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UPDATE 1-NatWest taps 5 billion pounds in Bank of England COVID funds

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LONDON, Sept 10 (Reuters) - State-backed bank NatWest Group tapped 5 billion pounds ($6.47 billion) from a Bank of England fund set up to support lending to struggling small businesses in the pandemic, BoE data on Thursday showed.

NatWest has been the biggest user of the so-called ‘TFSME’ scheme so far, which has extended 14.3 billion pounds of cheap funding to lenders near the rock bottom BoE interest rate of 0.1%.

Nationwide Building Society drew down the second largest amount, at 3.2 billion pounds, followed by Santander’s UK unit at 2.5 billion pounds.

Relative minnow the Coventry Building Society has drawn 1.5 billion pounds from the scheme, while Britain’s biggest domestic bank Lloyds has drawn only 1 billion pounds so far.

The TFSME scheme was launched in April by the BoE in anticipation of financial pressure on banks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It followed an earlier TFS scheme launched after the UK’s Brexit referendum, also designed to boost cheap lending. ($1 = 0.7732 pounds) (Reporting by Iain Withers, editing by Huw Jones)

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