Picture: THE TIMES
Picture: THE TIMES

The country’s biggest lenders have clammed up over their exposure to South Africa Airways (SAA), which received a R2.3bn Treasury bail-out at the weekend after UK bank Standard Chartered refused to extend its loans to the insolvent airline. Other debts of about R6.7bn were due to mature on Friday but SAA managed to roll over the loans, buying it some time as it grapples with losses said to be R370m a month.

Investec head of investor relations Ursula Nobrega confirmed the bank had exposure to SAA, but would not divulge the amount. Standard Bank and Nedbank refused to comment, citing client confidentiality.

Standard & Poor’s country analyst Gardner Rusike was also unavailable, but in its decision to downgrade SA in April, S&P highlighted the threat of rising contingent liabilities from state-owned enterprises, in particular Eskom and SAA.

"SAA … may be unable to obtain financing without additional government support," it said then, warning of "higher risks of budgetary slippage" that would drive up SA’s cost of capital, hindering growth.

SAA’s liabilities were R19.1bn as of February. According to its 2016 annual report, it has R5.01bn debt due within two to five years and R1.5bn more in credit that has to be repaid after five years.

The Treasury has drawn ire for failing to attach conditions to the bail-out although Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Monday he would set "strict conditions" for the turnaround‚ which would be overseen by a Treasury task team.

Gigaba said he had a certain time frame to explain the bail-out to Parliament. "We have not affected the fiscal framework in any way‚" he said.

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