By Powerscourt on 17/03/2020
Powerscourt Coronavirus Briefing – 17 March 2020
As the UK Government moves quickly to slow down the spread of infection, businesses have raced to buy themselves time. Furniture retailer ScS announced this morning that its results would be delayed while it reviews the impact of the Government’s latest advice.
We expect to see similar announcements in the coming days, while other businesses, particularly those in the leisure, hospitality and retail sectors, will likely make announcements about levels of working capital.
Already City Pub Co. has announced it has sufficient capital to maintain operations for at least six months while Compass has said it is working to protect cash and is proactively managing capital expenditure and working capital.
There is anger that the Government has not ordered leisure businesses to close. Destroying demand without a formal order to shut is going to leave firms in limbo with lenders, suppliers, landlords, insurers and local authorities they say.
In France, President Macron has vowed that no French business will go under because of social distancing. In the UK, the Chancellor is said to be planning a new rescue bail out for businesses.
With the Institute of Economic Affairs forecasting a six per cent contraction of the UK economy in the next three months many banks and building societies have agreed to give borrowers a holiday on mortgage payments if they are left are struggling.
Aldi has taken out full page newspaper advertisements to ask customers not to bulk buy. Stocks are replenished multiple times a day they say, warning that older customers don’t have the means to buy in bulk.
Following the lead of Iceland, Nationwide will trial opening up from 8am so that elderly and vulnerable people can manage their money before other customers arrive.
Dyson, Siemens UK and Unipart are among the engineering firms who have said that they are looking into how they can help with the Governments appeal for more ventilators.
H&M said that due to concerns about the transmission of the coronavirus via banknotes and coins it was limiting the number of tills accepting cash in its stores to one per floor as a precautionary measure.
WHAT ARE COMPANIES SAYING?
Consumer and Retail
City Pub Co
The Group published a COVID-19 update and said in order to ensure the Company “emerges out of the COVID-19 crisis in stronger yet leaner shape, management is taking a highly prudent approach with a number of proactive measures to reduce costs and preserve cash”. The Company reassured that it had sufficient working capital to maintain its operations for at least another six months without further capital, even in the event the Government extends its current guidance and mandates a temporary closure of all pubs and bars.
The contract catering company released a trading update where it announced that the containment measures across Europe had affected their expectations for Half Year results. The company said they were working to protect cash flow and are pro-actively managing capital expenditure and working capital.
One of the UK’s largest retailers of upholstered furniture and floorings announced that the Group’s full interim results will be delayed. They explained “this is as a result of yesterday’s changes to the UK government policy in relation to the COVID- 19 virus”. The Company expects to be able to release its full interim results before the end of the week.
The British Honey Company
The premium British Honey and Infused Spirits brand, announced that it has received permission from HMRC to produce denatured alcohol and will now utilise its excess capacity to produce alcohol sanitisers at its distillery following a national shortage of alcohol based sanitiser products caused by the spread of Covid-19, coronavirus.
To date, the Group’s trading has not been impacted materially by COVID-19.
Following the implementation of new measures in France and Spain to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, Airbus said in a statement this morning that they have decided to temporarily pause production and assembly activities at its French and Spanish sites across the Company for the next four days. This will allow sufficient time to implement stringent health and safety conditions in terms of hygiene, cleaning and self-distancing, while improving the efficiency of operations under the new working conditions. In those countries, the Company will also continue to maximise homeworking wherever possible.
Stobart Group has confirmed that talks have been held regarding the potential sale of a stake in London Southend Airport. The company has been in detailed discussions for “several months” regarding an initial minority investment of 25% from a strategic airport development partner, indicating a headline value for the hub of between £700 and 800m. However, no acceptable terms have been agreed and discussions have since been put on hold while both parties navigate the current Covid-19 outbreak.
Financials and Real Estate
Nationwide has become the first high street bank to offer extended opening hours for older customers and those with underlying health conditions. From 18 March, more than 100 branches across the UK will open from 8am, instead of the usual 9am, in a trial to determine whether it is an effective way of providing support to people aged 70 and above and those with underlying health conditions during the coronavirus outbreak.
The British department store has asked landlords for an immediate five-month rent holiday because of the likely impact of coronavirus on trading.
Royal London announced their results this morning and said that their “robust capital position means we do not expect the virus to have any material long-term impact on their business.
IN THE NEWS
UK to launch business rescue package to fight coronavirus fallout – Financial Times
European markets slip after early rally swiftly loses steam – Financial Times
Coronavirus: UK to unveil new financial measures to support economy – BBC