By Powerscourt on 05/10/2020

Powerscourt Coronavirus Briefing – 05 October 2020


President Trump’s condition has inspired levels of Kremlinology and suspicion not seen since the last days of the Soviet Union.

The President took a short and stage-managed drive away from Walter Reed Medical Centre on Sunday to greet supporters, apparently designed to reassure the world of his resilience on day three after his diagnosis with COVID-19.

But this, alongside various short videos posted to Twitter, have done little to assuage concerns generated by numerous pieces of more pessimistic evidence emerging about his condition.

It was reported over the weekend that among the cocktail of drugs the President is taking is dexamethasone, a steroid which is so far the only drug proven to reduce mortality in very sick COVID-19 patients by calming the immune system after it has gone into overdrive.

Separately, the New York Times reported that President Trump received a positive coronavirus test a day before his official diagnosis was confirmed. Several reports over the weekend also cited sources saying that the President’s oxygen levels had dropped significantly in the early hours after he was diagnosed.

Meanwhile another week, another fine mess for the UK’s test and trace system as numbers continue to spiral upwards. It was revealed late yesterday evening that more than 15,000 positive COVID-19 cases have become lost in the UK’s tracking systems, resulting in delays in processing by handlers.

This means that tens of thousands of people who should have been told to self-isolate after coming into contact with an infected person were not contacted for up to 10 days after transmission.

Over the weekend the UK reported a jump of over 12,000 confirmed coronavirus case on Saturday and an eyewatering rise of 23,000 on Sunday. Even without the testing glitches, its clear that the restrictions that the UK government has progressively imposed on the nation over the past month are not making a significant dent on the high infection rates in certain parts of the country.

The infection rate in Manchester, for example, has risen more than 15-fold since local restrictions were implemented. When asked by Andrew Marr on Sunday why the restrictions had not impacted regions in the North West, the Prime Minister said it was “too early to tell”. 

For now, coronavirus in the UK reflects a North/South divide, with infection rates in the North East and North West significantly higher than those in the capital. But both Madrid and Paris have been subject to stricter lockdowns amid soaring numbers. Now New York is heading in the same direction. Mayor Bill de Blasio has asked for permission to tighten restrictions in nine neighbourhoods which have seen a surge in numbers.

The head of the UK vaccines taskforce, Kate Bingham, said in an interview with the Financial Times that less than half the UK’s population could expect to be vaccinated against the virus. Bingham told the paper that people under the age of 18 would not be vaccinated. Her comments appear to contradict the widespread perception that a vaccine will liberate people to return to business as usual, and also suggests that there is a lack of clarity about the goal of vaccination from a public health perspective.

Despite confusion and cynicism about President Trump’s condition, markets appeared cheered by signs over the weekend about his health. Asian shares moved upwards in early trade Monday.





Wizz Air
The airline reported its passenger numbers were down 58.9% year-on-year for September. CO2 emissions in grams per passenger/km were 32.2% higher due to the drop in load factor, while total CO2 emissions in tonnes decreased at a slightly higher rate than capacity.


Financials & Real Estate 

REIT plc
The Company has been actively engaged with all of its tenants over the summer and is pleased to report robust rent collection to date of 97% for the September to December 2020 quarter (Q4). As a result of its robust rent collection, the Board has today further increased its quarterly dividend guidance by 6% to 1.44 pence per share for the quarter ending 31 December 2020. This dividend is expected to be fully covered by net rental income for the quarter.


Retail & Consumer 

In response to an increasingly challenging theatrical landscape and sustained key market closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cineworld confirmed that it will be temporarily suspending operations at all of its 536 Regal theatres in the US and its 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse theatres in the UK from Thursday, 8 October 2020. These closures will impact approximately 45,000 employees. The Company explained that as major US markets, mainly New York, remained closed and without guidance on reopening timing, studios have been reluctant to release their pipeline of new films. In turn, without these new releases, Cineworld cannot provide customers in both the US and the UK – the company’s primary markets – with the breadth of strong commercial films necessary for them to consider coming back to theatres against the backdrop of COVID-19. Cineworld said it will continue to monitor the situation closely and will communicate any future plans to resume operations in these markets at the appropriate time, when key markets have more concrete guidance on their reopening status and, in turn, studios are able to bring their pipeline of major releases back to the big screen. 

Greencore Group plc
The manufacturer of convenience foods issued its Q4 trading update which reported progressive improvement in revenue, Adjusted EBITDA and cash generation in Q4, supported by continued increase in demand for food to go categories. The Group confirmed that production had been fully restored by the middle of September at its Northampton site following the COVID-19 outbreak in the area. For the full year, the Group expects a reported revenue outturn of approximately £1,265m. As anticipated, Adjusted EBITDA improved in the final quarter and the Group expects that for the full year, Adjusted EBITDA will be approximately £85m. This is after charging in excess of £10m of non-recurring COVID-19 related operating costs. 

The handbag maker reported that group revenue was down 10% to £149.3m (2019: £166.3m) and pre-tax loss stood at £48m for the year to March, primarily reflecting a challenging UK market and the impact of COVID-19 towards the end of the financial period.  Group revenue was actually down 6% before the start of COVID-19. Thierry Andretta, CEO, observed that post year end, the Group has continued to benefit from its long-term strategic focus with initial sales ahead of our early expectations. However he said “we cannot escape the reality that British luxury and UK cities face a very uncertain future, hampered by necessary but dramatic social distancing measures and alarmingly low levels of footfall, as well as the pressures of high rents and business rates and the upcoming changes to tax free shopping.”



BATM Communications
BATM, a leading provider of real-time technologies for networking solutions and medical laboratory systems, announced that it has received an initial €4.3m order for its COVID-19 Real-Time PCR diagnostic test kits and instruments. The order is from a major new customer and is to be delivered during Q4. The new customer is a significant global private laboratory group headquartered in Italy that provides COVID-19 testing throughout Europe, primarily for large businesses such as airports. 



Johnson Warns Angry Britons of ‘Tough Winter’ in Covid Battle – Bloomberg

Vaccinating all of UK ‘not going to happen’, says task force head – Financial Times

Small businesses face ruin as UK lenders block access to Covid loans – Financial Times