By Powerscourt on 05/09/2020
Powerscourt Coronavirus Briefing – 05 September 2020
It is the week that has seen many children in the UK return to school but according to ONS data, they are not alone as some 50% of UK workers returned to the office by the last week of August, up from 30% in June. This will please the Prime Minister who encouraged companies to reopen workplaces, particularly in cities where lockdown measures have hit the hardest.
Figures out from Public Health England have revealed that two thirds of confirmed infections are now to be found in those under 40 years old, while numbers have dropped off in the older generations, raising hopes that deaths can be kept low and the need for further lockdowns could be reduced.
There were further woes however for the UK high street as data published by the British Retail Consortium pointed to high street retail footfall plummeting in August with a 42% drop compared with the same period last year.
Big news out of Russia as controversial Sputnik V COVID vaccine is reported to have generated a strong immune response in all participants during the initial trials without any “serious adverse effects”. The studies, conducted across 76 participants, indicate that the trial generated levels of antibodies up to 1.5 times higher than in patients recovering from COVID-19. Initial results from the fast-tracked phase 3 trials are expected in October or November. However, optimism that a vaccine could be on its way was tempered by other developers who criticised the news, arguing that no data had been published on the vaccine and that this expedited process may not be effective when rolled out in a mass-scale immunisation programme.
The party scene has returned in China, reports the FT, with people shedding their face masks as bars, nightclubs and beach venues across the country are filling up following months of strict pandemic controls. Last weekend hundreds in the capital attended a beachfront music festival at Beidaihe. Party-goers had to scan their government designed track and trace apps and have their temperatures taken but, once inside, they could throw caution to the wind and forget about the global epidemic with revelers in Beijing believing that they had earned the “freedom to party” following the strict social distancing measures enforced since late January.
In corporate news flow, European equity markets took a further hit as the global sell off in the tech sector took hold. Better than expected US data saw the US dollar strengthen while concerns over the progress levels in Brexit negotiations continued to weigh on Sterling. The housebuilders were hit on news out of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that it plans to take a deeper look into the impact of leaseholds on consumers. Virgin Atlantic is set to cut 1,150 jobs, following on from the 3,000 cuts made earlier in the year, as part of a £1.2bn rescue plan to save the transatlantic carrier.
WHAT ARE COMPANIES SAYING?
Fauchon, famous for its eclairs, foie gras, truffles, and fine wines, is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic and months of social unrest in Paris. “All demonstrations in Paris seem to start or finish at La Madeleine, and each time we need to close shop. Then there were the strikes around Christmas, our peak period, then came Covid, which was the final blow,” Fauchon executive Justine Klar said. It has warned its 107 staff at La Madeleine there will be job cuts and is negotiating redundancy terms with unions.
Pearson, a former conglomerate that is now the world’s biggest education publisher, appointed Andy Bird as CEO. The Times reported that Glass Lewis, the influential adviser, recommended that investors reject the pay package which includes a $9 million “golden hello” and a $240,000 annual allowance for a New York apartment, at the vote next week.
Reuters reported that Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary’s proposed 458,000 euro ($540,600) annual bonus came under fire on Friday, as an influential investor advisory firm urged shareholders to oppose the package in a non-binding vote later this month. Ryanair declined to comment on the voting recommendation.
Virgin Atlantic announced 1,150 more job cuts on Friday due to the coronavirus crisis, saying its 1.2 billion pound rescue deal alone was not enough to secure its future. Chief Executive Shai Weiss said, “after the sacrifices so many of our people have made, further reducing the number of people we employ is heart-breaking but essential for survival.”
Nationwide Accident Repairs group
c.2,300 jobs have been saved after Nationwide Accident Repairs group, bodyshops and repair vans group, was partially rescued by Redde Northgate in a pre-pack administration. Under the terms of the deal Redde Northgate will buy 77 of the company’s 102 bodyshops as well as a fleet of mobile repair vans for up to £16 million. The deal will result in the loss of up to 500 jobs.
Financials & Real Estate
London Capital & Finance
Administrators of the collapsed investment firm London Capital & Finance have begun legal action against 13 executives as they seek to recover losses (c. £178 million) on behalf of thousands of ordinary investors.
IN THE NEWS
Russia’s coronavirus vaccine safe but needs further tests, say UK scientists – Telegraph
US unemployment rate drops to 8.4% as labour market rebounds further – Financial Times
Housebuilders facing action for alleged mis-selling of leasehold homes – The Times
Extra QE could combat hit from Covid and Brexit – The Times