State-owned bank Natwest has announced a £5bn ($6.5bn) package of support for UK small businesses hit by coronavirus.
Natwest, which is owned by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L), said Monday it was setting up a £5bn working capital facility that would help small and medium sized businesses hit by the economic fallout from coronavirus.
New measures announced include emergency no-fee loans, loan repayment holidays of up to six months, emergency overdraft extensions, and help with cashflow on late invoices.
“The ongoing uncertainty that the UK’s small and medium sized businesses are experiencing is unprecedented even by recent standards,” said RBS chief executive Alison Rose.
The spread of coronavirus and efforts to contain it have caused huge economic disruption globally.
Factories across China were shut for weeks, disrupting supply chains, and the travel and tourism sector has seen a huge slump in demand. Over the weekend, Italy placed 16 million people under lockdown across northern regions in a bid to contain COVID-19.
“While many of our customers are yet to feel the direct impacts of Coronavirus, I want NatWest to have the right support in place, so we are there to help our SME customers when they need us most,” Rose said.
Natwest said staff would also provide advice and support to businesses hit by coronavirus, included targeted advice for individual sectors.
“This is a priority for NatWest and we will remain proactive, continuing to listen to our customers – we are here to support and can help businesses manage any short term disruption,” Rose said. “SMEs should not feel like they have to go through these uncertain times alone, we are here to help.”
Natwest introduced similar support schemes during recent floods and in the run up to Brexit.
Last week incoming Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey said the central bank may have to step in to provide emergency support to UK small businesses.
“I think it’s quite reasonable to expect that we are going to have to provide some form of supply chain finance, in the not very distant future now,” he told MPs.