By Powerscourt on 20/07/2020

Powerscourt Coronavirus Briefing – 20 July 2020


European countries are locked in a three-day summit over Europe’s proposed EUR750 billion package of support for economies affected by the pandemic. The stumbling blocks are money, with “frugal” Northern European states trying to curb spending, and an attempt by leaders to embed respect for human rights into the package.

As Europe wrangles with the summit and the US death toll mounts, the impact of the virus is shifting to the global South and particularly to Latin America and Africa.

In Brazil, health workers are reported to have taken the virus to indigenous communities. Over 1,000 doctors and nurses who work for a field service called Sesai which serves Amazon indigenous communities have tested positive for the virus. The World Health Organisation, meanwhile, has expressed concern about the impact on Africa, with cases more than doubling in a month in 22 out of 54 countries.

In the UK, while infection rates for now appear low, there are continuing challenges to the government’s ability to maintain visibility over the virus. The test and trace programme hit a hitch when a data protection NGO, the Open Rights Group, told the BBC that the programme may have breached GDPR regulations.

Meanwhile, Scotland, which has had lower infection levels than England and a stricter lockdown regime, on Sunday reported 23 new cases of COVID 19 with a jump in cases for a second day. Health officials are investigating an apparent outbreak of coronavirus at a test and trace centre in Motherwell, Scotland.

The setbacks come a few days after Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister, said he hoped not to have to impose a second lockdown on the country.  Sir Ian Diamond, the head of the Office for National Statistics, told Sky News on Sunday that the lifting of national restrictions a few weeks ago had not led to a spike in cases so far, but he said that keeping the progress at this level would depend on the behaviour of the population in Autumn.

The UK has become the first country to sign up for a supply of an experimental vaccine being produced by Germany’s BioNTech and pharma giant Pfizer. BioNTech, one of the companies with the most advanced vaccine candidates, has said it hopes to have a candidate ready for approval by the end of the year.




Industrials & Transport 

Pharmaceutical giant GSK announced today that it has acquired 10 per cent of Curevac, a privately owned German vaccine company, for £130 million. As part of the deal, it has signed a “strategic collaboration agreement” for the research, development, manufacturing and commercialisation of up to five vaccines targeting infections disease pathogens. The agreement is based around mRNA technology, described as a “rapidly progresssing, cutting-edge platform for the development of new vaccines and medicines”. The statement also says that GSK will fund R&D at CureVac related to these projects, and that GSK will be responsible for development beyond Phase 1 trials.

The AIM listed respiratory drug development company announced in a statement that a drug that it was developing, SNG001, had seen positive results in hospitalised Covid-19 patients. The data showed a 79% reduction in patients developing severed disease or death, with those on SNG001 more than twice as likely to recover over the treatment period than those on the placebo. The company also noted that there was no evidence of any association between the SNG001 positive treatment effects, and how long the individual had been suffering with Covid-19 symptoms.


Financials & Real Estates

Amigo Holdings
The guarantor loans business reported in its full year results that its impairment revenue ratio is up to 38.5% compared to 23.7% last year, as a result of the “material impact” of Covid-19. The company said that following the outbreak of the pandemic, it granted a “payment holiday” to approximately 47,000 customers. It also said that it would not be paying a dividend in efforts to conserve cash and “maximise financial flexibility.” The company has also felt the impact of pausing new lending as a result of Covid-19 and in its financial statement it said that while there has been “minimal impact” on performance, it has seen a reduction in the net loan book of 9.1% compared to the previous year. 

Julius Baer
The Swiss private bank reported a 43% rise in net profit to SFr491 million on Monday, with earnings per share up 45%. CEO Philipp Rickenbacher said “with the full economic impact of Covid-19 still ahead of us, we are confident that we are well prepared for a challenging second half of the year”. In February he announced a move for the bank away from asset gathering, which included 300 job cuts and plans to end relationships with clients that were no longer profitable. 



The STEM recruitment business said in its half year results announcement that it had seen an 8% fall in revenue and a 48 fall in profit, driven by a combination of Covid-19 impact and strategic investment. The company said it was pleased with the “resilience” of the business and that the focus remains to position the business to achieve its “strategic ambitions”. The statement also highlighted its strong balance sheet and net cash position with access to further debt funding if required. 

Gamma Communications
The UK telecoms business reported in a pre-close trading update that it expects to beat consensus estimates for the first half, despite Covid-19. The company pointed to recent acquisitions of Voz Telecom and HFO holdings in the last few months, with integrations on track. It said that it was continuing to look at additional acquisition opportunities , having recently acquired GnTel, a small Cloud PBX provider. It said that its financial model has remained robust with 93% of revenue recurring and billed monthly but that it had seen some impact in SIP Trunks, CLoud PBX and UCaaS where it offered a “hibernation” option to customers who were not trading. 



EU leaders in push to unlock deal on coronavirus recovery fund – Financial Times

Insurers braced for ruling on refusal to pay Covid claims – The Times

Coronavirus: UK secures early access to 90 million COVID-19 vaccine doses – Sky News