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Daily News Roundup: Thursday 3rd December 2020

Posted: 3rd December 2020


HSBC shares up 50% since quarter-century low

Analysis shows that HSBC’s share price has risen more than 50% since it hit a 25-year low in September, with a 48% increase in London and a surge of more than 50% in Hong Kong. In October the bank recorded better-than-expected third quarter results on cost savings, saying that while profits fell 46%, Asian operations "continued to perform resiliently" and delivered pre-tax profits of £2.4bn. BBC News says hopes that a coronavirus vaccine will boost the global economy have driven investor optimism, with HSBC also given a boost by the expectation that President-elect Joe Biden will ease relations between the US and China, with more than half of HSBC's profits coming from Asia.

Monzo funding confirmed

Monzo has secured an additional £60m in funding, with its total for the year now at £125m. Backers for the current round included investment firm Novator, while existing backers including Passion Capital re-invested earlier this year.


US venture capital investments up on 2019

US venture capital funding this year has already overtaken 2019’s total, despite a temporary freeze amid the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. US venture capital investments totalled $139.6bn across 9,898 deals as of December 1, compared with $137.3bn across 12,189 deals in 2019, data from PitchBook shows. The figures mean that 2020 marks the third consecutive year where venture capital investments in the US have exceeded the $100bn mark.


Repayment holidays extended by EBA as infections continue

The European Banking Authority (EBA) is to allow lenders to grant a new round of loan repayment holidays as coronavirus infections continue to be reported. The regulator stated: “The role of banks to ensure the continued flow of lending to clients remains of utmost importance and with the reactivation of these Guidelines, the EBA recognises the exceptional circumstances of the second COVID-19 wave.”

SoftBank abandons its ‘Nasdaq whale’ bets

SoftBank is to continue investing in large US tech stocks but reduce its derivatives exposure, after incurring $2.7bn in losses, by allowing its options to expire, reports suggest.

Citi’s next CEO Jane Fraser on regulators, Covid and breaking the gender barrier

The FT features a profile of new Citigroup chief executive Jane Fraser, who will become the first female chief executive of a major Wall Street lender in February next year.


CMA announces charging point probe

The Competition and Markets Authority has launched an investigation into the electric car sector. Confirming it will consider the market for electric vehicle charging points, the competition watchdog said it would also be analysing how to make the sector competitive and attract private investment.

Hyundai to develop own electric car platform and battery charging systems

Hyundai has announced plans to introduce its own electric car platform and battery charging technology, after 77,000 of its Kona electric vehicles had to be recalled following battery issues.

Vauxhall chief warns of inevitable sector disruption

UK boss of Vauxhall owner PSA Group, Alison Jones says manufacturers have done all they can to prepare for Brexit-related disruption, cautioning that production will be affected even if a trade deal with the EU is reached.


Low-cost carriers see passenger numbers plummet

Passenger numbers at Ryanair and Wizz Air have fallen over 80% last month, with the effects of the second national lockdown in the UK weighing on the sector. Ryanair has said it expects summer 2021 levels to reach 80% to 90% of 2019’s figures, while Wizz Air hopes to return to pre-coronavirus passenger numbers within the next year.


Countryside investor calls for chairman’s exit

Activist investor Browning West has called on FTSE 250 housebuilder Countryside Properties to replace its chairman. Browning West, which with a 9.4% stake is Countryside’s third biggest shareholder, feels its management and board have shown “a reluctance” to address the company’s “significant deficiencies”. It also wants the firm to sell its private housebuilding business and focus entirely on its partnerships division.

Countrywide subject to takeover bids from Connells and Alchemy

An £82m offer from Connells has been rejected by estate agent chain Countrywide, which has also received an improved proposal from Alchemy Partners under which current shareholders would be given the opportunity to sell their shares at 250p per share, alongside a recapitalisation of the firm underwritten by Alchemy, of about £70m.


FCA warns on overseas advisers targeting Sipp transfers

The Financial Conduct Authority has warned that some overseas advisers are targeting consumers, advising them to switch their UK pension into an international self-invested personal pension. The City watchdog says this could expose consumers to high and unnecessary charges and urged those approached by an adviser in these circumstances to ensure they understand any possible charges and exit penalties which might apply. In a warning issued yesterday, the FCA added that it is concerned that the tax benefits of investing through an offshore investment bond are “largely redundant” to someone investing in a UK personal pension scheme.

UBS chairman: London set to remain Europe’s top financial centre

UBS chairman Axel Weber believes that London’s position as Europe’s leading financial centre will not be lost due to Brexit, noting that issues around regulation and competition keep Europe fragmented. He commented: “The division of Europe is a massive benefit to the City of London because if Europe were united the impact of Brexit would be much more.”

COVID-19 accelerates no-exam trend in life insurance

According to a study by the Society of Actuaries, a third of life insurers have expanded accelerated underwriting, which uses algorithms rather than exams to evaluate applicants, because of the coronavirus pandemic.


Vaccine judged safe for use

The UK has become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, with the green light from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency paving the way for mass vaccination. The UK has ordered 40m doses of the vaccine, with this enough to vaccinate 20m people. Pfizer said the first doses are already on their way to the UK, with 800,000 set to arrive in the coming days. Care homes residents and staff will be the priority for the first round of jabs, followed by over-80s and health and care staff.


Prezzo on the menu for investment firm

Restaurant chain Prezzo has been bought by private investment firm Cain International for an undisclosed sum.


GardaWorld bid for G4S raised to £3.7bn

GardaWorld has increased its takeover bid for G4S to £3.7bn, with the proposal at 235p a share representing a 24% rise on the previous offer of 190p a share. GardaWorld chief executive Stephan Crétier yesterday promised growth and investment for the target firm.


HMRC clarifies stamp duty rules on mixed use buildings

HMRC has clarified rules regarding stamp duty payments, stating that investors buying buildings which consist of residential and commercial premises should not be forced to pay a 3% surcharge usually applied to buy-to-let properties and second home purchases.


Shoppers flock back to high street

Shoppers have flocked back to the high street in England as non-essential shops reopened after the four-week lockdown, data from Springboard reveals. Figures showed that footfall in town and city shopping districts surged by 64.5% yesterday. Meanwhile, Barclaycard Payments said that spending was below levels seen on Black Friday. The firm’s CEO Rob Cameron said retailers may have to wait until Saturday, the first non-working day following stores reopening, “to hit that milestone."

Tesco and Morrisons repay rates relief

Tesco has announced that it will repay £585m in business rates relief received from the Government during the coronavirus crisis, while Morrisons has vowed to return its £274m of rates relief.

Bonmarché back in administration

Retailer Bonmarché has fallen into administration for the second time in little more than a year, putting almost 1,600 jobs at risk. Administrators have been appointed to find a buyer for the chain, with the retailer expected to continue trading while options are assessed.


Analysts: Vaccine will inject optimism but economic benefits may take months

Analysts have predicted that the approval - and impending rollout – of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine is unlikely to deliver an immediate boost to the economy. Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said that even if the first round of jabs are given out this month “it’s likely to be several months before we start to see a possible economic benefit in terms of an easing of restrictions”. Caroline Simmons, CIO at UBS Global Wealth Management, said the vaccine will inject a “dose of optimism” into domestic and global markets, saying global output and corporate earnings “are on course to return to pre-pandemic highs by the end of 2021”.

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