International banks are suspending credit lines for some independent oil refiners worried about the growing risk of defaults across industries because of the coronavirus epidemic, Reuters reports, citing industry sources.
According to the sources, at least three private refiners, or teapots, have had credit lines to the tune of $600 million suspended by banks including French Natixis, Dutch ING, and Singapore DBS Group Holdings.
“All our applications for new open-account credits are frozen ... these clean credits are pivotal as we buy 6 to 8 million barrels of oil each month,” one source told Reuters.
Refiners, both private and state, have already reduced their run rates in response to the slump in fuel demand resulting from the outbreak, and now they have deepened these cuts, Bloomberg reported last week.
The average as of last Thursday was about 10 million bpd, down by 25 percent on the same time last year, when the average run rates were at a record high of close to 13 million bpd. Analysts expect the low run rates to continue at least until the end of this month, but if it spills into March, some refiners - notably independent refiners - will start experiencing a lack of storage space, too, after earlier this month they took advantage of low prices to stock up on crude.
Now, on top of that, the teapots that have accounted for a large portion of China’s increased thirst for oil that was instrumental in oil price recovery after the crisis, are having financing trouble.
“We were told by our banks that so long as the open-account credits are for oil heading to Shandong, it will be very hard chance winning approvals,” another Reuters source said.
The three refiners refused credit line extensions have combined oil import quotas of about 240,000 bpd, Reuters reports. If more banks become wary of defaults among refiners, this could hit imports over a longer term.