By Powerscourt on 19/09/2020

Powerscourt Coronavirus Briefing – 19 September 2020


Now, we know it is a long game. The partial opening up of Europe over the summer was the half-time break. Right across the continent, regions and countries are going into lockdown as we get ready for the second wave.

Dublin is sort-of cut off from the rest of Ireland for three weeks. Regions of England and Spain are closing up.

Bruno La Maire, France’s finance minster is in isolation after testing positive.

A half term shutdown of leisure and hospitality across Britain is being mooted as part of a ‘circuit breaker’ strategy – perhaps firebreak is a better analogy – designed to arrest the alarming increase in infections across the country. Shares in airlines, hotel groups and pub chains fell yesterday as trade bodies called on the government to clarify its plans and ensure firms are not cut adrift.

There were 4,322 confirmed coronavirus cases announced in the UK yesterday – the first time that daily infections have topped 4000 for four months. The number of patients being treated in hospital rose above 1000 for the first time since July.

The Times says that the government will wait until the impact of the ‘rule of six’ shows up in the infection figures in little more than a week’s time before making any decisions. In the meantime, London mayor Sadiq Khan had said London’s coronavirus outbreak is only two weeks behind that of other regions on lockdown restrictions.

Reports of wild freshers’ week parties in British universities will not lighten the mood in Westminster. The Office for National statistics said there was clear evidence of increased positive tests in those aged 2 to 11 as well as 17 to 24-year-olds and 25 to 34-year-olds.

Retail sales climbed further above pre-pandemic levels last month, but economists warned that rising unemployment will undermine the recovery.

Asian shares rose into Friday after most global stock indices closed down on Thursday.




Retail & Consumer

Asda, the British supermarket arm of Walmart, plans to enter the fast-growing convenience stores market through a trial with petrol forecourt operator EG Group. Asda’s new convenience offer branded “Asda On the Move” will initially be trialled at EG Group fuel station forecourts in Ashby, Leamore and Primley in central England. Asda also said it would collaborate with home improvement group Kingfisher, trialing four “shop within a shop” compact B&Q stores within Asda superstores. The first two will open in Dagenham, east of London and Sheffield, northern England later this year.

Shareholders of Unilever in the Netherlands are expected to back plans to unify the consumer goods giant under a single parent company based in London. The result of an online vote will be released on Monday during an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting streamed online due to the coronavirus. Investors in British Unilever are due to vote on Oct. 12. If approved by both sides, Unilever hopes to unify on Nov. 22.



Ryanair has warned it may have to cut its winter flight schedule if demand for flying remains low amid travel restrictions across Europe. Ryanair now expects to fly 40 per cent of last year’s levels in October, down from the 50 per cent it had guided in August and its original target of 70 per cent. “If current trends and EU governments’ mismanagement of the return of air travel and normal economic activity continue, then similar capacity cuts may be required across the winter period,” the airline said on Friday.

Royal Mint
The Royal Mint will not make any new £2 or 2p coins for at least a decade because there are too many in circulation due to the falling demand for cash. The National Audit Office said that the Royal Mint was storing surplus coins far in excess of the Treasury’s target buffer of about 11 weeks’ supply.


Financials & Real Estate 

David Stevens and his wife, Heather, give £1,000 to each full-time employee of the insurance group and £500 to other staff members which equates to £10 million from his personal fortune. As he leaves the company he co-founded, Mr Stevens said: “Saying thank you to all the Admiral staff in this way is the right thing to do… I’m so proud and fortunate to have worked with such a special group of people. Their hard work and dedication has allowed Admiral to grow from a start-up with one brand, zero customers and 57 members of staff to a FTSE 100 company worth around £8 billion with multiple brands [and] millions of customers. And all of this while remaining a great place to work. Thank you from myself and my wife to everyone at Admiral.”

Companies House
Directors will be required to verify their identities with Companies House before they are appointed to a business under plans announced by the government to overhaul the system of checks for Britain’s register of companies. People who exercise significant ownership control over a company and anyone filing information on behalf of a company will also be forced to confirm their identity under the reforms, which will hand the register more power to scrutinise and reject information.

Natwest is considering closing part of Ulster Bank, one of the biggest lenders in Ireland. Alison Rose, who took over as Natwest’s chief executive in November, is pressing ahead with a review of the business, the Irish Times reported. This is partly in response to the extra pressure that Covid-19 has placed on the business. A spokeswoman said: “In the event of any changes being made to our strategy, these would be undertaken with full consideration of any impact on customers, colleagues and shareholders in the first instance. Our priority now is to continue to remain focused on supporting our customers and colleagues in these difficult times.”

London Stock Exchange Group
The London Stock Exchange Group has announced plans to sell its Italian business, Borsa Italiana, after naming its rival Euronext as the preferred bidder. LSEG said that it had received non-binding offers for Borsa Italiana and for its bond trading platform, MTS, from “several parties”. SIX, the operator of the Zurich stock exchange, reportedly made the highest sighting shot bid while Deutsche Börse also made an offer.



Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche said that late-stage trials of its coronavirus treatment showed that it reduced the likelihood of patients requiring mechanical ventilation. The study was the first late-stage global clinical trial to focus on populations often underrepresented in drug testing, with 85 per cent of the 389 patients coming from ethnic minorities, the majority of whom were Hispanic, the company said.



UK retail sales rise for fourth consecutive month – Financial Times

Boris Johnson warns Britain to prepare for second wave of coronavirus – The Times

Pubs and restaurants demand more help to avert ‘devastation’ – Telegraph