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    News

    State firms seek lifeline

    Posted Date: 2009-02-02 21:43:32
    By Bangkok post

    Banks may be asked for B200bn in loans
    By: WICHIT CHANTANUSORNSIRI and PRADIT RUANGDIT
    Published: 3/02/2009 at 12:00 AM
    Newspaper section: News
    The Finance Ministry will ask the cabinet on Tuesday to let it approach major local banks to set up a 200-billion-baht short-term loan fund for cash-starved state enterprises.

    Many state agencies have found short-term funding difficult to source as local banks tighten lending and reduce loan lines over mounting concerns at the extent of the economic recession.

    Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the cabinet would need to consider the general details of the fund plan before approving it.

    He said the government was not considering seeking loans from overseas in the short term but would be looking to borrowings in the fourth quarter. Things could change however if the economy remains highly volatile.

    Mr Abhisit said the government needed to be sure the country had sufficient cash at its disposal.

    Possible foreign lending sources include the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank, the prime minister said.

    If cabinet approves the approach to local banks for the 200-billion-baht fund, it will help the state enterprises ease their liquidity problems.

    The short-term facility is the first of its kind ever used by the Finance Ministry.

    Alternatively, state enterprises could use the facility for bridge financing while the Finance Ministry arranged a longer-term loan.

    The Finance Ministry's Public Debt Management Office, which is responsible for managing the financing needs of government agencies, will arrange short-term credit lines from one month to 18 months.

    The ministry will call bids from local commercial banks plus the Government Savings Bank to provide the 200-billion-baht loan as a stand-by credit.

    A ministry source said the short-term facility should help to spread and limit the risk involved in domestic borrowing by state enterprises.

    The loan arrangement will cover 12 state enterprises seeking investment loans, including Thai Airways International, the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority, the Provincial Waterworks Authority, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority, the State Railway of Thailand and the National Housing Authority.

    "For state enterprises which are seeking loans and cannot raise money from the markets, the facility should come in handy," the source said.

    Areepong Phucha-um, director of the State Enterprise Policy Office, said the overall financial standing of state enterprises remained strong, although some had been hit by the global financial meltdown.

    The office will monitor the performance of each state enterprise closely to ensure quick solutions for them.

    Records to Sept 30 last year showed the combined assets of all 58 state enterprises amounted to about 6.8 trillion baht and their combined liability was put at about 5.1 trillion baht.

    Their combined capital stood at about 1.7 trillion baht, Mr Areepong said.

    He said most state enterprises have enjoyed steady growth with high financial stability.

    Debt to equity levels at state enterprises that are not financial institutions have been low and tend to keep falling, partly because of strict borrowing controls imposed by the ministry.

    Mr Areepong said borrowings by cash-strapped state enterprises were meant to keep their normal operations running.These state enterprises are now deep in debt because they had been forced to keep their service charges lower than their real operational costs. They had also been hit by the economic problems and expensive fuel prices.

    Mr Areepong was confident the debt burdens of the state enterprises should improve soon, given the drop in oil prices, their rehabilitation plans and the government's plan to subsidise their public services

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