Powerscourt

By Powerscourt on 15/12/2020

Powerscourt Coronavirus Briefing – 15 December 2020

ANALYSIS

There is good news and bad news today from London, and about London.

The bad news is that the city and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire are moving to Tier 3 of the UK’s lockdown ladder from midnight tonight. Health secretary Matt Hancock said the move was necessary because of “sharp, exponential rises” in infections, including a new strain of COVID-19 which was “growing faster than the existing variants” and probably accounts for the big rise in infections in the southeast of England.

As from tomorrow, 34 million Britons will be affected by the toughest tier of restrictions. “This isn’t over yet,” Hancock said. Indeed. The Netherlands imposed tough lockdown measures to last until 19 January, while South Korea’s prime minister is urging citizens to abide by social distancing as daily infection rates hit a record level of around 1,000.

Writing in The Times, the columnist Melanie Phillips wonders why the UK is making such a poor fist of Covid. She says she was shocked on a visit to London last week to find how few people wore masks compared to Israel, where she lives. Loosening restrictions at Christmas risks a repeat of what happened in the US over Thanksgiving, when infections spiked. “Britain is marching implacably towards exactly the same reckless fate,” she writes.

The death toll in the US exceeded 300,000 on Monday even as the country rolled out the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Sandra Lindsay, a nurse, became the first American to get the vaccine. “I feel like healing is coming. I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history,” she said.

Other countries are preparing for the day when vaccinations begin. The Irish government is to unveil its plan today, which will involve issuing 14 million doses of five separate vaccines, the Irish Times reports. Ireland has advance purchase agreements for five shots costing some €112 million, which will be available when the European Medicines Agency approves them.

Moderna, a US company that has developed a promising Covid-19 vaccine, said some of its research was hacked during a cyber attack on the EMA last week.

Now, about that good news. The City of London has been a ghost town for much of this year. Now the authorities are planning a “back to work” week where employers will encourage their employees to return, and the business infrastructure in the Square Mile will gear up to welcome them back. The event is scheduled for April.

In an interview with the Financial Times, City of London lord mayor William Russell says January and February will be tough, but adds: “We have to survive these months and hopefully come back with a bang in spring time. I want everyone to buy into this reopening.” He says the half a million people who came to work in the City daily before the pandemic will need some persuading to return. “COVID is a very personal thing,” he says. “Some are more nervous than others.”

 

WHAT ARE COMPANIES SAYING?

Industrials

Chemring
The provider of advanced technology products and services to the aerospace, defence and security markets, announced results for the year ended 31 October 2020. Performance was said to be ahead of the Board’s expectations with strong performance in both segments and all businesses remained open and operational despite the challenges caused by Covid-19. Revenue for the period was £425m and profit before tax stood at £51.7m, up 20% and 31% compared to 2019, respectively. 

 

Consumer & Retail

JD Sports
One of the world’s leading retailers of sports, fashion and outdoor brands, announced its acquisition of US retailer, Shoe Palace. Total cash consideration for the purchase is $325m, of which $100m has been deferred and will be paid on various dates over the next 12 months. Despite wider moves to online retail due to the pandemic, the US acquisition comes as JD Sports recently opened a flagship store in Time Square, New York.

 

Financial & Real Estate 

BMO Global Smaller Companies
The Trust focusing on the potential of smaller companies listed on global equity markets, posted its unaudited results for the half-year ended 31 October 2020. Net Asset Value with debt at market value increased to 133.93p per share, giving a total return of 13.1% compared to the Benchmark total return of 15.2%. The share price ended the period at 123.8p, delivering 12.6%, with an interim dividend held at 0.55p per ordinary share.

IG Group
The provider of trading in financial derivatives such as contracts for difference and financial spread betting, issued its scheduled update on its net trading revenue for the six months to 30 November 2020. Following a strong first quarter, the Group performed at comparable levels in the second quarter generating revenue of around £207 million, driven by elevated trading volumes across a larger, total active client base of 207,000 clients in the quarter.

Shaftesbury
The Real Estate Investment Trust that owns a 16-acre portfolio in the heart of London’s West End, today announced its results for the year ended 30 September 2020. Brian Bickell, Chief Executive, commented: “Rarely in history has the world seen such widespread disruption to normal patterns of life. Only now are we seeing the first positive signs that conditions will begin to improve in the year ahead.” Net property income for the period was down 24.2% to £74.3m, including a 3.5% like-for-like decrease in rental income. 

IN THE NEWS

Jump in London Covid cases raises fears over Christmas gatherings – Financial Times

Coronavirus in Scotland: Recovery ‘relies on fast roll-out of vaccine’ – The Times

PPE suppliers now being vetted by UK’s intelligence agencies – The Daily Telegraph




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