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UPDATE 2-S.Africa's Land Bank misses March deadline to conclude debt restructuring plan

* Land Bank is country’s agri-lender, with 28% market share

* The state bank has missed debt repayments since 2020

* Plan to spilt loan yet to be agreed by lenders (Adds financial details, comment from investor)

JOHANNESBURG, March 31 (Reuters) - South African cash-strapped Land and Agricultural Development Bank missed a March 31 deadline to conclude a debt restructuring plan with lenders, the state-owned company said on Wednesday.

In April 2020 the country’s largest agricultural-focussed lender defaulted on some repayments on its 50 billion-rand ($3.38 billion) debt, triggering credit downgrades and fears of cross default on the debt of other state firms.

The government stepped in, giving the Land Bank a bailout of 3 billion rand last year and 7 billion rand last month while the bank negotiated with a consortium of its lenders on a “liability solution” that would determined a new schedule of repayments.

The negotiations, which began in mid-2020, have stalled, with lenders complaining about lack of information and certainty in the proposals by the Land Bank.

“This date is not going to be met due to the need for the bank and its lenders / funders to incorporate a material change in the previous version of the liability solution,” the Land Bank said in a statement.

The Land Bank had initially asked lenders to term-out their loans into a single 5-year note. More recently it proposed splitting its loan book into a commercial and a development book.

Olga Constantatos, head of credit at Futuregrowth, which is an investor in the bank, told Reuters that “the degradation can be quick” if negotiations continued to drag.

Land Bank’s nonperforming loans (NPL) increased 23.6% in the nine months to December, with operating losses of 472 million rand.

“They gave us high-level numbers in the results ... but what’s missing is detailed information about the book and nonperforming loans,” said Constantatos.

“We’ve been asked to term-out maturity to five years but we need to know what the entity will look like in the future. We can’t just go there and say yes.”

The Land Bank did not give a new date for conclusion of the restructuring talks. It said, however, it would be able to meet the 352 million-rand payment due to British lender Standard Chartered Bank following a court order in December. ($1 = 14.7918 rand) (Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana in Johannesburg, Editing by Louise Heavens and Matthew Lewis)

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