BoE consults on central bank digital currency
The Bank of England has launched a discussion paper seeking views on the creation of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) as it weighs the pros and cons of launching its own. Governor Mark Carney said that although “the creation of a CBDC poses a number of opportunities, it could raise significant challenges for maintaining monetary and financial stability”. The BoE is unsure exactly what the design of the CBDC would be, should it go ahead. That is why it has asked for public engagement on the topic, it said.
Gadhia quits as Salesforce UK chief after less than a year
Jayne-Anne Gadhia has stepped down as chief executive of Salesforce in the UK after less than a year in the role. The former Virgin Money banker said she wanted to focus on her new business Snoop, which connects to bank accounts to manage spending. The start-up has received investment from Salesforce's venture capital arm.
Watchdogs reject MPs demands over IT failures
Demands from MPs that banks pay higher levies to help combat an "unacceptable" amount of IT failures have been rejected by the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority. However the regulators said they will "keep the possibility of raising the levy in the future under review".
Revolut gives users commodities tab
Revolut has added the ability for some of its users to invest in gold just as prices surge due to the uncertainty caused by coronavirus.
Staley in line for £5m
Jes Staley, the chief executive of Barclays, has been awarded shares worth £5.3m linked to pay and performance for several different years.
How SoftBank became Silicon Valley’s persona non grata
The FT looks at SoftBank’s fall from grace in Silicon Valley as the Japanese investor faces increasing criticism from venture capital firms and founders over its treatment of portfolio companies and other investors.
ECB unveils coronavirus stimulus package
The ECB has unveiled a fresh stimulus package to help the fight the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the eurozone, but unexpectedly kept interest rates unchanged. The central bank said it would give businesses more ultra-cheap loans, increase asset purchases, and provide banks with capital relief to combat the economic shock of the outbreak, but would hold interest rates at their current record low of 0.5%. Traders were unimpressed and shares slumped, after already taking a hit after Donald Trump banned travel to the US from the EU. In the US, the Federal Reserve said it would inject more than $1.5trn of temporary liquidity into the financial system.
Banks scramble as companies rush to tap back-up credit lines
The FT reports on increasing concerns over liquidity in the US as companies draw on their credit lines before they’re withdrawn while new rules requiring banks to report earlier on loan losses risk amplifying the crisis. Elsewhere, the paper’s Gillian Tett looks at increasing stress to global financing chains.
Lookers COO leaves role after “suspected fraud” warning
Cameron Wade, chief operating officer at Lookers, has left the car dealership just a month after taking up the role. Lookers’ shares plunged on Wednesday after it revealed it has identified “potentially fraudulent transactions”. That has delayed the publication of its 2019 results, and prompted the car dealer to hire an external adviser to probe the suspicious transactions in one of its operating divisions.
Airlines hit turbulence after Trump travel ban
Shares in airlines fell on Thursday after President Trump issued a ban on travel to the US from mainland Europe. IAG, owner of British Airways, lost 10%, while EasyJet and Ryanair fell 7% and 6% as investors predicted they would be hit by a decline in transfer traffic to international hubs. The combined drop in market value of EasyJet, Ryanair, IAG, Wizz Air, Norwegian, Air France and Lufthansa was about £3bn.
Housebuilders welcome Chancellor’s planning reforms pledge
Housebuilders have welcomed Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s pledge that the government will take a “stricter approach” with councils to help speed up developments. Delivering the Budget on Wednesday, the government said that where local planning authorities fail to meet their local housing need, “there will be firm consequences, including a stricter approach taken to the release of land for development and greater government intervention”. Bellway chief executive Jason Honeyman said: “This is a unique opportunity to reconfigure the approach to planning applications to create a system that does not disincentivise developers from putting in applications and getting on site”. The plans were also welcomed by Barratt CEO David Thomas, who added: “Land is the housebuilder’s raw material and is key to us delivering more of the homes the country needs”.
Berkeley Group suspends shareholder payout over coronavirus
Berkeley Group has suspended a £455m shareholder payout until there is more clarity on the economic impact of the coronavirus. The housebuilder said there had been no noticeable impact on its own business so far, but warned that the effect on UK firms is still unknown. In the meantime, the company will revert to the original shareholder returns programme with a payout of a £125m dividend on 31 March and commitment to a £140m dividend to be paid by 30 September.
City AM The Times, Page: 42
LV= suspends sales of travel insurance
LV= has temporarily abandoned selling travel insurance as a result of the spread of coronavirus. The insurer said it had decided to stop selling the cover rather than hike prices. The company said it had seen a doubling in the number of policies sold over the last couple of weeks, as travellers rush to protect themselves. People who have already bought travel insurance from LV= will still be covered.
Lloyd’s of London to stage coronavirus shutdown simulation
Lloyd’s of London said it will close its underwriting room at its London HQ today to simulate a coronavirus shutdown. The insurance market said it will “test the resilience of the market” by closing the underwriting room at One Lime Street for 24 hours to test “alternative trading protocols”.
Travelex owner's shares crash amid coronavirus
Shares in Finablr have crashed 65% after the Travelex owner said the coronavirus outbreak was affecting its ability to access enough cash to keep the foreign currency business running smoothly. Finablr said travel restrictions designed to limit the spread of COVID-19 had weakened demand for its services and disrupted the transport of cash.
Funding Circle to concentrate on home market
Funding Circle has announced that 125 workers are to be laid off in Amsterdam and Berlin as the British peer-to-peer lender retreats from Europe to its more profitable home market. News of the layoffs came as Funding Circle reported an £84m loss for 2019, which it said was largely due to problems in the two “developing markets” where it is cutting staff.
Profits down at Arrow Global
Arrow Global has posted a 5.2% drop in underlying profit before tax, which slipped to £78.1m in 2019 from £82.4m the previous year. The decline came despite a 7.5% rise in the asset manager’s core cash collections, which hit £442.3m. Gross asset management and servicing (AMS) income rose 5.9% to £140.1m, making up 36.4% of the group’s total income. Third party AMS also rose 2.9% to £94.4m in 2019.
Woodford investors to share £141.7m payout
Investors in Neil Woodford’s Woodford Equity Income Fund (WEIF) are set to receive a share of a £141.7m payout as the liquidation of its assets continues. The capital distribution is the second since the process to wind up the WEIF began earlier this year.
Investec ditches plan to offer stake
Investec has abandoned plans to offer a stake in its asset management arm Ninety One due to “volatile market conditions”.
LEISURE & HOSPITALITY
Betway handed record fine
The Gambling Commission handed Betway a record £11.6m fine for failings over customer protection and money-laundering checks. The regulator said the online betting firm failed to check the source of funds of one customer who deposited over £8m and lost over £4m in a four-year period. The penalty package is the biggest to date faced by a UK gambling firm.
Viking suspends all cruises
Viking has become the first cruise line operator to suspend all operations due to coronavirus. The suspension of operations applies to all cruises departing between March 12 and April 30, 2020. Viking is a privately owned cruise company, operating for nearly 23 years, with 500,000 guests a year and 10,000 employees.
MEDIA & ENTERTAINMENT
Cineworld issues coronavirus warning
Cineworld has warned that a worst-case scenario for the coronavirus could mean it breaches its debt terms and closes cinemas for up to three months. The warning saw Cineworld’s share price plummet 34% to under 60p.
Intu warns of collapse
Intu has revealed a £2bn loss and warned of a “material uncertainty” over its ability to continue as a going concern. Britain’s biggest shopping centre owner is struggling with £4.5bn of debt and a sharp decline in the value of its portfolio.
Global stocks plunge on virus fears
UK and US stock markets were hit by their steepest falls since 1987 yesterday as traders dismissed action by governments to shore up markets in light of the spread of the coronavirus. Shares fell after the US banned travel from the EU and the European Central Bank failed to cut interest rates.