UPDATE 1-France ready to spend tens of billions to help firms 'in distress'

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PARIS, March 15 (Reuters) – France is ready to spend tens of billions of euros to help companies get through the economic fallout of the coronavirus outbreak, its finance minister said on Sunday.

“There will be all the money that is necessary. The state will be completely behind them.” Bruno Le Maire told France 2 television. “The economic actors are in complete distress.”

“The state will help everyone get through these difficult times and it will cost tens of billions of euros.”

Paris has already launched measures to help firms ranging from deferring tax payments and payroll charges, compensating companies who put workers on reduced schedules and offering loan guarantees through the public investment bank Bpifrance.

Le Maire said the government would do what is necessary to ensure that banks provide loans to companies that need it and on Monday would announce a series of measures to help firms.

Les Echos newspaper said that the government was preparing a plan of 30-40 billion euros ($33-44 billion) to support the economy, which could push the budget deficit above 3% of gross domestic output this year.

A finance ministry official said: “We don’t have any idea of the overall amount because we don’t know how long it will last.” ($1 = 0.9044 euros) (Reporting by John Irish; additional reporting by Leigh Thomas; editing by Marine Pennetier and Alexander Smith)

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