The Investment and Foreign Trade Bank (Bice) is the instrument that the national government is using to channel aid to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the financial system.
Its president, José Ignacio de Mendiguren, and several bank officials, had a virtual hand-in-hand with members of the Industrial Union of Córdoba (UIC) to explain the available tools and how to access them. “We want the operation to be more fluid and that is why we are listening to the industrialists,” said De Mendiguren.
From the UIC, Marcelo Uribarren collected the concerns of the people of Córdoba. Beyond working capital lines, there were requests to advance project financing and export.
In this framework, the head of the Bice told La Voz the vision of the entity and how it is working at the moment.
–What changed for Bice in the midst of this crisis?
–The crises pass and the bank is not going to abandon the strategic objective of productive development. This bank must fulfill the functions of analyzing productive projects. Brazil has a bank that lends only to investment for the equivalent of nine percent of gross domestic product (GDP), in Germany it is 14 percent. In Argentina, all loans in the financial system do not reach 13 percent of GDP.
–When this is overcome, they aim at that objective.
–If the Government, in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, decided to help the productive sector in 850 billion pesos, we are convinced that, once this situation is over, the trend of helping development will deepen.
–Now we are more focused on keeping SMEs alive. Bice established a line of up to 10 million pesos at 19 percent for working capital, 12 months, with a guarantee from the Reciprocal Guarantee Societies (SGR); or 18 months, at 24 percent, with six months grace.
–Only SMEs members of an SGR can access only?
–In this first stage, to go fast, we are doing it through an SGR. We are still serving companies that are not in that system, but it costs a little more. This is a small bench and you have to accommodate the structure. To get an idea, historically, our call center attended between 10 and 12 calls per day; now we have 1,200.
–What amount is going to be disbursed in this line?
–We had a forecast of placing one billion pesos in April, for more than three thousand companies. We already have almost 400 million pesos that are under analysis and in the next few days they will be disbursed. If we meet this objective, the intention is to increase the amounts in the coming months. This is in addition to the guarantees that we are granting.
–How do guarantees work?
–The Ministry of Productive Development created the Argentine Guarantee Fund (Fogar), a trust that Bice manages. It is a tool to guarantee the 24 percent credits that SMEs can take in banks for working capital. The State has already deposited 30 billion that allows financing up to 120 billion pesos in wages. With this, almost 40 percent of the wage bill that the productive sector needs to pay can be guaranteed.
–Is Bice going to operate in the capital market again?
–We are going to increase the tools to be in the market. We are rehabilitating division factoring and leasing. Discounting bills and buying checks is a priority.
–What did you say to the industrialists in Córdoba?
–On the one hand, we wanted to convey to you the political decision that SMEs should not fall. We are going to act without giving priority to the fiscal deficit, but to activity. I am a textile; in March we billed something, but in April the billing went to zero. Under these conditions we cannot pay wages or taxes. On the other hand, we are having a hard time coming up with the mechanisms, so we want to know the specific problems to give answers. I admit that everything seems little and slow. But the decision to help is there.
–What about export financing?
–This is one of the first objectives that we set ourselves before the pandemic. The export pre-financing rate, which was at 15 percent, was lowered to 6.5 percent. Argentina needs dollars and it is important to assist companies with export experience, especially SMEs.
Pandemic assistance: Lines in force
Working Capital. Up to $ 10 million is financed to SMEs with a guarantee from an SGR, at 12 months with 19%.
Bank credits. For working capital in the amount of up to a payroll.
Exports. Operations were extended on the lines in force.
The original text of this article was published on 04/27/2020 in our printed edition.