May 13, 2020 / 5:56 AM / 21 days ago

UPDATE 1-Kenya's KCB Group restructures 15% of loans due to coronavirus

(Adds industry numbers)

NAIROBI, May 13 (Reuters) - Kenya’s biggest lender, KCB Group, has restructured 80 billion shillings ($750 million) in loans, about 15% of its book, due to customers facing coronavirus-related hardships, its CEO told the Business Daily newspaper.

The central bank allowed lenders in the East African nation to offer relief to distressed customers in mid-March after the first case of the COVID-19 was reported. The seven top lenders have since restructured loans worth 176 billion shillings in loans, the central bank Governor Patrick Njoroge said last week.

The bulk of the restructured loans at KCB involve placing a moratorium on both interest and principal payments for three months, the group’s chief executive, Joshua Oigara, told the paper.

The impact will be felt on earnings from the first quarter through increased provisions for bad debts, he said. The central bank has offered some flexibility to banks when classifying loans that go bad due to the coronavirus crisis.

Kenya has reported 715 cases and 36 deaths from the new coronavirus. The crisis has shut down its vital tourism sector, hammered its fresh produce exports and severely disrupted other sectors like construction, trade and transportation.

Under the central bank’s initiative to offer relief to borrowers, struggling individuals and firms can take a three-month repayment holiday, lengthen the tenure of their loans, or opt to just pay the interest for a period of time.

The relief also applies to credit card debt and mortgages.

Standard Chartered Bank Kenya said last week it has restructured 6% of its loans, while Absa Kenya had earlier said it had restructured 4.25% of loans by mid-April.

$1 = 106.4500 Kenyan shillings Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Tom Hogue and Kim Coghill

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