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Daily News Roundup: Wednesday, 22nd July 2020

Posted: 22nd July 2020


RBS changes name after nearly 300 years

Royal Bank of Scotland has formally changed its name to NatWest Group in what CEO Alison Rose described as an “symbolic moment”. Bank branches will continue to trade as RBS and the name will still be heavily associated with the business. Writing in the Times, Ms Rose says the name change “is an important moment as we build a purposeful bank that champions our customers, colleagues and communities, in good times and in bad.” She talks about how the bank looks forward to continuing to play a “positive role” in society and earning back the trust “that has been eroded in recent times.” One of the bank’s plans is to invest £3bn in social housing over the next three years to support the development of 20,000 homes by housing associations.

Plan to relieve businesses of unsustainable debt

Sir Adrian Montague, chairman of TheCityUK Leadership Council, explains in the Telegraph how its proposals could help businesses convert, restructure and repay debts sustained through government-backed loans during the coronavirus pandemic. Viable but highly indebted SMEs should be allowed to convert their debt into a more manageable form, says Sir Adrian, while the smallest businesses could see their repayments means tested via the tax system, “perhaps using taxable profits as a measure of affordability”. TheCityUK is predicting a wave of defaults on some £35bn of corporate debt taken on during the crisis.

Hope for first-time buyers as low deposit mortgages return

First-time buyers have received some welcome news after several lenders announced the return of mortgages for borrowers with a 10% deposit. Nationwide and Metro Bank will offer 90% loan-to-value deals after they were suspended during the COVID-19 lockdown. Nationwide cited the Chancellor's stamp duty holiday as a factor behind its decision to re-enter the market.


Carlyle co-chief Glenn Youngkin to step down

Glenn Youngkin is to step down as co-chief executive of Carlyle, leaving Kewsong Lee in sole charge of the US private equity firm. Mr Youngkin owns just over 2% of Carlyle - a stake worth more than $200m.


European banks braced for €800bn of loan losses if pandemic worsens

A report from Oliver Wyman suggests European banks could face as much as €800bn in loan losses and a €30bn hit to their revenue over the next three years as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

M&A banks: deal or no deal

The FT’s Lex column analyses the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on M&A deals, with advisory revenue for the first half down between 5% and 11% across major US banks.

Lebanon central bank chief in spotlight over $6bn boost to assets

The assets of Lebanon’s central bank were arbitrarily boosted by at least $6bn after an unusual application of seignorage accounting, the FT reports.

Deutsche’s balance sheet beats expectations

Deutsche Bank’s corporate clients have been repaying loans taken out to cope with the coronavirus crisis quicker than expected, leaving the bank's balance sheet in a better position than predicted.

UBS hits out at buyback critics despite mixed performance

Despite reporting an 11% fall in Q2 profits, UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti said he is considering resuming cash dividends and share repurchases this year.


Taxpayers underwrite £500m of loans to Ford

The UK Government has announced £500m of loans to Ford as part of a £625m package backed by state-owned UK Export Finance. The move is designed to boost the carmaker’s development of electric vehicles and advanced manufacturing and increase its exports from the UK.

Volvo Cars predicts sales and profits to return to pre-pandemic levels

Volvo Cars has announced that it expects sales and profits to reach pre-pandemic levels during the second half, after a merger with Geely Auto was delayed by the pandemic.


Airline chiefs urge COVID-19 testing on transatlantic flights

Airline groups have written to the White House and the EU calling for a co-ordinated coronavirus testing programme to restore transatlantic flights. Separately, the Airport Operators Association (AOA) has warned that UK airports will suffer a £4bn hit from lost revenue this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Stock trading app UK launch postponed

Robinhood has postponed its launch in the UK indefinitely, with a spokesperson for the commission-free stock trading app commenting: “A lot has changed in the world over the past few months… As a company, we are refocusing our efforts on strengthening our core business in the U.S. Although our global expansion plans are on hold for now, we’re committed to democratising finance for more people around the world. We look forward to the day when we can bring this mission to the UK.”


Ladbrokes Coral owner under investigation by HMRC

GVC, owner of Ladbrokes Coral, is coming under further scrutiny from HMRC in connection with the firm’s former Turkish online gambling business. Shares were down 9% on the news. HMRC yesterday informed the company that it was widening the scope of its investigation and is now examining “potential corporate offending” by an entity (or entities) within the GVC group. The Telegraph’s Ben Marlow finds it curious that GVC chief Kenny Alexander jumped ship just three days before the investigation was revealed to shareholders.

Cruise and Maritime Voyages enters administration

UK cruise operator Cruise and Maritime Voyages has cited the coronavirus pandemic as it announced it has “ceased trading with immediate effect.” Telegraph Travel cruise writer Gary Buchanan said the news represented “a body blow for British cruisers.”


LinkedIn job cuts announced by Microsoft

Parent firm Microsoft has announced that almost 1,000 jobs at LinkedIn are to be axed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Chief Executive Ryan Roslansky said at least 10 weeks of severance pay, as well as health insurance for 12 months for US employees, would be provided to those affected, telling staff: “I want you to know these are the only layoffs we are planning.”

Talk Talk reports revenue decrease

Talk Talk has reported a fall in revenue to £358m in the three months to 30 June, down from £387m in the same period last year. Chief executive Tristia Harrison remarked: “As the UK’s internet usage continues to soar, our role as the UK’s only scale affordable provider of Fibre broadband has become even more important. Given this, we see a positive outlook… and are confident in our full year plan to deliver stable to growing headline [earnings before taxes, depreciation, and amortization], with strong cash conversion.”


HMRC announces lowest property sales figure ever

HM Revenue and Customs has revealed that property sales reached the lowest level on record in the three months to June, with 63,250 residential transactions in Britain that month, up 31.7% from May. North London estate agent Jeremy Leaf noted that the stamp duty holiday has resulted in buyers bringing decisions to move forward, commenting that “there is still concern that improved conditions will be relatively short-lived as economic news deteriorates and furlough support falls away.”


New figures reveal sales up at supermarkets

Morrisons saw sales increase 17.4% in the three months to July 12, according to figures from Kantar, while Iceland had the biggest rise in sales among 10 supermarkets surveyed, with an increase of 34.1%. Fraser McKevitt, head of retail at Kantar, commented: "As lockdown restrictions are gradually eased and non-essential retail outlets re-open, some consumers are slowly resuming their pre-COVID routines and shopping habits. However, we are clearly a long way off a complete return to normality." Online grocery sales remained strong, up 92% in the last month.


Spending review announced by Treasury

The Treasury has launched a review of government spending, set to be published in the autumn. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said, “tough choices” would have to be made as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Whitehall departments urged to “identify opportunities to reprioritise and deliver savings.” This comes as public borrowing in the first three months of the 2020-21 financial year increased to £127.9bn, according to the Office for National Statistics. Jeremy Thomson-Cook, chief economist at financial services firm Equals, commented: “The UK economy continues to burn, and the Government’s spending taps need to remain open for the foreseeable future in order to give businesses and consumers every opportunity to support each other as we gradually return to normality.”


UK ministers accused of turning blind eye to any Russian interference

A long-awaited parliamentary report into Russian influence in Britain has concluded that the Government has not done enough to probe possible Russian interference in UK democratic processes. The report also claimed lawyers, accountants and estate agents have acted “wittingly or unwittingly” as “enablers” for wealthy Russians who have links to the Kremlin.

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