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Daily News Roundup: Friday, 6th March 2020

Posted: 6th March 2020


Banks to offer coronavirus relief

UK Finance boss Stephen Jones has indicated that homeowners could be given payment holidays or bigger overdrafts to help mitigate the impact of coronavirus. He said banks, building societies and credit card providers were ready to offer repayment relief on loans or mortgages, as well as increased overdrafts. He added that banks and other finance providers “recognise that the cash flow of small and medium-sized businesses may be disrupted by the coronavirus impacts and are committed to supporting viable businesses in continuing to trade while they implement their contingency plans.” TSB is preparing to offer two-month holidays from repayments on mortgages or personal loans, while Nationwide says it could increase credit limits for credit card customers, with both banks saying requests would be treated on a case-by-case basis.

HSBC sends virus-hit staff home from London offices

The first confirmed instance of coronavirus at a major financial institution in London resulted in HSBC evacuating dozens of staff from the entire 10th floor of its London headquarters in Canary Wharf. One of its research analysts was confirmed as having coronavirus late Wednesday evening. The floor is undergoing a deep clean and staff who work on the floor or came into contact with the infected employee have been asked to work from home. Meanwhile, JP Morgan has activated plans to split up its City of London staff, with a number heading to back-up sites outside the capital. Goldman Sachs has been testing a back-up site in Croydon, while Barclays has an office in Northolt that it is planning to use as a back-up.


Venture capitalists pitching to bring US start-ups to Britain

The new $80m (£60m) Frontline X fund will work to help US tech start-ups expand into the UK and Europe. Will Prendergast, of London-based Frontline Ventures, which is investing up to $5m, said: “The UK is the number one location where the US companies land in Europe.”

Goldman Sachs’ Petershill unit in talks over minority stake in Permira

Goldman Sachs’ Petershill unit is in talks to buy a stake in Permira. The deal would see it pay €500m for a minority stake, valuing the private equity group at more than $5bn.


Sustainable assets boost UBS

UBS, which has assets of more than $3.76trn, said the value of its sustainable investments rose by more than 50% to nearly £388bn in 2019.

Credit Suisse asked to look into accounts

The US-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which has traced a number of suspected Nazi war criminals, has asked Credit Suisse to identify dormant bank accounts that may hold money looted during the Third Reich. This comes after the emergence of papers suggesting members of an Argentine Nazi group from the 1930s transferred funds to Schweizerische Kreditanstalt, a predecessor of Credit Suisse.


Car sales down year-on-year

Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders data shows that demand for new cars fell 2.9% last month, with 79,594 new cars registered in February compared with 81,969 during the same month in 2019.


Creditors look to land Flybe payments

Virgin Atlantic and hedge fund Cyrus Capital are likely to be among the secured creditors in line to receive payments from the administration of Flybe after protecting a chunk of their £135m investment in the collapsed airline. Other creditors are likely to include Flybe's workforce, pension scheme members, HMRC and various suppliers. The demise of Flybe, Europe's largest regional airline, has triggered 2,400 job losses and left 15,000 passengers stranded across the UK and Europe.


Tough equities climate drags on Schroders

Schroders has revealed a 4% fall in pre-tax profits as the continuing market uncertainty prompted investors to ditch equities. The asset manager blamed higher costs and a resulting decrease in revenue margins. Schroders reported total net new business of £43.4bn however, with positive net inflows across all asset classes, while assets under management increased 23% to close at a new high of £500.2bn. Schroders has announced that Philip Mallinckrodt is handing his non-executive directorship to his older sister Claire Fitzalan Howard, subject to her election at the annual meeting.

Boardroom tussle takes Amigo shares down

Shares in Amigo have dipped following a spat between the British subprime loan firm and its controlling shareholder and founder James Benamor, who has now left the firm. He is seeking to find a buyer for his 61% stake. Amigo has accused him of inaccurately stating that he voted against its formal sale process and "mischaracterising" the firm’s approach to communications. Mr Benamor said the lender has been “"committing slow motion suicide” and accused its board of multiple failings.


Spire Healthcare on track for 2020 targets

Spire Healthcare is on track to meet targets for 2020 after seeing a return profit last year, but acknowledges that there is uncertainty created by coronavirus. Revenue climbed 5.3% from £931.1m in 2018 to £980m, while profit of £9.6m marked an improvement on 2018’s £5.6m loss. Operating profit was up 32.8% from £71.1m to £94.4m. Spire expects revenue to top £1bn for 2020.


ITV flags coronavirus advertising hit

ITV is expecting a 10% slump in advertising - at least - due to the coronavirus outbreak, as travel firms tighten the purse strings to reflect cancelled holidays. The broadcaster, which is also battling the ongoing tough television advertising market, said it remains on track to hit this year's targets but warned that it was too difficult to predict any further implications of the outbreak.

Independent turnover climbs

The Independent's turnover in the year to September 2019 increased 9% to £27m, as the newspaper sealed its successful pivot to digital-only.


High street hit in February

High street sales dipped for the seventh consecutive February, with in-store like-for-like sales down 0.9% from a base of minus 3.7% in February 2019 as stormy weather and fears over the coronavirus hit the sector. Online sales growth also fell, with non-store sales rising 6% compared to 12.4% last year, with this the second worst performance in 10 years.

John Lewis cuts bonus as profits slip

Partners at John Lewis will receive their lowest annual bonus since 1953, equivalent to 2% of their salary. This comes as profits fell to £123m in the 12 months to January 25, the retailer’s third consecutive drop in annual earnings.

UK regulator warns traders over coronavirus rip-offs

The UK's Competition and Markets Authority has warned retailers not to attempt to take advantage of customers by raising prices for coronavirus-related products likely to sell out quickly.


Coronavirus could tip UK into recession

Goldman Sachs has warned that coronavirus could push the UK to the brink of recession and force Chancellor Rishi Sunak to refocus next week’s budget on the Government’s short-term response. Analysts at Deutsche Bank are also concerned, halving their UK growth forecast for the year to just 0.5% and suggesting interest rates could be cut by May. Bank of England (BoE) governor Mark Carney has said the Bank is coordinating with the Treasury and international partners to deliver a “powerful and timely” response to the outbreak. Saying the economic hit from the coronavirus could prove large but would “ultimately be temporary”, Mr Carney insisted the Bank would take “all necessary steps” to support the UK economy and financial system. BoE officials are talking to G20 members and the International Monetary Fund over a global response to the COVID-19 outbreak.


Incomes have stalled since 2016

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that growth in median income stalled between the 2016/17 financial year and 2018/19, growing 0.4% a year on average. This compares to an average on 3.4% in the period between 2012/13 and 2016/17. Analysis shows that while the booming jobs market helped wages rise over the last year, higher pay was counteracted by a freeze on working-age benefits. The ONS figures also point to inequality, with the median income for the worst-off fifth of people down 4.3% a year over the two years to 2018/19, while for the richest fifth the decline was 0.4%.

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