COVID-19 LOAN / COVID-19 PLUS LOAN: DISCRIMINATION FOR COMMODITY TRADING COMPANIES

On March 25, the Federal Council adopted an emergency ordinance on granting of credits with joint and several federal guarantees. Bridging credit facilities representing a maximum of 10% of their annual turnover and no more than CHF 20 million. Credits of up to CHF 500,000 will be fully secured by the Confederation, and will be paid out quickly and with the minimum of bureaucracy. Zero interest will be charged. Credit application form: covid19.easygov.swiss
Bridging credits that exceed CHF 500,000 will be secured by the Confederation to 85% of their value; the lending bank will secure the remaining 15%. Each company can obtain a credit of this type for up to CHF 20 million, which means a more rigorous bank review will be required. The interest rate on these credits is currently 0.5% on the loan secured by the Confederation. Companies with a turnover of more than CHF 500 million are not covered by this programme.

Dear Members of LCTA,

we would like to inform you that in March/April we received several emails and phone calls from LCTA members complaining that the measures implemented by the Swiss Confederation discriminate against trading companies. On the one side, discrimination on the access criteria; on the other side, discrimination on the criteria to establish the amount to be assigned.

Access Criterion

In fact, the “emergency ordinance on granting credits with joint and several federal guarantees” adopted by the Federal Council is discriminating against small trading companies that are not big enough to face the crisis alone and that unfortunately are not small enough to be supported by Confederation. Matter-of-factly, companies with a turnover <500 M CHF has no right to be supported by Confederations for these specific credits/guarantees; as you know, we are talking about companies with big turnovers (>500 M CHF), very small margins and not more than 20-30 employees.

Loan Amount Criterion

Also criteria to establish the amount to be assigned to companies (Covid19 credit and Covid19 plus credit) have arisen some doubts regarding the treatment of trading companies. According to the Federal Ordinance (25.03.2020), in the case of trading companies the benchmark for granting a Covid19-loan is turnover, while according to the Swiss Banking Association point 22 of the “SBA Q&A” (as of 02.04.2020) the benchmark is gross margin*. Obviously, for a loan to a company with CHF 30 million in turnover, there is a big difference between 10% of turnover (or CHF 3 million) and the gross margin* (in optimistic cases around 2%, or CHF 0.6 million). In addition, there are general indications or obligations (“it is appropriate or mandatory”?).

It is also a question of consistency: if for trading companies the gross margin criterion is used instead of turnover, then the access criterion must also be based on the gross margin criterion and not on the turnover criterion. This is a double standard case.

Our association (STSA, LCTA and ZCA) wrote a letter to federal authorities as well as to the Swiss banking association in order do have an official reply. This is an important occasion to remember that not all trading companies are giants and that there is a relevant number of the operators that was and is still negatively affected by this Covid-crisis without having the same rights of other similar companies.

*For the “Commodity Trade Finance” sector, which turnover parameters should be taken into account? (New question published on March 31, 2020): Traders in principle have high turnover figures. The use of annual turnover as a benchmark could therefore result in disproportionate amounts of credit being granted. In order to comply with the actual purpose of the transitional credit programme, the gross margin / gross trade margin should therefore be used. The gross trade margin is also used to cover salary costs and fixed and variable expenses.

8 June 2020