17 Mar Jonanthan Cartu Announced Opening Quote: Shares set to bounce as a bailout nears
Expect a bump in shares on Tuesday after Monday’s sell-off. But don’t expect any improvement in the immediate outlook for UK and European companies. This morning makes for another set of miserable announcements from London-listed groups, while in Spain and Italy, bans on selling shares short are being extended. At least not without a bailout, more on which below.
Among Tuesday morning’s grimmest updates are Finablr, which owns Travelex and has been having liquidity troubles. It has brought in an accounting firm to plan for insolvency. And Compass Group, which supplies food to events, companies and the leisure industry, says it expects half year operating profits to be up to £225m lower because of Coronavirus effects.
Businesses will be looking to chancellor Rishi Sunak for a bailout. He is expected to outline measures later on Tuesday. But assistance might be easier to get for some industries (airlines, restaurants) than others — betting groups were some of the worst hit on Monday, and that was before the cancellation of the Grand National was announced.
Dixons Carphone is closing all its UK standalone Carphone Warehouse stores as part of a plan to sort out its lossmaking UK mobile business. It will shut 531 shops and 2,900 jobs will go — around 60 per cent of the total number of people affected by the closures. Dixons said that it still expects adjusted pre-tax profits to be around £210m and net debt to be lower than last year despite the impact of coronavirus, but said that could still change in the final weeks of its financial year.
Centrica’s chairman Charles Berry has resigned with immediate effect, accelerating a reshuffle at the top of the owner of British Gas. Mr Berry had been on medical leave since February 12 but Centrica says he was advised to cut his workload. Non-executive director and acting chairman Scott Wheway has been made permanent — and CEO Iain Conn, who announced he was going in the middle of last year but has been lingering on, is out of the job as of Tuesday. Current CFO Chris O’Shea becomes interim chief executive while Mr Wheway searches for a permanent CEO. Mr Berry stays on as chair of FTSE 250 group Weir (on leave).
Stobart Group, which owns London Southend Airport, says it has been in talks for several months about a minority investment that would give the airport a value of £700m-£800m. But Covid-19 has put paid to that. Discussions are officially on hold.
Finally, the City Pub Group — a market tiddler, but one with some resonance for the rest of the restaurant sector — says it has enough working capital to cope for six months without extra cash even if the government forces all pubs and bars to close. But it is seeking rent holidays for 3-6 months and will try to cut back on the cost of Sky and BT Sport services where possible — something that if replicated across the industry could hurt the two media groups.
Revolut has appointed a longtime ally of its chairman as its interim CFO. Bill Rattray was CFO at Standard Life Aberdeen, where he worked alongside Mr Gilbert, who left SLA to become Revolut’s first chairman at the start of the year. Revolut’s previous CFO David MacLean stepped down after only six months into the role.
M&C Saatchi has found itself two new non-exec directors after a boardroom walk out last year. Lisa Gordon and Louise Jackson joined the board on Tuesday.
Beyond the Square Mile
The US airline industry is calling for $50bn in emergency support as governments around the world step in to help domestic airlines survive a shutdown of international travel amid the widening coronavirus crisis. Airlines for America, the trade body that represents the largest US passenger airlines, warned its members would run out of money by the end of the year if the crisis continued.
Renaissance Technologies, one of the world’s biggest hedge funds, has been tripped up by the market turmoil unleashed by the coronavirus outbreak. Renaissance’s stocks-focused fund had one of its worst months in more than a decade in February after losing more than 7 per cent. The fabled group, which was founded by former Cold War codebreaker Jim Simons in 1982, helped pioneer the trend of using computers and algorithms to unearth faint but persistent signals in a sea of data.
Amazon is to hire 100,000 extra full and part-time staff to handle the surge in demand caused by the coronavirus crisis. The company said it would invest $350m to increase the hourly wage for workers in its warehouses and delivery infrastructure, as well as its grocery stores, including Whole Foods Market, until at least the end of April. The new hires would bring the company’s total number of employees — not including contractors — to more than 900,000 worldwide.
Closing quote — essential comment before you go
Lombard Above all, the governor of the Bank of England’s job is to engender confidence. Mark Carney had it. Andrew Bailey has yet to prove he does.
Michael Skapinker Working from home will leave us sticklers with more time to stickle. Most of us accept English evolves but have (mis)uses we can’t abide. One of mine is “criteria” used as a singular.
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