By Powerscourt on 08/11/2020
Powerscourt Coronavirus Briefing – 08 November 2020
Joe Biden has been elected as the 46th president of the US, and immediately pledged to make the fight against the coronavirus his top priority. The president-elect used his victory speech to tell a jubilant crowd in Wilmington, Delaware, that he is planning to name a group of leading scientists and experts as “transition advisers” tomorrow to help formulate a coronavirus plan which would become “an action blueprint” for when he takes office in January. “That plan will be built on bedrock science. It will be constructed out of compassion, empathy and concern. I will spare no effort, none, or any commitments to turn around this pandemic,” he said. While Trump has yet to give any public sign he is prepared to relinquish power, CNN is reporting that Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has approached him about conceding the election.
Amid mounting concerns around a new coronavirus strain that has spread from mink to humans in Denmark, the WHO warned yesterday that new coronavirus cases linked to mink farms have also been discovered in the US, Italy, Holland, Spain and Sweden. The WHO emphasised that further scientific study is needed to understand any potential implications of the new strain, including for the development of a vaccine. The UK responded yesterday by imposing a ban on non-UK citizens coming from Denmark, and government officials are contacting anyone who has been in Denmark in the last two weeks to ensure that they self-isolate.
Thousands of coronavirus patients in the UK will be given aspirin as part of a trial to determine whether the painkiller can reduce the risk of dangerous blood clots. The drug has been added to a list of potential treatments to be tested as part of the Randomised Evaluation of Covid-19 therapy trial. People infected with coronavirus appear to have hyper-reactive platelets, the cell fragments that help stop bleeding, which means that they are at higher risk of potentially deadly blood clots. It is hoped that aspirin, an anti-platelet agent which is commonly used as a blood thinner, can reduce the possibility of clotting complications.
Finally, a study by the Systems Immunity Research Institute at Cardiff University has suggested that mouthwash could be used to kill off coronavirus. Transmission of the virus through saliva droplets could be reduced by using mouthwashes containing cetylpyridinium chloride, according to researchers.
WHAT ARE COMPANIES SAYING?
Steel tycoon Sanjeev Gupta has quietly offloaded a hydro-electric power station in the Scottish Highlands as his empire struggles for cash amid the pandemic. Investor Equitix took over Kinlochleven power station last month from the Indian-born trader’s Simec subsidiary, filings show. Gupta has become one of Europe’s biggest steel-makers during a five-year spree. He bought Kinlochleven from miner Rio Tinto – along with another hydro-electric power and aluminium smelter in nearby Lochaber – in 2016 for £330m, promising to revive Scottish industry.
Consumer & Retail
Royal Mail and Amazon are scrambling to seize control of Boris Johnson’s “Operation Moonshot” programme to deliver 215,000 home testing kits a day. The duo are this weekend finalising rival bids to win a £550m, one-year contract from the taxpayer to spearhead home testing as part of NHS Test and Trace. The Department for Health has given operators four days warning, prompting a frenzied effort to submit bids ahead of a deadline on Tuesday.
Landlords have accused Clarks of abusing insolvency processes by pushing through a restructuring they have little change of overturning after paying out dividends to its family shareholders. The 195-year-old shoe-maker launched a CVA last week that will result in most of its 320 UK stores moving to rents based on turnover. Some 60 shops will move to zero rent and all arrears built up during the pandemic will go unpaid.
Buy-out funds are weighing bids for the UK’s biggest nightclub operator after the pandemic forced the company into an emergency sale. Private equity firms Greybull Capital and Aurelius have been circling Deltic Group ever since it hired accountancy firm BDO to find a buyer last month. The owner of Oceana and Pryzm risks running out of cash after being squeezed by the Government’s eight-month closure of nightclubs. Deltic has attempted to delay collapse by cutting 1,000 jobs – around half of its workforce – and reopening some clubs as bars.
Harrods has been forced to rejig the terms of a £200m credit line as the pandemic deprives the iconic department store of foreign tourists. In August, Harrods renegotiated the terms of a revolving credit facility with the Qatar National Bank to avoid breaching covenants. Part of Harrods’ worst-case scenario at the point when it rejigged the covenants – the closure of its Knightsbridge flagship for four weeks – has now become a reality, putting it at risk of breaching the covenants in April.
Pret a Manger, Hugo Boss and the UK’s largest independent toy retailer have been threatened with legal action by shopping centre landlord Westfield over unpaid rent as England enters a second lockdown. “It’s unprecedented, it’s not a reasonable action for a landlord to take at a time of year like this, especially on day one of the lockdown,” said Gary Grant, executive chairman of The Entertainer, a toy chain which has 173 stores. Mr Grant received a letter from Westfield on Thursday demanding that the company pay its bill in full or face legal action to collect outstanding rent.
Financials & Real Estate
Lloyd’s of London
The boss of Lloyd’s of London has called for the Government and insurers to sit down “very quickly” to find a way to deal with pandemic-related losses ahead of possible rolling lockdowns next year. John Neal, chief executive of London’s 332-year-old insurance market, said he was “frustrated” that more progress had not been made on forming a partnership between insurers and the Government to cover further losses likely to be suffered by businesses in the coming months.
IN THE NEWS
Boris Johnson needs an Australian-style COVID plan – Financial Times
Watch and luxury shopping industries contest end of UK tax-free scheme – Financial Times
Banks brace for new bounce back loans boom – The Times