By Powerscourt on 08/10/2020

Powerscourt Coronavirus Briefing – 08 October 2020


President Trump, looking reinvigorated following his hospitalisation from coronavirus, is applying his talent for “the art of the deal” to a brand new field: pharmaceuticals sales.

In a video posted on Wednesday night, the President is proselytising on behalf of the experimental antibody therapy he was given in hospital developed by US biopharma company Regeneron (he erroneously calls the drug itself, rather than the company, “Regeneron”).

Trump’s Twitter video shows the zeal of a revivalist preacher addressing the faithful. He says the drug is a “cure” and vows to make it available to all patients with COVID-19, liberally thanking God for his fortunes. 

The episode underlines, once again, the tension between politics and science throughout the pandemic and particularly in the US where the Trump administration is pushing to use early clearance of vaccines and therapies as a campaigning advance, to the growing fury of scientists. Trump also glosses over the fact that the antibody cocktail available to him would be out of reach of the budgets of the many millions of Americans whose health insurance would not pay the cost.

In an interview on Wednesday, Dr. George Yancopoulos, Regeneron’s president and chief scientific officer, said it was likely that the President responded to the treatment and that the level of virus in his body had declined. “That’s a logical conclusion,” Dr. Yancopoulos said. “Based on his symptomology, that has to have happened.”

But neither Regeneron nor the President can say conclusively that his apparent recovery resulted directly from this particular therapy. Clinical trials for the drug have not yet concluded. Other scientists were quick to attribute the President’s revival to the fact he was taking a steroid drug which is known to induce euphoria in subjects.

Once again coronavirus took centre stage in a Presidential debate: a calmer and more respectful affair this time, between Vice President Mike Pence and Joseph Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris.

Harris said the White House’s response to the disease is “the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country”, and that Trump and Pence had “forfeited their right to reelection”.

The UK faces a further tightening of coronavirus restrictions next week, according to a report by the BBC, with the closure of bars and restaurants and a ban on overnight stays away from home likely. The move would likely bring England and Wales into line with much of Scotland, where from Friday there will be significant restrictions on pubs and hospitality, with pubs and bars in central Scotland closing for two weeks.

However, an increasingly rebellious parliament may hamper these efforts, according to the Daily Telegraph, which said that up to 100 MPs could block the move, amid growing resentment at the increasing Byzantine and ineffective measures. Labour Party leader Sir Kier Starmer has said he could withdraw the support of his members for the controversial 10pm curfew.

The UK recorded 14,162 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday.

Two stories on Wednesday demonstrate how coronavirus has upended the entertainment business. Streaming sports TV provider fuboTV raised $183 million in a New York Stock Exchange IPO, just as the activist investor Daniel Loeb called on Disney to divert $3 billion of dividend payments to invest into streaming media and away from theatrical releases. Loeb’s Third Point fund invested in Disney earlier this year and is pushing for the storied media company essentially to abandon the filmmaking part of its business.

With the forthcoming Bond film No Time to Die the latest to be delayed by COVID-19, the industry is facing the real possibility that Hollywood as we know it may be in the past.

Most major stock indices closed up Tuesday amid reports that a Democrat victory in the forthcoming US elections is now priced in.  





EasyJet has today warned it would report a loss of as much as £845m in its last financial year, and said it continued to review its finances as travel remains subdued by the ongoing pandemic. The airline has signalled to the government that it may need further financial support, according to media reports yesterday. For the 12 months to the end of September, easyJet said it expects to report a headline loss before tax in the range of £815-845m.

Electrocomponents announced this morning that like-for-like revenue for the second quarter of fiscal 2021 fell and that a first-half profitability hit from the coronavirus pandemic is expected to ease in the second half. Like-for-like revenue for the quarter ended 30 September was down 4% following an 11% decline for the previous quarter. The distributor of industrial and electronics products said revenue trends continue to improve as lockdowns ease.

HSS Hire Group
HSS Hire Group announced that pretax loss widened for the first half of 2020 as revenue fell and that it will cut around 300 jobs after closing some branches due to the coronavirus pandemic. The London-listed tool and equipment hire company said that for the 26 weeks ended 27 June, pretax loss was £12.9 million, compared with a loss of £7.4 million for the first half of 2019. Revenue was £125.8 million compared with £161.4 million the year before.

Tharisa, a chrome and platinum group metals miner, says its operations have performed above expectation during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the group also set to benefit from elevated prices of the metals. The group said PGM production rose 15.7% quarter on quarter to 40,500 ounces to end-September, when platinum prices rose 20% to $901/oz.

Volution Group

The leading supplier of ventilation products to residential and commercial construction markets today reported an 8.1% decline in revenue to £216.6 million, despite good recovery through June and July. Adjusted operating profit also declined 19.8% to £33.7 million, with adjusted operating cash generation of £43.4 million, the highest recorded in the Group’s history. 


Financials & Real Estate 

CMC Markets
CMC Markets reported a strong trading performance across all areas of the business, for the six months ended 30 September 2020. This resulted in CFD net trading revenue of approximately £200 million compared to £85 million the prior year, with client income retention remaining strong and well in excess of guidance. Stockbroking net revenue is anticipated to increase to approximately £26 million compared to £14 million last year.

Hargreaves Lansdown
British fund supermarket Hargreaves Lansdown took in £800 million of net new business in the quarter to 20 September, despite what it described as weakening investor sentiment arising from COVID-19 and Brexit uncertainty. It added 3,100 net new clients over the period, while assets under administration rose 3% to £106.9 billion, thanks in part to a positive market movement of £2.1 billion, the company announced this morning.

River & Mercantile Group
The investment and actuarial advisor reported this morning a more-than-halved pretax profit for fiscal 2020, but said that it is well positioned for the future. The group posted a pretax profit for the year ended 30 June of £8.3 million, compared with £16.8 million a year earlier. Fee earnings assets under management rose 11% to £44.2 billion, it added. Revenue decreased to £70.5 million from £78.1 million, it said.

Unite Group

Unite Group stated this morning that the valuation of its property portfolio rose 0.7% during the third quarter due to the UK government’s stimulus measures, and that its rental income is set to fall. The FTSE250 student-accommodation developer said its Unite UK Student Accommodation Fund property portfolio was independently valued at £2.80 billion. The company said the London Student Accommodation Joint Venture investment portfolio was also independently valued at £1.32 billion. 


Retail & Consumer 

Lockdown drove many sofa speedsters to boost sales at racing game developer Codemasters. The firm – which makes titles including the F1 racing series – rose 17.5p to 375p after saying its trading was “strong” during the six months to the end of September. The Warwickshire-based group anticipates revenues of approximately £80.5m for the period, compared with £39.8m for the first half of 2019.

Greene King
Greene King is to cut up to 800 jobs and shut dozens of pubs after warning that ministers’ 10pm curfew has slashed the hospitality industry. The pub operator, which employs 38,000 people, will close 79 of its 3,100 sites due to the restrictions – with a third expected to never reopen. Greene King has started a consultation process with 800 staff regarding potential redundancies but will try to move workers to remaining sites where possible.

GVC Holdings
Ladbrokes and bwin owner GVC Holdings this morning raised its estimates of annual core earnings after posting a stronger third-quarter revenue, helped by a surge in online gaming and as sports events such as the English Premier League resumed. The company said full-year EBITDA is now expected between £770 million and £790 million. Net gaming revenue rose 12% between 1 July and 30 September.

Imperial Brands
British tobacco company Imperial Brands forecast full-year net revenue to be broadly flat and in line with market estimates, as it works through the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The forecast is slightly above guidance provided at its half-year results, the maker of Gauloises and West cigarettes said in its first indication of performance under CEO Stefan Bomhard, who joint in July.

Europe’s biggest travel group has appointed a new chief financial officer amid mounting concerns over its failure to boost its financial position by raising fresh funds. Tui, which has hinted at a possible €1 billion rights issue several times in recent weeks, announced a management reshuffle yesterday in which Sebastian Ebel will take over from Birgit Conix when she steps down at the end of the year.



Hundreds of jobs set to go at airports – THE TIMES

Virus surge will hit recovery, Office for Budget Responsibility warns – THE TIMES

COVID forces rewrite of academic textbooks on supply chains and logistics – FINANCIAL TIMES