By Powerscourt on 19/01/2021

Powerscourt Coronavirus Briefing – 19 January 2021


Who gets prioritised for vaccination is obviously a huge moral dilemma. Most countries have taken the same approach. Frontline workers, the elderly and then vulnerable groups of all ages. There is inevitably going to be a clamour among competing interest groups to be included in the next round of vaccinations.

Take for example a group of people in Melbourne who are claiming human rights violations because they are being forced to quarantine for 14 days against their will in the most degrading of circumstances. Over the past few days, social media has been flooded with posts from professional tennis players about the extreme deprivations they have had to endure as they sit out a mandatory two week isolation period in a luxury hotel in the city before they can compete in the Australian Open. Vanessa Sierra, the girlfriend of Bernard Tomic, an Aussie professional, complained that she had to wash her own hair. ‘That is not something I do’, she pleaded.

Not surprisingly, the plight of pampered elite athletes has failed to elicit much sympathy beyond the confines of the luxury Melbourne hotel, but the viability of major tournaments this year could hinge on mass inoculation programmes. There are already talks about whether the Olympics should be postponed again because of a spike in the rate of infection in Japan. The commercial costs for many sports would be devastating if there isn’t some return to normality this year.

It isn’t just sports. There are a raft of interest groups demanding priority for inoculation. As vaccines become more widely available, governments are going to have to weigh up the consequences of each demand while maintaining broad public support.
It is not just an intra-developed world dilemma either.

The World Health Organisation has warned that the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure as poor countries fall behind rich ones in accessing vaccines to protect their populations, according to the Financial Times. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the WHO, said: “It is not right that younger healthier adults in rich countries are vaccinated before health workers and the elderly in poor countries.” He said that western governments and pharmaceutical companies had undermined WHO efforts for a more equitable distribution of vaccines.

The incoming Biden administration moved quickly to reverse an order from the White House to lift a ban on non-US travellers from the US, Ireland and much of the EU. As more variants of the virus emerge, travel restrictions around the world are likely to tighten as countries struggle to contain the pandemic.

Shares edged higher overnight as investors took the view that while a rise in new cases in China could lead to further lockdowns, the strength of the underlying economy is sufficient to underpin a wider recovery across Asia. Wall Street closed higher as analysts predicted that the forthcoming earnings season could bring good news.



Industrials & Transport 

Rio Tinto
The Anglo-Australian multinational and the world’s second largest metals and mining corporation, released its fourth quarter production results. Mined copper and titanium dioxide slag production, is down 9% and 7% on 2019, respectively. Whereas, bauxite production of 56.1 million tonnes was 2% higher than 2019 and pilbara iron ore achieved a strong performance across the network in 2020. The latter seeing shipments of 330.6 million tonnes (100% basis), 1% higher than 2019, and production of 333.4 million tonnes (100% basis), 2% higher than 2019.

The gold mining company focused on the Arabian-Nubian Shield, posted its Q4 2020 results. Q4 revenue is $150 million, generated from gold sales, and full year revenue is $829 million. Centamin has a strong balance sheet with no debt, no hedging and cash and liquid assets of $310 million, as at 31 December 2020. The company noted that in its Sukari Gold Mine, Egypt, there was lower scheduled production volumes and higher capital expenditure due to deferrals as a result of COVID-19 precautions.

Consumer & Retail

AO World
The leading European online electrical retailer, announced a trading update for its third quarter, the three months ended 31 December 2020. The significant increase in demand for AO’s products and services since the start of the pandemic has continued throughout our third quarter as they experienced the strongest ever peak trading period over the Black Friday period and in the run up to Christmas. AO recorded year on year UK revenue growth of 67.2% to £457.3m and of 77.4% to €73.6m in Germany. Interestingly, there has also been a slightly increased rate of cancellation of individual consumers’ long term contracts in mobile and warranties, driven by Covid impacts on customers behavior.


Financials & Real Estate 

The property investment company, issued an update on rent collection and operations. At a Group level, 41% of Q1 2021 rent due had been received, with the UK collecting 41% (36% flagships; 64% retail parks), France 46%, and Ireland 31%. For Hammerson, market conditions are said to have remained challenging due to the pandemic and latest lockdowns. However, there was encouraging footfall recoveries during the Christmas trading period from 30 November to 24 December, following the easing of lockdowns at the end of the November.

The global information services company, today issued an update on trading for the three months ended 31 December 2020. Performance in Q3 is said to be better than expected, delivering organic revenue growth of 7% and total revenue growth of 10% at constant exchange rates, across the business. In UK and Ireland both total and organic revenue, at constant exchange rates, were down 2%. 

IntegraFin Holdings
IntegraFin Holdings announced the quarterly Funds Under Direction update for Transact – the award-winning platform providing services to UK clients and their financial advisers. On 31 December 2020 FUD totalled £44,824 million, representing an increase of 9.1% over the quarter. Over the same period the FTSE All Share Index rose by 11.9% and the MSCI World Index (Large & Mid Cap) rose by 7.5%. Alex Scott, CEO, suggested that the positive reaction of equity markets to the news of a vaccine, “also contributed to the 14% increase in FUD over the same point last year.”



Covid jabs diverted to over-80s in vaccination blackspots – The Times

UK coach sector warns of deepening crisis amid schools closures – Financial Times

Analysis: Why the second Covid wave is nothing like the first – The Telegraph