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UPDATE 1-Swedish central bank to provide SEK 500 billion of liquidity to companies

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STOCKHOLM, March 13 (Reuters) - Sweden's central bank said on Friday it would lend up to 500 billion Swedish crowns ($51 billion) to Swedish companies via banks to ensure they have access to credit during the coronavirus epidemic.

The Riksbank said the virus would have clear negative effects on economic activity and that it was essential that efficient credit supply to companies was maintained.

"The measures taken in this situation should be regarded as a form of insurance that enables Swedish companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, to feel secure that the credit supply will not fail," Governor Stefan Ingves said in a statement.

The Riksbank said the loans would be granted at a rate equivalent to the Riksbank's repo rate, at present zero percent, with a maturity of 2 years.

The central bank said it would regularly follow up on the banks' lending to non-financial companies to ensure that the loans allocated to the banks were used to benefit the companies.

The Riksbank said it was prepared to take further measures and to supply necessary liquidity.

The European Central Bank rolled out yet another stimulus package on Thursday and offered a range of liquidity facilities aimed at businesses, which are likely to be hit hard by coronavirus.

The Riksbank held its benchmark rate unchanged at zero in February after ending nearly five years of negative rates at the end of 2019. ($1 = 9.7460 Swedish crowns) (Reporting by Johan Ahlander, Johannes Hellstrom and Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Catherine Evans and David Evans)