March 18, 2020 / 11:26 AM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-Oman central bank to offer $20 bln in extra liquidity

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DUBAI, March 18 (Reuters) - Oman’s central bank is preparing to provide some 8 billion Omani rials ($20.8 billion) in extra liquidity to banks as one of several measures aimed at supporting the economy, state TV reported, as coronavirus fears escalate in the Gulf region.

Oman, an oil-producing state, has reported 33 cases of coronavirus, and the outbreak looks set to hit the nascent non-oil sectors of its economy. Oman is also working on ways to reduce the impact of plunging oil prices on its precarious finances.

The $20 billion central bank liquidity measure follows similar moves by other Gulf banking regulators, which over the past few days have offered sizeable stimulus packages to shield their economies from the spread of the virus.

The Omani central bank has also asked banks to cut banking fees, adjust capital and credit ratios, and allow repayment postponements for up to six months, particularly for small and medium enterprises, the state news agency said on Wednesday.

It asked to facilitate lending particularly in sectors affected by the coronavirus, including healthcare, travel and tourism.

Meanwhile the Omani capital market authority ordered joint-stock companies and investment funds to refrain from holding ordinary general assemblies until further notice, the state news agency ONA reported.

The ministry of finance has cut by 5% the budget allocated to government agencies for 2020, according to two sources and a government circular seen by Reuters this week.

The decision was “in response to the financial challenges of the country”, a source at the finance ministry said.

$1 = 0.3849 Omani rials Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli and Aziz El Yaakoubi; Writing by Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Gareth Jones

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