Langton Capital – 2020-04-14 – PREMIUM – M&B, Revolution Bars, Carnival, rights issues & other:
M&B, Revolution Bars, Carnival, rights issues & other:
PREMIUM EMAIL – PLEASE DO NOT FORWARD:
A DAY IN THE LIFE:
So, Langton was about to start dismembering Plummie, a tree felled by Storm Ciara or Dennis, it seems so long ago, when it occurred to us that tottering around with a chain-saw when the hospitals are in the state that they are, wasn’t perhaps the most sensible thing that we could be doing.
Hence, we spent a somewhat less satisfying (and considerably more tiring) few hours with a hand saw and cutting the grass after which we could only conclude that a) trees are big and have been engineered by several million years of evolution not to lend themselves easily to dismembering and b) grass-cutting is indescribably boring and, if you can’t even hear your headphones without risking bursting your eardrums, it can be worse still.
Anyway, it’s a short week. Not that it’s easy to tell. Follow intra-day comments on @brumbymark and let’s move on to the news:
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RAISING MONEY: Go early, go hard? 14 April 2020.
Cost cutting, suppliers, debt, equity:
• As we mentioned last week, funds are often raised, roughly in the order given above.
• Equity, though it is irredeemable, is an ‘expensive’ source of finance.
• But some other avenues have now been shut down and a growing number of companies in our sector (SSP, Ten Entertainment, Everyman, Carnival and, most recently, Restaurant Group) have decided to raise equity.
• Given the precipitous drop in share-prices followed by the not-inconsiderable rally, the timing has been critical.
The cost situation
• Most if not all companies impacted by the coronavirus lockdown will be asking themselves how long they can survive without revenue
• The largest negative items on the P&L – cost of goods, labour and property costs – have either gone to zero (cost of goods) or been cut by government (labour via the furlough scheme and property costs by the removal of business rates)
• But 1) there are still some worries about how long the furlough scheme will last and 2) there are still other costs to consider
• Non-contracted capital spending will have dropped virtually to zero and there will be no new contracts signed
Actions speak louder than words:
• So, is trimming the dividend and having a chat with the bank sufficient?
• A number of companies have suggested that it may be – and that could be correct in some situations but, in others, companies have gone early and have raised equity
• This has looked like a blended mix of sagacity, panic and foresight in varying measure because, if it’s right that ‘if you’re going to panic then panic first’, a move to raise equity while the financial trough is fairly quiet, is not a bad idea
• However, timing has been important as many companies fell by 70% plus and have since clawed back up to half of that fall. Raising money at minus 70% compared with minus 35% makes a big difference to dilution
Company comments today:
• As suggested above, the focus of company statements from M&B and Revolution Bars today has been to 1) mention cost cuts, 2) thank the government , 3) to hint at the burn rate and 4) to ask for help with rents
• The latter remains the biggest area of concern.
• Rates make up around a third of property costs (for a leasehold business) with service charge much lower and rents being the majority of costs
• There may be a ban on evictions but a) is this real and b) it doesn’t do anything to stop rental liabilities from accruing further on properties that are empty through no fault of the operator itself
• RBG mentions getting back to work in July. MAB does not mention a date. Restaurant Group last week suggested all of its units could remain closed until the end of June
How long could the lockdown last?
• We have covered this in the general email but Wuhan’s lockdown (where life has not yet returned to ‘normal’) lasted 76 days. We are on day 22.
• Italy, Spain and France are ahead of the UK by up to two weeks
• It would be politically least risky to follow the examples set elsewhere in Europe and the lockdowns in those territories have not (really) been removed yet
• Companies are mentioning July. But taking ‘off’ the lockdown but not stopping social distancing could leave pubs & restaurants with all of their normal costs and a fraction of their normal income. Restaurant Group has talked about a staged recovery.
The issue of rent:
• Bad stuff rolls downhill and the taxpayer is at the bottom of the incline.
• In the meantime, tenants are trying to pass the parcel to their landlords but this could only be a halfway house and London Union MD Jonathan Downey is calling for a 9 month government funded rent free period.
• Mr Downey says ‘it’s naive to think that, in the UK, landlords and tenants will ‘sort it out’ between them and agree rent-free periods.’
Potential unintended consequences:
• Government aid, whilst widely welcomed, could provide life-support to operators that might (or probably would) have gone out of business anyway
• And solvent companies may jettison poor sites or brands.
• Some operators may take the opportunity to shed staff, potentially without the normal costs.
• Others may put a line through unfavourable contracts and the like – all will reference covid-19 rather than internal errors
• But this can surely be dealt with later.
• For the moment, if ‘we are all in this together’, then government may have to step in and help landlords to help their tenants.
• This is a work in progress. There isn’t a conclusion. It will look simple with hindsight but, from where we are now, it is far from that
• Hence cutting costs, capex and dividends is sensible. As is having a chat with the bank, perhaps suspending covenants, extending credit etc.
• For some, an equity issue may be right. Certainly, issuing equity can remove the financial risk (at least for quite a while) and enable a company to be viewed as a survivor rather than a tightly-funded possible
COVID-19: PUBS & RESTAURANTS:
Exit strategy options:
• Wuhan removed the bulk of its lockdown provisions after 76 days.
• Austria is to allow small shops to reopen today with shopping centres and ‘high-contact’ outlets such as hairdressers to follow on 1 May. Bars and restaurants should be allowed to reopen in mid-May with events and large scale venues to follow in July.
• In Spain, authorities are allowing some businesses in construction & manufacturing to reopen. Shops, bars & restaurants must remain closed until at least 28 April.
• Meanwhile President Macron in France has extended his country’s lockdown until 11 May.
• Castle Rock has updated on trading saying that it had been up 0.7% in revenue terms at its pubs and down 3.5% at its brewery before mid-March. MD Colin Wilde says that it has since ‘acted quickly to mitigate stock losses and strip the cost base to essential expenditure only. Our cash position is consolidated to protect the interests of the stakeholders and in particular those of our employees, supply chain and investors.’
• The Castle Rock MD says ‘the promise of furlough payments and HMRC TTP helps greatly although we have retained a small volunteer staff to set up a drive-thru sales operation. I’m delighted how quickly we’ve got this up and running and at the initial success we’ve had monetising beer stocks. Demand from consumers and trade alike has been high. Over 160 drive through customers are scheduled for Friday 10 April. Not surprising perhaps, we’re seeking to build this new revenue stream into our future business model.’
• The CBI is calling on the government to say whether it will extend its furlough scheme or not. The employers’ body says that decisions will have to be made within the next week or so as to whether or not to keep on staff beyond the end of May.
• The BII, the BBPA, CAMRA, UKH and other bodies have said that crucial packages of support announced by the Government to help businesses survive the Covid-18 lockdown are not being delivered quickly enough to be of real assistance. Langton has pointed out that telling a drowning man that oxygen will arrive ‘in due course’ is not a lot of help if you’re talking months rather than minutes.
• Ministers are reportedly overhauling the provisions of its hastily announced emergency loan programme for larger companies impacted by the coronavirus.
• The BBPA says ‘10,000 pubs are still without any grant support because they are above the rateable value threshold. Unless that is abolished immediately, many of those pubs will cease to exist in a matter of weeks putting some 150,000 jobs at risk.’ UKH says ‘the package of support that the Government has announced is very generous. Unfortunately, the delivery of that support has been far too slow, and businesses cannot wait any longer.’
Changes in consumer behaviour:
• Kantar has reported that alcohol sales in supermarkets rose by 22% in March. March will have been very much a month of two halves. The lockdown did not come into effect until the 23rd of the month. Naked Wines has said that people are ordering more drinks for delivery. Wine maker Chapel Down also reported a surge in demand.
• A YouGov poll suggests that consumers are drinking either as much as normal, or more than normal, since bars and pubs shut on 20 March. The industry will be hoping that would-be customers do not decide to continue drinking at home when the lockdown is lifted.
Other covid-19 news:
• Dairy farmers are reported to have destroyed thousands of litres of milk as they could not get it to market. The NFU has called for a meeting with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ‘to take immediate steps to ensure the sustainability of the dairy sector’.
• Deliveroo is to partner with Morrison’s in order to help with food deliveries. Deliveroo says ‘during this worrying period we want to play our role in making sure people have access to a range of items, in particular the vulnerable who cannot leave their homes.’
• The accountancy body the ICAEW has said that businesses need to be proactive in helping their employees maintain their physical and mental health. A report for the Institute for Employment Studies has found that 60% of respondents are exercising less with 30% eating less well and 20% drinking more alcohol.
• The FT points out that shuttered ‘pubs are struggling to dispose of millions of pints of stale beer left on their premises as the UK entered lockdown.’ It says that this could delay reopening. Cask Marque recently updated on procedures for shutdown and reopening in order to maintain beer quality.
• AB InBev makes the very good point that getting a full keg of beer up out of a cellar (into which it may have been literally dropped) will be much harder than putting it in. Heineken has written to a number of its (perhaps better) customers telling them that it will remove unused beer and replace it when the lockdown is over free of charge.
• Casual Dining Group chain Bella Italia has committed to providing 1,000 free meals to NHS staff.
OTHER PUB & RESTAURANT NEWS:
• Mitchells & Butlers has updated on the covid-19 situation saying ‘all sites have now been closed for over three weeks, and a number of actions have been taken to reduce our cost base.’ The company says 99% of employees have been put on furlough ‘with basic pay for all employees including the Board reduced to between 60% and 80%, depending on seniority’. It says operating costs have been cut and discretionary capital expenditure projects have been stopped.
• MAB says ‘it is possible that the forced closure of our sites, as required by the Government, could amount to a technical breach of our secured financing arrangements but, as a first step, we are announcing today that a temporary waiver until 15th May has now been granted to avoid this pending further discussions.’
• The company says ‘great uncertainty remains not only as to the extent of the current shutdown but also the profile of any reopening and recovery period back to normality. In light of this the group is in close contact with stakeholders, with whom it has strong relationships and who are supportive of the long-term fundamentals of the business.’
• M&B concludes ‘the group has material cash resources which we believe should be sufficient to fund obligations well into the second half of the year.’
• Revolution Bars Group has also updated saying that it has been cutting costs and has 2,775 furloughed team members (98% of the Group’s workforce). The company says the board has taken 50% pay cuts and negotiations with landlords regarding rent relief is ongoing. All capital expenditure has been cut.
• RBG says ‘these measures have significantly reduced the Group’s weekly running costs to approximately £0.4m per week and management continues to seek further cost reduction opportunities. Costs will be kept to a minimum until the Group’s bars can reopen given the ongoing uncertainty as to the length of the enforced closure period and how trading may be impacted by any ongoing restrictions when trading is able to recommence.’
• Regarding debt, RBG says it is ‘pleased to announce that, subject to final documentation, Natwest has agreed to increase the Facility to £30.0m until 31 August 2020, following which it will step down to £24.0m as the Group begins to benefit from its normal positive working capital cycle following an assumed recommencement of trade in July 2020.’
• RBG CEO Rob Pitcher says ‘there is still more which needs to be done to ensure the protection of the 3.2 million jobs in our sector along with the £39 billion of direct tax receipts paid annually to the UK Government. Specifically, this includes more support in connection with property related costs during this enforced closure period and beyond, including support for landlords themselves and we encourage the UK Government to take swift action in this respect.’
• The latest CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index shows that pricing is now at a 12-month low (as at Feb 2020). The Index shows ‘the majority of food and beverage categories showing no or minimal year-on-year inflation.’
• The CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index suggests ‘it is likely that pricing will be volatile in the coming months. Categories already impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic include Soft Drinks, where large manufacturers like Coca-Cola have seen delays to artificial sweetener shipments—leading to predictions of tighter supplies of drinks in the longer term should Chinese operations remain restricted.’
• The price tracker shows that slowing demand in China dragged down some prices (salmon & other fish & seafood). Prestige Purchasing says ‘this is a concerning time for supply chains across the globe. We are already seeing categories affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and there will be many more affected before we are back to normal.’ Both supply and demand will be impacted.
• CGA says ‘after a prolonged period of relatively high inflation in the foodservice sector, the last few months have shown signs of welcome stability—but that has been shattered by the COVID-19 pandemic. With out-of-home eating and drinking sectors in lockdown in many countries and availability and distribution facing major disruption, we are likely to see a great deal of inflationary volatility in the months ahead.’
• AB InBev has announced that it is to halve its proposed final 2019 dividend from €1.00 to 50c. The company says ‘given the uncertainty, volatility and continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, AB InBev has determined that it would be prudent and in the best interests of the Company to reduce the amount of the final 2019 dividend. This decision is consistent with the Company’s financial discipline, deleveraging commitments and other actions taken to navigate this environment.’
• CEO Carlos Brito says ‘COVID-19 is changing everyone’s lives in unprecedented ways. However, it has not changed who we are or what we stand for at AB InBev. Our purpose remains more relevant than ever: bringing people together for a better world. Today, for us it means joining efforts to prioritize each other’s health and safety, to help our communities where we can and to support our operations. I am proud to see our colleagues around the world working tirelessly with our partners, retailers, bars, pubs and restaurants to support their long-term business success, and finding new ways to connect with our consumers. The commitment, ingenuity and sense of urgency of our people will continue to take us forward.’
• Amazon has announced that it will hire a further 75,000 employees in the US to cope with increased demand.
• The Telegraph reports that farmers have ‘been left scrambling to find enough workers’. It says a ‘new land army’ of Britons will be required to pick fruit and vegetables.
• Allegra’s Future of Coffee report has concluded that, ‘despite current adversity due to coronavirus, the long-term outlook for UK coffee shops remains bright.’ It says ‘coronavirus currently presents an unprecedented challenge to all sectors of world economy, with coffee shop and hospitality businesses deeply affected. The coffee shop segment will undergo profound change due to coronavirus but remains one of the UK economy’s most resilient.’
• Allegra maintains that maintaining ‘human connections’ will be important to would-be customers. It says ‘over the last two decades the UK coffee shop segment has grown from high street phenomenon to an ingrained part of daily lifestyles.’ This may be true or it may be whistling in the dark. Regular customers are currently saving twenty plus pounds per week each. Time will tell.
• Allegra says it ‘anticipates most businesses will be operational again by summer 2020.’ It says customers were already more ‘savvy’ before the virus struck. It maintains ‘future prosperity will rely on a relentless, transparent and bona fide approach to delivering quality, innovation and consistency.’
• Allegra concludes ‘short-term concerns, such as loss of revenue, paying staff and property rent, are creating very real hardship for businesses up and down the country. Nevertheless, the long-term future for coffee shops remains bright, as consumer demand for quality coffee and café experiences shows no signs of disappearing. Digital technology will play a deepening role in the coming decade as coffee shops devise new, innovative ways to serve customers and forge lasting human connectivity.’
• Gregg’s updated on its trading and financing last Thursday making clear that it was in a relatively secure position. It has accessed additional liquidity and says that, after mitigating actions and government help ‘the net cash outflow whilst closed will be c.£3.5 million per week until the end of June.’ It adds ‘from July onwards the cost is anticipated to be c.£4.5 million per week including the cost of all property rents, which we expect in future to pay monthly in advance.’
• Gregg’s concludes ‘whilst many uncertainties remain, we have ensured that Greggs and its many stakeholders will be well-supported through this difficult period and that the Company will be in a position to return to profitable growth as soon as conditions allow.’
• Trade charity Only A Pavement Away has asked those who can to make donations to support its members.
In the US
• Starbucks in the US is reporting 60% to 70% reductions in like-for-like sales. In its Q2 to end-March update, the company said that, by the end of its accounting period, some 56% of its US company owned stores were closed. Starbucks had been running at plus 8% in sales terms until 11 March.
• Starbucks says that 95% of its stores in China are now open. LfL sales were down by 78% in February and 64% in March. Overall, Starbucks says ‘we expect the negative financial impacts to Q3 to be significantly greater than they were in Q2 and to extend into Q4. In any event, based on our substantial experience in China to date, we continue to believe that these impacts are temporary and that our business will fully recover over time.’
• Delivery company DoorDash will cut by 50% commission fees for independent restaurants in the US.
• Panera Bread in the US is to offer baked goods and dairy produce for sale via takeaway at its c2,000 locations.
• In the US, the latest data re consumer sentiment from the University of Michegan suggests that sentiment dropped from 89.1 to 71.0 in early April, the largest monthly decline ever recorded in the 70-year history on the index.
HOLIDAYS & LEISURE TRAVEL:
• The US hotel industry saw REVPAR fall by 81.6% in the week to 6 April compared with the same week a year ago. Occupancy across the whole of the US was a perhaps-higher-than-you-might-imagine 21.6%.
• The US CDC has implemented a no sail order for cruising for at least 100 days or until US health bodies declare the pandemic over. The CDC says ‘there are approximately 100 cruise ships remaining at sea off the east coast, west coast, and Gulf Coast, with nearly 80,000 crew on board.’
• Airbnb has blocked the majority of bookings on its UK website. The company says ‘restricting bookings on Airbnb to key workers and other essential stays will allow hosts to continue supporting frontline workers while following government guidance.’
• Police in Australia are investigating how the Ruby Princess was allowed to dock on March 19th. Some 200 passengers and 18 crew have tested positive for Covid-19.
• Global airline capacity has dipped to 39 million seats as of 6 April. Further cuts are expected. Many airlines have cut capacity by 90 per cent-plus in recent weeks.
• The BBC questions just how quickly the cruise industry will recover. It says ‘the industry has not just been devastated, it has ceased to function altogether. For it, coronavirus has been the perfect storm.’
• It was only three weeks ago that the global cruise line body CLIA said that any regulatory moves to discourage cruising is ‘unwarranted.’ Perhaps they were speaking with a vested interest. The public has taken a different view. Before banning cruising altogether, US VP Mike Pence said old people should use ‘common sense and caution’ when deciding whether to take a cruise or not. The images of bodies being removed from vessels may live on in the minds of would-be customers.
• The BBC points out that registering and recruiting in tax havens may have cost the cruise industry a degree of sympathy. It says ‘the cruise line industry was specifically not included in the US’s business bailout schemes.’ Observers point out that it is hard to give tax breaks to companies that pay no taxes.
• Roger Bootle of Capital Economics has told a Hospitality Tomorrow online conference that ‘the best we can hope is that we get back to where we were.’ He says ‘I’m more optimistic about leisure travel than about business travel.’
• Hoseasons is not accepting new bookings ‘until further notice’.
• TUI has reacted to claims that its directors were refusing to take a pay cut while 11,000 staff are furloughed saying executive directors had agreed to a 30% reduction in their basic salary.
• Carnival Cruise Line has announced that it is extending the suspension of its sailings until June 27. The company says it has plans to resume sailings by most ships on that date. CCL says ‘we will use this extended pause to continue to take care of the crew that remains on board and continue to bring non-essential crew home.’
The blessing (and the curse) of negative working capital:
• TUI has admitted that there are delays in its offer to refund customers whose holidays have been cancelled as a result of Covid-19. Which Magazine has said that TUI hasn’t provided information about customers’ rights to refunds.
• On the Beach has said that travel companies may have to radically rethink their business models after the coronavirus crisis abates. OTB suggests that customer money should be ringfenced and not used to meet day-to-day running costs.
• ABTA has said travel companies should not deny the right to refunds – but he has called for more time to be allowed for companies to return cash.
• The European Justice Commissioner said that ‘flexible solutions’ may be needed for tour operators to refund holidays. Commissioner Didier Reynders has called for ‘the right balance between consumer protection and support to travel and tourism businesses’. He suggests that vouchers may need to be accepted.
• The reality of the matter has been encapsulated by Travel Weekly, which says ‘travel companies across Europe are being forced to flout Package Travel Directive (PTD) rules on consumer refunds or face financial ruin.’
• Negative working capital is a great thing. Until, suddenly, it isn’t.
• There are further concerns being raised by GamCare and others that vulnerable gamblers in the UK are increasingly at risk due to boredom (and industry advertising) during the enforced coronavirus lockdown. GamCare says ‘what we do know is that contributing factors to the addiction, such as financial distress, isolation and boredom are increasing with Covid-19.’
• Anybody who was watching the ITV drama about a well-known scam that took place against gameshow Who Wants to be a Millionaire last night will recognise that TV adverts featuring gambling websites seem to be pretty prevalent at the moment.
• The FT writes that gym and leisure centre businesses are now being faced with eviction for non-payment of rent. The legality of the above is under some question. Trade body UKActive says urgent talks are needed as some landlords are attempting to use a loophole to threaten eviction.
• Sterling higher at $1.2562 and €1.1478. UK 10yr gilt yield down 7bps at 0.31%. Oil price lower than Thursday at $31.95. World markets. UK higher last week, US lower yesterday, Far East up in today’s trade. UK set to open up about 80pts.
FINANCE & ECONOMICS:
• The IES suggests between 1.5m and 2.0m British workers have lost their jobs in the last three weeks. This is in addition to those workers that have been furloughed. The Resolution Foundation says that a third of private sector workers in the UK fall into this latter category.
• The Resolution Foundation suggests that he furlough scheme could ultimately cost future generations of UK taxpayers around £40bn for every three months that it is in operation.
• UK GDP fell by 0.1% in February. This seems like ancient history.
• Almost 17m American workers have signed on for unemployment benefits in the last three weeks.
• Auto sales in China fell 43.3% in March vs the same month in 2019.
• EU finance ministers have agreed a €500bn rescue package for European countries hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
• The IMF says that global growth will drop ‘sharply’ as a result of Covid-19.
• The range of estimates for the decline in the UK economy in Q2 average around 14%. The NIESR suggests a Q2 drop of 15% to 25%. Reuters reports Rishi Sunak has told colleagues the drop could be as high as 30%. The chancellor is arguably in a better position than most to have an insight into these things.
• Oil production to be cut by 10%.
• Apple and Google are working together to create contact tracing technology to slow the spread of coronavirus.
• Bill Gates says few countries deserve an ‘A-grade’ for their response to the coronavirus outbreak.
• The big four accountancy firms plus BDA & Grant Thornton have met to discuss whether they would ‘risk their reputations’ if they furloughed some of their staff.
• President Trump has retweeted a tweet calling for his coronavirus advisor Dr Anthony Fauci to be fired.
START THE DAY WITH A SONG:
Thursday’s song was Bryan Ferry, his Roxy Music and Slave to Love. Today, who sang?
Corn sugar and caffeine,
I feel my body in two different places.
Still playing for both teams,
Sometimes it feels I was born with two faces.
RETAIL WITH NICK BUBB:
• Saturday’s Press and News (1): The front page headlines in the Saturday papers were mixed in tone, with only the Guardian reflecting the grim news that the daily rate of UK hospital deaths from the coronavirus had nearly reached the 1000 level (with a set of photos of “The lives cut short”): the Telegraph went with “Social distancing could be indefinite”, whilst the Times ran with “Vaccine for virus could be ready by September” and the FT’s main headline was “Biggest oil production deal aims to help steady global economy”.
• Saturday’s Press and News (2): In terms of Retail news, with stockmarkets closed on Good Friday, the cupboard was relatively bare, but the Times had a double-page feature interview with the MD of Iceland, Richard Walker, in which he raged against the social injustice of the pandemic, thundering that “panic buying is a middle-class privilege”. The Guardian found a photo opportunity in the profit warning from the Japanese clothing chain Uniqlo, on the back of continuing store closures. The FT had an interview with the Dutch boss of Takeaway.com, Jitse Groen, flagging that “Takeaway deliveries rise as cooking fatigue sets in”. And Lex column in the FT toasted the rising share price of Naked Wines (“seclusion infusions”) and its growth in the US, noting that its success depends on subscription renewals and logistics: “As long as home isolation boots wine consumption, parched
• Sunday’s Press and News (1): The front page headlines of the Sunday papers were again dominated by the pandemic crisis and the Sunday Telegraph went with “Hospitals on brink of running out of gowns”, whilst the Mail on Sunday ran with “Boris: The NHS saved my life”, the Sunday Times flagged “NHS phone app holds key to lifting lockdown” and the Observer thundered “As virus deaths toll nears 10,000, parties unite to demand the recall of Parliament”.
• Sunday’s Press and News (2): In terms of Retail news, the most noteworthy story was the Mail on Sunday scoop that Next is to start to reopen its Online operations next week, but it was interesting in general that the supermarkets began to get some unhelpful headlines: the Mail on Sunday also flagged that supermarket sales have fallen back by 10% after the initial surge in mid-March, with social distancing measures and queues crippling business, whilst there was a Sunday Times article headlined “Business Rates windfall turns grocers from heroes to villains” and though the Sunday Times Business Editor Oliver Shah noted in his column that the privately owned Aldi and Lidl are out of the firing line on Business Rates, he also thundered that the decision of Tesco to pay its final dividend was a “blunder”. In other news, the Mail on Sunday flagged that Matalan is struggling and has to
• Sunday’s Press and News (3): In terms of all the Editorial and other comment, we would, as normal, highlight the thoughtful column by the Sunday Times Economics correspondent David Smith (“Even as we dive into recession, spectre of inflation haunts us”), as well as the column by the Sunday Times Business Editor Oliver Shah, which flagged the problems of private-equity owned companies in getting bank loans to help them through the crisis (in contrast to quoted companies able to tap investors with share placings). There was also an interesting column by the veteran City commentator Jeremy Warner in the Sunday Telegraph, highlighting that although “supply and demand are chasing each other down into economic oblivion” there are glimmers of hope. And the Observer had an Economics feature article on how to “track Britain’s economic hibernation in real time”, whilst the Business Leader
• Today’s Market: The market was closed on Friday and yesterday for the Easter break. Despite the 1.4% dip on Wall Street yesterday, the FTSE 100 index is expected to open well up this morning (according to the Proactive private investor website), after a bright showing from Asian markets overnight (the Nikkei is up 3.1%)…The spread-betting firms expect the FTSE 100 to open c90 points up at around the 5930 mark.
• Today’s News: Next has confirmed the Mail on Sunday scoop that it is re-starting its Online operation in a very limited way today (after “completely re-organising the way our warehouses work, to enable rigorous social distancing”), selling only kidswear and some small Home items and with warehouse staff who don’t need public transport to get to work. And Heathrow has announced that in March passenger numbers shrunk by 52% compared to the same time last year, and that passenger demand in April is set to decrease by over 90%.
• News Flow This Week: The BRC-KPMG Retail Sales figures for March (the 5 weeks to April 4th) are out first thing on Thursday. Otherwise, there is no Retail company news scheduled this week, following the long Easter weekend, although we live in hope of AO.com saying something about recent trading. Note that Easter was earlier this year (Easter Day was April 12th, compared to April 21st last year).