Turkey’s top banks take measures on loans, health for clients

Turkey’s top banks said they were acting on a government request to support the economy as consumers and businesses struggled with the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Akbank, Garanti BBVA and İşbank, the biggest listed Turkish banks, said customers could delay capital and interest payments on loans due by April 30 until the end of June.

Adnan Bali, chief executive officer of İşbank, said in a statement his firm was easing debt repayment terms for companies and individuals under an economic support programme promoted by the government. The bank is also extending overdrafts for firms should they pledge not to lay off staff, he said.

Turkish Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said on Monday that he believed private banks would follow the lead of state-run lenders and support the government’s efforts to keep lending flowing to the economy and to ease the cost of debt repayments. Cases of the coronavirus in Turkey rose to 1,529, the government said late on Monday, from 1,236 the previous day.

Garanti BBVA said it was also loosening limits on daily cash withdrawals to 5,000 liras ($770) and for payments on contactless credit cards to 250 liras, a step it said would help curb the virus’s spread. Akbank said it was doing the same.

Both Garanti and Akbank said they were increasing the disinfection of branches to help render them safe for visitors. The also said they were giving clients the opportunity to use cash machines via a QR code, meaning they did not need to touch potentially infected screens and keypads.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced 100 billion liras of emergency measures last week to help the economy deal with the coronavirus, including doubling financial support for struggling firms via a credit guarantee scheme to 50 billion liras. The steps also comprised delaying sales tax and social security payments for businesses.