banks were negotiating over the weekend with Tsingshan Group on an agreement that would give the nickel producer time to work out how to pay margins on its short nickel positions, according to a source familiar with the matter.

CCBI Global Markets is another creditor, two separate sources said.

The first source said that the banks could potentially earn money on a bridge loan secured by future nickel production if Tsingshan paid them back over time as it produced nickel.

The Wall Street Journal, which previously reported the talks, also said Standard Chartered (STAN.L) and BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA) were among the banks looking to reach agreement.

The banks declined comment or did not respond to a request for comment.

Nickel prices on the LME jumped to record highs above $100,000 a tonne on March 8 as Tsingshan bought large amounts to reduce its short positions in the metal, which is used to make stainless steel and electric vehicle batteries. read more

The LME was forced to suspend nickel trading for the first time since 1988 on March 8 and is trying to facilitate negotiations to net off long and short positions in order to reopen the market.

Metal industry sources said that for the duration of the standstill agreement Tsingshan, the world's largest nickel producer, may not have to buy any more metal to cover its short positions.

The arrangement will also help the pave the way for the London Metal Exchange to restart nickel trading, they said.

"In the course of the standstill period, Tsingshan and the consortium banks will progress discussions in relation to a standby secured liquidity facility," the company said.

"For the period of the standstill, the participating hedge banks agree not to close out positions against Tsingshan or to make further margin calls in respect of existing positions."

Britain's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Bank of England are talking to the London Metal Exchange about the resumption of a fair and orderly market in nickel, the FCA said on Monday in response to a request for comment. read more

Reporting by Pratima Desai; additional reporting by Sinead Cruise and Eric Onstad in London; Editing by Megan Davies, Jan Harvey, Tim Ahmann and Cynthia Osterman

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