By Powerscourt on 17/08/2020
Powerscourt Coronavirus Briefing – 17 August 2020
The UK is pushing to help provide economic support for workers affected by coronavirus into the autumn, investigating whether it can offer state-backed loans to debt-laden private equity companies, who are currently forbidden under EU rules from receiving state support.
The move aims to provide support for a clutch of UK high street chains, among them Pizza Express, Prezzo and Merlin, to keep employees at firms exposed to the crisis in work.
With 750,000 job losses in the UK since the start of the crisis and nearly a million people working in private equity backed industries, the government is trying to protect as many people as possible
With the British health service still struggling effectively to monitor the spread of the virus in the way it promised at the start of the crisis, a blame game has erupted between different arms of the British government over where the buck stops for test and trace across the UK.
This week Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health, will announce a merger of Public Health England’s pandemic response team with NHS Test and Trace. Ahead of a public inquiry into whether failings occurred in the Government’s response to the pandemic, officials are jockeying to avoid blame, but critics, including a former UK health secretary Andrew Lansley, have questioned whether a reshuffle of different departments is the best way to resolve this. The UK government is still mired in a crisis over a continuing fiasco over examination grades which has seen results for millions of A level students arbitrarily downgraded.
European countries are trying different strategies to prevent local resurgences growing into a full-blow second European wave. France is planning to propose that masks be worn in all shared workspaces after recording more than 3,000 new infections for a second day in a row. Spain has restricted bars and nightclubs and banned the drinking of alcohol in public. Italy, formerly the European epicentre of the virus, has also introduced curbs after seeing its cases rise.
New Zealand, formerly the poster child for effective management of coronavirus, has recorded 13 new cases, prompting the government to delay the election by four weeks.
As countries around the world approach the start of a new academic year in fraught circumstances, officials around the world are exploring whether outdoor classes could be a good short-term approach for getting children back to work. School authorities in Seattle, Massachusetts, Detroit and Vermont in the US are considering holding outside classes for the first few weeks of term. Saudi Arabia has mandated that its public schools system will teach all classes outside for the first seven weeks of the school year.
WHAT ARE COMPANIES SAYING?
Retail & Consumer
The UK food producer said in its first quarter trading update today that revenue for the first 13 weeks of the year was up 24.8% against the same period last year (19.2% excluding contribution from acquisitions). The company said that its “robust financial position and strong trading” had allowed it to continue to operate throughout the lockdown period within banking covenants and without any Government assistance. It also noted that enhanced safety measures had been introduced in March enabling all its sites to remain operational and meet increased demand, and that all site-based colleagues had received a £500 bonus to recognise their “valued contribution throughout the pandemic”.
The Eurotunnel operator said today that more than 30,000 passengers boarded its trains over the weekend to avoid the UK Government deadline for quarantining on return from France. As of 4am on Saturday, anyone returning from France now has to self-isolate for 14 days, which led to the surge in passengers on Friday. The company said it had 30% more leisure traffic than anticipated on Friday, adding an extra 22 trains to its usual service.
Financial Services & Real Estate
The UK listed guarantor loans provider announced this morning that it had secured an additional extension of the securitisation facility performance trigger waiver period, to 18 December. The company said that this maintains its existing facility with its lenders, but reduces the size from £300 million to £250 million. It also confirmed that “all cash generation arising from customer loans held within the facility” will be used to further reduce the outstanding balance. This follows the previous extension to 14 August 2020, announced on 27 July 2020. The facility was drawn at £199 million on the date of renewal.
IN THE NEWS
UK looks to extend bailout loans to private equity-owned groups – Financial Times
Resurgent UK housing market at decade high – The Times
A-level grades ‘drop below three-year average’, new analysis suggests – BBC News