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Coronavirus-hit businesses offered loan assistance

Westpac Group has announced a range of support measures for business customers financially affected by the coronavirus outbreak, including loan deferrals and extensions.

The major bank said the measures will be available to eligible customers immediately and will remain in place for customers financially affected by the coronavirus outbreak for an initial period of three months.

The support measures for business customers affected by the coronavirus outbreak include:

  • Business loan deferred repayments for up to three months;
  • Option to extend business loan term by up to three months;
  • Restructuring and consolidating loans;
  • Business financial counselling access;
  • Fee free redraws;
  • Access to term deposit funds without reduction in interest rate; and
  • Deferred payments for business credit cards

Westpac Group business division chief executive, Guil Lima, said various industries and businesses have started to feel the impacts of the outbreak, adding it was unclear when businesses might return to normal.

“This is an extremely difficult period for some Australian businesses,” Mr Lima said.

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“We want our customers in any affected sectors to know there’s a range of ways we are ready to support them.

“These initiatives aim to provide practical and meaningful support for eligible impacted customers. If your business has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak, please get in touch with us to see how we can help.”

The bank also said the amount of support will depend on customer demand, and the group will modify the measures as time goes on.

Mr Lima said: “Our thoughts are with everyone who has been, and continues to be affected during what is a difficult and emotionally challenging time, and it’s important our customers know we are here to help”.

The coronavirus outbreak, which began in December last year, has so far claimed over 1,000 lives in China, with the number of infected cases growing to over 42,600.

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Global companies and businesses reliant on the supply chains rooted in China are feeling the impacts on their business.

BetaShares chief economist David Bassanese recently provided analysis on how the coronavirus may impact the Australian economy and stated the outbreak could drag Australia’s GDP growth close to zero for this quarter, and the situation could worsen before it improves.

He said tourism accounts for 3 per cent of GDP, out of which China accounts for around 20 per cent, or 0.6 per cent of GDP. He said a halving of Chinese tourism numbers over a quarter could slash 0.3 per cent from quarterly GDP growth.

Westpac’s latest support measures for businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak extends the support it is offering customers who have been impacted by the bushfires as part of its extended Bushfire Recovery Support Package.

Westpac initially announced a Bushfire Fund, for which it provided $1.5 million. This included:

  • $300,000 to state-based volunteer fire services to continue to support the emergency workers on the front line;
  • $250,000 to the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal to provide grants to impacted communities to support recovery and rebuild efforts; and
  • $100,000 to the Victoria Bushfire Appeal.

The big four bank then announced additional relief to customers, business and the broader community affected by the bushfire crisis.

Among these measures was a commitment by Westpac to spare its mortgage customers that have lost their principal place of residence due to the bushfires for their repayment obligations for a year. The bank had said it will cover repayments of up to $1,200 per month.

Some of the other measures included:

  • interest-free home loans for customers to cover the gap between insurance payouts and rebuilding costs, approved subject to Westpac’s credit criteria ($250 million allocation);
  • up to $2,000 in emergency cash grants for customers whose residential properties or businesses have been destroyed or damaged by the bushfires ($3 million allocation, up from $500,000);
  • a grant of up to $15,000 to assist small businesses with the cost of refurbishing premises that have been destroyed during the bushfires;
  • 83 per cent three-year variable rate rebuilding loans for business customers of up to $1 million ($1 billion allocation);
  • no foreclosures for three years on any farming businesses in bushfire-ravaged locations; and
  • fast-tracked credit approvals to provide short-term assistance for businesses.

[Related: Bushfire crisis drives down consumer sentiment]

Coronavirus-hit businesses offered loan assistance
Westpac
mortgagebusiness

Malavika Santhebennur

Malavika Santhebennur is the features editor on the mortgages titles at Momentum Media.

Before joining the team in 2019, Malavika held roles with Money Management and Benchmark Media. She has been writing about financial services for the past six years.

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