September 22, 2016 / 9:22 AM / 2 years ago

Saudi builder Binladin says government started to pay dues: paper

KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - The Saudi finance ministry has resumed payments to Saudi Binladin Group (SBG), the kingdom’s biggest construction firm, for its work on government projects, Saudi Okaz newspaper reported on Thursday, citing an adviser to the chairman.

Migrant workers, who work for Saudi Binladin Group, look for their names as they ask for a final settlement over salary issue, in Riyadh March 29, 2016. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

SBG was hard hit last year as low oil prices forced the government - its chief customer - to cancel or suspend projects and delay payments.

It was then barred from receiving new state contracts after one of its cranes toppled into Mecca’s Grand Mosque during a storm, killing 107 people, though that ban has now been lifted.

“With the series of payments to follow from the ministry of finance, the entire rights of 10,000 contractors, suppliers, traders that deal with SBG will be met,” adviser Abdullah Basodan told the newspaper.

He said SBG chairman Bakr Binladin had met employees to reassure them about the future of the company.

The firm has been the leading builder in the kingdom for several years, delivering a number of major buildings including the expansion of the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

But its lofty status has come under threat from government spending cuts and economic reforms as well as its temporary suspension from new state contracts.

A cash squeeze left it struggling under an estimated $30 billion in debt owed to local and international lenders, an amount large enough to cause potential stress for the Saudi banking system.

The company has laid off about 77,000 foreign workers and plans to cut thousands of jobs held by Saudi nationals, a local newspaper reported in May.

On Tuesday, sources told Reuters SBG had requested a second extension on an 817 million riyal ($218 million) Islamic loan being used to fund construction at the Grand Mosque.

Reporting by Reem Shamseddine; editing by Hadeel Al Sayegh and Adrian Croft

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