HSBC offers $5.4b in loan relief to Hong Kong firms

HSBC Holdings is providing liquidity relief to help companies battered by the coronavirus outbreak in Hong Kong.
HSBC Holdings is providing liquidity relief to help companies battered by the coronavirus outbreak in Hong Kong.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - HSBC Holdings is providing more than HK$30 billion (S$5.4 billion) in liquidity relief to its business customers in Hong Kong, joining other lenders that are easing borrowing terms to help companies battered by the coronavirus outbreak.

Measures include a principal repayment moratorium for borrowers with commercial loans secured by property, as well as those with taxi and public minibus loans, according to a statement from the bank on Sunday. Trade finance customers can also apply for access to an overdraft of as much as HK$10 million for six months to help with daily operational needs, such as employee payrolls and rent.

"We are committed to supporting our customers and will introduce more initiatives that will provide near-term relief," Diana Cesar, HSBC's local chief executive officer, said in the statement.

Banks across the city are considering loan relief to help struggling customers and businesses as the outbreak crimps spending and travel. BOC Hong Kong Holdings and Bank of East Asia announced similar measures last week, while the city's finance chief has urged landlords to provide rental relief to struggling firms.

EXTRA LEAVE

HSBC, Europe's biggest finance company by market value, is also giving employees on the "front-line" and in "critical operations" five extra days of leave until next year, a spokeswoman said last week. Staff are being offered free lunch at canteens until the middle of this month, or a HK$100 voucher for those who don't work at offices with eating facilities.

Hong Kong's retail sales tumbled for an 11th-straight month in December, capping a year of anguish for the self-governing territory torn by anti-government protests now morphing into turmoil due to the virus, which has killed more than 900 people, including one in Hong Kong.

The slowdown in HSBC's biggest market adds to pressure on chairman Mark Tucker to deliver on a turnaround. The former insurance executive, who arrived in 2017 after making his mark in Asia, is set to roll out a top-to-bottom overhaul of the sprawling lender next week. The measures may include job losses, cuts to equities trading, and possibly combining the corporate and investment-banking units, people familiar with the matter have said.