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Daily News Roundup: Tuesday, 10th March 2020

Posted: 10th March 2020


NatWest pledges £5bn to support SMEs

NatWest has promised £5bn to support UK small and medium-sized businesses suffering from disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The funding will be used to provide loan repayment holidays of up to six months, as well as temporary emergency loans with no fees. Meanwhile, Barclays is offering its business clients 12-month capital repayment holidays on loans worth more than £25,000, as well as bigger overdrafts and access to a £14bn fund launched last year as part of a three-year commitment to small firms to build resilience during uncertain times, while the Royal Bank of Scotland has announced £350m in funding for Scottish firms facing knock-on effects from the outbreak.

Lenders urged to halt all repossessions against mortgage prisoners

MPs have urged lenders to stop all repossession proceedings against mortgage prisoners until a working group is established to help them. Members from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Mortgage Prisoners issued an open letter calling for a halt to repossessions against borrowers who saw their home loans sold onto inactive or unregulated lenders following the financial crash.

OakNorth doubles profits but sees slowdown in growth

OakNorth Bank almost doubled its profits in 2019 to £66m on revenues of £104m – up 74% year-on-year. OakNorth was backed by SoftBank’s Vision Fund last year and CEO Rishi Khosla said the bank’s profitability meant it had “no plans” to raise new capital.

Experts predict rate cut

Analysts are predicting an imminent rate cut by the Bank of England by 0.25% possibly in the next few days followed by another 25 basis point cut later in the month, taking interest rates to as low as 0.25%. The rumours come as Britain’s two-year gilt yield turned negative for the first time ever.

HSBC stymies fraud attempts

HSBC’s VoiceID system picked up more than 17,000 fraudulent calls last year saving almost £400m of customers’ money, the bank said.


Private equity firms ready bids for Capita units

Epiris is among several private equity firms getting ready to bid for nine of Capita’s business units, including the outsourcer’s travel and events arm, its debt collection and enforcement businesses. Citi is handling the sale and reports indicate offers must be for the whole basket of businesses.


IMF urges central banks to act to counter virus

Central banks should be prepared to provide liquidity to banks and financial companies to offset damage caused by the coronavirus, the IMF’s chief economist Gita Gopinath has said. “It’s very important that policies respond quickly to prevent this turning into a permanent crisis,” Gopinath said in the interview. “If all goes well and the necessary actions are taken, then 2021 would see a strong recovery, but we need to move fast now.”

Coronavirus threatens Deutsche Bank’s recovery

Shares in Deutsche Bank fell by as much as 17% on Monday - one its biggest drops in decades - as the bank announced new measures to shield employees from the coronavirus outbreak. The spread of the virus will make it much harder for the bank to execute its turnaround plan while key markets for the bank, such as Italy, China and South Korea, are severely affected by the outbreak.

Banking regulators urge banks to help struggling borrowers

US banking regulators have assured financial services companies that they will not be penalised for helping borrowers struggling to repay loans due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Federal Reserve and others said prudent efforts to provide loan relief would not be criticized.

Wells Fargo chair steps down before fake accounts hearing

Betsy Duke, the chair of the board at Wells Fargo, and audit committee head James Quigley both resigned yesterday ahead of this week's hearings scrutinising the bank's 2016 fake accounts scandal.

Indian prosecutors accuse Yes Bank co-founder of taking kickbacks

Yes Bank’s co-founder Rana Kapoor has been accused by prosecutors in India of receiving kickbacks in 2018 to provide funds to a now bankrupt housing finance company. Mr Kapoor was arrested on Sunday.

Daffey hired as global markets chair

Goldman Sachs has named top trader Michael Daffey as global markets chairman. He will be tasked with deepening client relationships, particularly in Europe.


Covid-19 plagues car companies

Aston Martin was among automotive fallers yesterday as carmakers across the world were battered by the upsurge in coronavirus cases. Aston fell 21.4% to 209.1p leaving the luxury group was worth less than £500m. Elsewhere, Nissan was down 8% after revealing sales in China were down 80% in February. Tata Motors slid by 7.5%, Volkswagen shed 9%, BMW lost 9.7%, Ferrari fell 5.9% and Renault dropped 12.5%.


Flybe pension fund members have no safety net

Flybe’s pension fund has an £80m black hole and employees do not have the protection of the Pension Protection Fund because the group is based in the Isle of Man. The fund has been closed to new members since 2002. Pensions experts say the Flybe case shows that there are still gaps in the safety net and that workers should be alerted if their firms would not be protected by the PPF.

Regulator rejects Boeing’s 737 Max wiring plan

Shares in Boeing fell 8% yesterday on news US regulators rejected the company’s plans to leave wiring bundles for its 737 Max model in place, declaring that the design did not meet safety standards.

Plans to leave EASA criticised

The UK aviation industry has criticised the Government’s decision to leave the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) by the end of the year declaring plans for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to assume the regulatory role unrealistic in the timeframe.


Aon confirms huge Willis Towers Watson deal

Aon has agreed to acquire Willis Towers Watson for almost $30bn (£22.9bn) in an all-stock deal to create one of the world’s largest insurance brokers - a combined value of around $80bn. The company will be called Aon and will retain its operating headquarters in London. Upon completion, existing Aon shareholders will own approximately 63% of the combined company and existing Willis Towers Watson shareholders will own approximately 37%.

Phoenix rising

Profits at Phoenix rose 14% last year and cash generation exceeded targets to hit £707m. Operating profit at the insurance consolidator, which buys life and pensions books from offloading firms, rose to £810m in 2019 from £708m in the year prior, while cash generation rose to £707m from £664m the previous year.

FCA to review pricing of market data

The Financial Conduct Authority has announced a review of the cost of trading data and benchmarks sold by the likes of the LSE, Refinitiv and Bloomberg along with a probe into the impact of other advanced analytics.


Scottish care homes sold to Impact Healthcare REIT

Impact Healthcare REIT has acquired nine properties from subsidiaries of Holmes Care Group in a sale-and-leaseback agreement valued at £47.5m.


Betfred buys stake in rival

Betfred has bought a 3.03% stake in William Hill leading some analysts to predict a formal approach. Others, however, said it was more likely the company believed William Hill was undervalued.


Jingye finalises British Steel takeover

Jingye Group completed its takeover of British Steel on Monday saying the move would save more than 3,000 jobs in Scunthorpe and Teesside. The Chinese company has promised to invest about £1.2bn over the next 10 years on upgrading its plants and machinery. Jingye is still pursuing the company’s French arm which has seen its sale delayed by concerns in Paris.


Cineworld's biggest shareholder GCT cuts stake by a third

Global City Theatres, the family trust of Cineworld chief executive Mooky Greidinger, has agreed to sell a 7.9% stake in the business for about £116m. The move comes amid fears the coronavirus will hurt the sector long term. Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC bought up a 4.5% stake.

Twitter and Elliott strike deal that keeps Jack Dorsey at helm

Jack Dorsey will keep his post as CEO of Twitter after the tech firm and Elliott Management agreed a deal that will see Twitter embark on a $2bn share buyback programme and accept three new directors. The buyback will be funded in part by $1bn in convertible debt from private-equity giant Silver Lake.


Double whammy hits housing market

The “double whammy” of the coronavirus and subsequent falling markets is expected to hit the recovery in the housing market. Capital Economics has reduced its forecasts for UK property sales and house prices. It now predicts that prices in the UK will rise just 2% this year, down from its earlier prediction of 3%.


Storms and Covid-19 fears hit the high street

Shoppers in the UK are avoiding the high street and opting instead for food delivery and TV streaming services amid fears over the coronavirus outbreak. A survey by Barclaycard shows department store sales were down 3.6% in February following widespread storms and the spread of Covid-19, along with restaurant takings which were down 6.4% – figures backed up by new stats from the British Retail Consortium.


Virus triggers collapse in business confidence

A survey by the Institute of Directors (IoD) shows business confidence has collapsed in the face of the coronavirus threat, with one in five executives saying the outbreak posed a severe threat to their businesses and half now pessimistic about the economy as a whole. The business lobby group warned of a “cashflow crunch” for companies across the UK as they face the prospect of falling orders and quarantined workers. The IoD called on the government to help businesses by allowing struggling companies to delay tax payments and by extending a government-guaranteed loan scheme.


Junk bonds hit by slump in oil prices

The sharp fall in the price of oil has increased the risk of default on high-yield bonds, particularly those issued by US energy companies, which have $86bn of debt coming due before 2024.

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