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Tuesday, 16 February 2021

CBE ups maximum draw from tourism support fund as it winds down + issues new rules on lending to real estate developers.

Tourism wage support initiative to end on 30 June — or when the pot is empty. A program by the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) to give tourism companies access to subsidized lines of credit to cover wages, maintenance expenses, and operating costs is due to run its course at the end of June, two weeks later than previously planned. The cut-off date could come sooner if the EGP 3 bn allocated by the CBE runs out, according to a circular to local banks. Companies are also now no longer tied to six months’ worth of salary payments and can take out up to EGP 30 mn each to cover wages following changes outlined in the circular. They would be allowed up to EGP 40 mn if they have subsidiaries or other “related parties.”

Background: The central bank’s bailout program was part of its far-reaching stimulus program in the early days of the covid-19 pandemic as a scheme that existed pre-covid and saw EGP 50 bn available in affordable financing for tourism infrastructure work was expanded back in March 2020. This allowed access to non-investment loans to pay wages, supplier commitments, and maintenance.

GOOD NEWS FOR THE REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY: The CBE is now allowing banks to finance homes that would be built under revenue-sharing models, it said in a separate circular. Banks were previously only told to greenlight loans for developers that own the land or had been allocated it directly by the state. Now, changes to financing regulations for real estate developers will allow loans to residential projects where a developer partners with a state-owned or private company that would own the land, provided all parties are sufficiently creditworthy.

Banks were also instructed to get the developers to open escrow accounts to collect payments from homebuyers and a separate account for project-related expenses. This came after the CBE said it would ensure real estate developers stick to advertised construction and delivery timelines and use bank financing for nothing other than the project.

Another change allows banks to finance land installment payments. This will be possible only if a developer is facing liquidity shortages, the project is on land owned by a state body, and the developer’s cash-flow and financial position ensures repayments.

Who benefits? Real estate developers engaged in revenue-sharing projects with the government as bank financing will ease some of the pressure on liquidity amid challenging sector conditions and allow them to meet scheduled deliveries. Among the EGX-listed beneficiaries, HC Securities said in a research note, are private sector players including Palm Hills (for projects including Badya and Palm Hills New Cairo), TMG (Capital Gardens City), Sodic (for its revenue-sharing project with Heliopolis Housing Sodic East), and Orascom Development Egypt (for O West).

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