Coronavirus - Popping bubbles
5 May 2020
Australia and New Zealand are discussing the potential for a travel ‘bubble’ between the two countries after both have had success in suppressing the virus. This, if agreed, could have economic benefits for both nations. Social bubbles, allowing people to interact with a small-defined group outside of their household, have also been discussed as a possible element of the UK’s exit strategy. While small social bubbles will help individuals cope with the lockdown it won’t help businesses and the economy. Only once large geographic bubbles can be established (cities, countries etc) could the bubble theory become part of a long-term strategy.
• NHS tracing app piloted on the Isle of Wight.
• Virgin Atlantic cuts 3,000 jobs and leaves Gatwick.
• UK car sales fall 97% in April.
• US set to borrow $3tn in Q2.
• The virus was potentially circulating in Europe in December.
• US and Russia absent from vaccine funding conference.
• 1PM – “Has been approved for accreditation as a lending partner under the Government's Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme ("CBILS"). CBILS is administered by British Business Bank. In addition, the company provides a further update on the impact of Covid-19 on the Group's business activities.
CBILS accreditation – The British Business Bank has approved 1pm Finance (UK) Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the company, which trades as Onepm Finance ("Onepm"), for accreditation as a participating lender under CBILS.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, 1pm has resolved to remain open for new business to support credit-worthy, robust SMEs as well as helping its existing 20,000 customers. Becoming an accredited lender will enable the Group to expand its lending in the form of leases and loans to UK small business customers across the UK impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic with the benefit for the Group of a government-backed guarantee for the loan repayments due from the borrower.
The Group is in the process of determining the amount of funding it expects to be able to deploy for CBILS related lending and the Board is confident that becoming an accredited lender, subject to the allocation and availability of suitable funding, will have the potential to make a significant impact on the number of new lending agreements.
The CBILS accreditation will provide an additional means for 1pm to deliver support to SMEs, adding to the Group's current lending activities in the form of Asset Finance, through wholesale finance facilities provided by British Business Bank and a range of challenger banks; Loan Finance through the Group's Secured Loan Note programme; and Invoice Finance through a back-to-back facility provided by RBS/NatWest.
In addition to the government-backed guarantee, the Government will make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments due and charges levied. It is anticipated that following a short period of preparation to be undertaken in conjunction with British Business Bank, including staff training and entry into underlying agreements, Onepm will be in a position to commence lending under CBILS during May 2020. Onepm thereafter intends to be an active lender for the duration of the CBILS scheme.
Covid-19 Update – As stated in the Group's Covid-19 update on 26 March 2020, the principles by which the Group is operating are:
• a dedicated focus on the health and safety of the Group's employees and their families;
• an uninterrupted seamless service for customer and client transactions;
• unwavering support to viable businesses for which finance solutions have been provided;
• remaining open for new business to support credit-worthy, robust SMEs.
The Group is pleased to report that after seven weeks of remote working, operations continue to be effectively and successfully carried out in respect of all four of these principles. The Group has used the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and furloughed approximately one-third of its 184-strong workforce.
The highest proportion of furloughed staff are employed in the Group's vehicles and property loans brokerage businesses where trading volumes have reduced significantly. These activities account for less than 10 per cent of the Group's profit before tax, since the majority of the Group's revenues and profits are generated from its lending activities.
Supported by CBILS, lending will continue strongly in certain business sectors, particularly those identified as critical. These include lending to SMEs in the food supply chain (agriculture, transportation and retail); medical, pharmaceutical and healthcare; IT and telephony; waste disposal and industrial cleaning; and certain sub-sectors in manufacturing.
In common with most businesses operating in the non-bank, specialist lending sector, 1pm has seen a number of existing borrowers requesting payment delays, holidays, or similar forbearance as they adjust to substantial losses of revenue. The Group has to date received forbearance requests from approximately 25 per cent of its borrowers, representing approximately 15 per cent of the Group's portfolio by value.
As previously announced and consistent with the company's standard approach, 1pm has dealt with these in-bound requests from borrowers on a case-by-case basis in agreeing to provide appropriate support.
1pm will continue to support credit-worthy customers and businesses so that they can resume normal trading at a future date. It is impossible to predict with any accuracy what the coming months will hold for the UK's economy and, therefore, as a responsible finance provider, the Group will continue to be prudent and in so doing will make additional impairment provisions in the current financial year ending on 31 May 2020.
The Board confirms that 1pm has a strong financial base to operate from with a robust balance sheet (showing unaudited Net Assets of £56.1m as at 30 November 2019), with operational liquidity, covenant headroom, and committed funding facilities for current lending activities. The company's lenders continue to be unanimously supportive of the Group.”
• BATM Advanced Communications – “Announces that its Adaltis subsidiary has launched ELISA Serological Test Kits that diagnose if a patient has had Covid-19 by detecting antibodies against it present in their blood.
The Adaltis Serological Tests are fully CE certified and the Group has commenced shipping initial orders to several customers in Europe. It is now ramping up production for larger quantities to fulfil further orders received from these customers.”
• Mincon Group – “We have seen restrictive measures in the Southern African market during March 2020. Our drill rod factory in South Africa had been closed in March along with much of the mining activity there; however, those restrictions have started to ease.
We have experienced some difficulty in moving product by air during March, mostly seen in Australia where it is very common to move specialised parts using this method. In parts of central and South America mining production has temporarily been interrupted, however this is in areas where we have a relatively minor presence.
Generally, our order book remains steady, and our factories are viewed as essential manufacturing in almost every jurisdiction we are located in. However, the effect and duration of the pandemic remains uncertain, and we have put in place additional lines of credit with our banking partners in different regions where it is felt appropriate to do so. We have not drawn on any of this additional credit, but it is available to us if needed in the future. Our balance sheet remains very strong, and we have not experienced any losses or any material effects on the inflow of debtor payments.”
• RHI Magnesita# – “As outlined in the company's 2019 full year results on 1 April 2020, the difficult market environment of the second half of 2019 continued into the first quarter of 2020, with limited impact from Covid-19. Trading activity in the Steel Division remained weak in Europe and South America, largely offset by a robust performance in North America. The Industrial Division continued to perform well, particularly in Cement. Overall, demand levels were similar to the final quarter of 2019 with EBITA slightly ahead, in line with management expectations. Raw material prices have fallen further in 2020, given the reduction in overall demand and uninterrupted supply from China, which has had a consequential impact on the pricing of some of the Group's products.
Increasingly challenging environment in Q2 2020 – The trading environment has become increasingly challenging in Q2 as a result of Covid-19, with a significant slowdown in customer activity and fall in order book levels, as expected. In the Steel Division, customer production has reduced in response to the economic slowdown caused by the Covid-19 crisis. To date, the Industrial Division has remained more resilient, particularly in areas where maintenance work has been accelerated during shutdowns, although there have been some project postponements.
Primary focus on health and safety, as well as supporting our customers' operations .
In response to the challenges of Covid-19, the business continues to focus on the health and safety of its employees, supporting our customers' operations, cash preservation and cost reduction measures.
In China, the Group's plants have remained open through the crisis. Our production also remains open in Europe and the Americas, but production slow-down will become necessary during May 2020. While there were short-term plant closures in India, as a result of rapidly introduced governmental restrictions, these facilities have now partially reopened.
Actions in response to Covid-19 – The business has increased the focus on cost management which includes the temporary closure of three plants in Europe and one plant in Mexico; the introduction of short time working arrangements; the deferral of at least €45 million of capital expenditure in 2020; no final 2019 dividend proposal; and fixed cost reduction actions, such as a hiring freeze on all non-critical roles and restricting discretionary expenditure. In recognition of these steps, the Board and the Executive Management Team have elected to reduce their fees and salary for at least the next three months.
The Group's previously announced Production Optimisation Programme remains on track, expecting to deliver benefits of €40 million improvement in EBITA by 2022, with an additional benefit of €15 million in 2020 from the turnaround of the previously identified operational issues.
Strong financial and liquidity position – The Group continues to have a strong focus on liquidity preservation, especially on managing inventories and collecting accounts receivable. Working capital increased modestly in the first quarter and may increase further in the second quarter. The Group has a strong liquidity position, which increased to €1.2 billion in Q1 2020, comprising cash and cash equivalents of €0.5 billion and fully committed undrawn facilities of €0.7 billion. It has a long-term debt maturity profile and is significantly beneath its net debt to EBITDA covenant.
Outlook – The overall impact of Covid-19 and, in particular, the extent and the duration of its effects on the global economy and our business, and the speed of economic recovery remain very uncertain. Whilst the impact will be material in the short term, the business is taking appropriate actions and has sufficient liquidity to withstand an extended period of uncertainty. Longer term, the Group is well positioned to take advantage of growth opportunities when markets improve and is focused on ensuring that it can exit this period of disruption with positive strategic momentum.”
• Tekmar – “Revenue in the Period is expected to be in line with expectations, showing above 40% growth on the prior financial year. This significant increase in sales has been achieved, despite the lockdown and social distancing measures associated with Covid-19 impacting the Group's activity in the heavily Q4 weighted period.
The Board is also pleased to announce that the Group ended the Period with a record year end Order Book1 of no less than £10 million, up 39% on the prior year end (FY19: £7.2m).
The company's balance sheet remains strong with net cash at year end of circa £2.1 million. In addition, as a prudent measure, the Group recently applied for and was granted a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan ("CBIL") of £3.0 million from its bank, Barclays. Given the Group's strong Order Book1, robust balance sheet and available liquidity, the Board believes that Tekmar Group is well placed to navigate this period of uncertainty.
Covid-19 update – Further to the Trading Update announced on 18 February 2020, the Board is pleased to report that the Group has continued to operate across all of its sites throughout the lockdown. Specific risk assessments have been undertaken and actioned to provide a robust solution for business continuity, whilst ensuring the health and well-being of the Tekmar Group team. We have implemented home-working for the majority of our office-based staff with full access to the Group's IT systems and split-shifts for our manufacturing team, which has involved a low level of essential furloughing (circa 8% of staff) to ensure effective social distancing. Those furloughed will be reinstated at the earliest, safe opportunity.
As a precautionary short-term measure, discretionary cash preserving initiatives have been put in place, including a freeze on the Group's annual pay review, recruitment and capital expenditure.”
• Carnival – “P&O Cruises today announced it has extended its voluntary pause in operations in Australia and New Zealand to August 31, 2020, in response to continuing travel restrictions due to the impact of Covid-19.
P&O Cruises President Sture Myrmell said everyone at P&O looked forward to resuming cruise operations as soon as it was safe to do so but it was clear an extension to the pause was necessary while Australia and New Zealand continue to make progress in combating coronavirus.
The changes in operations are:
Australia – The extended pause in operations will affect sailings on Pacific Dawn scheduled to depart Brisbane between June 16 – August 26, 2020.
Pacific Explorer’s cruises from Sydney will now be paused between June 24 – August 24, 2020
Pacific Aria’s scheduled cruises from Auckland will be postponed from July 4 – August 23, 2020
Compensation for cancelled cruises from May 5, 2020 – Guests whose cruises have been impacted by the extended pause in operations are eligible for a full refund or a future cruise credit equal to the cost of their original cruise plus an onboard credit offer.
P&O will make direct contact with guests whose cruises have been affected to let them know of this development and apologise for the disruption to future holiday plans.
Travel agent commission will be fully protected for bookings paid in full as at May 4, 2020 and those cancellations that occurred within the final payment date.”
• LondonMetric Property# – “Further to its trading statement on 2 April 2020, and ahead of its results for the year ended 31 March 2020 ("FY 2020"), LondonMetric Property announces a further update on trading which is being released simultaneously with an announcement regarding a proposed equity raise.
The company's operational and financial performance remains strong and its portfolio continues to demonstrate good resilience despite the uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In respect of its unaudited results for FY 2020, the company announces that:
• EPRA Earnings per share is 9.3p (2019: 8.8p), driven by a 24% increase in Net Rental Income to £116 million;
• EPRA NAV per share is 172p (2019: 175p), after deducting 2.5p of costs relating to the A&J Mucklow acquisition;
• Total Accounting Return is 3%;
• Dividend per share for FY 2020 is expected to be 8.3p (2019: 8.2p), 112% covered by EPRA earnings. The fourth quarterly dividend of 2.3p per share is expected to be declared with the FY 2020 results in June and paid in July.
Rent collection continues to be robust:
• 92% of rental payments due by 1 April have been collected or are being collected monthly. Short term rental concessions with compensatory asset management initiatives are agreed or being finalised on a further 4%, whilst short term rental deferrals have been agreed on another 3%;
• 18% of our rent is now paid monthly compared to 13% previously. In respect of monthly rents due by 25 April, similarly high rent collection levels are being achieved.
The portfolio is aligned to structurally supported sectors that the company believes offer superior growth prospects with distribution representing 70% of the portfolio and long income accounting for 24%. Investment activity in FY 2020 continued to improve the portfolio's quality and composition as well as significantly changing the distribution portfolio's split.
This has seen the company pivot further into urban logistics, which has increased from 27% to 35% of the overall portfolio and now represents the largest sector exposure. Conversely, we have continued to sell down mega distribution which has reduced from 23% to 15%. This composition will change further following the expected completion in June of £64 million of exchanged sales.
As at 31 March 2020, on an unaudited basis, the portfolio was valued at £2,347 million, reflecting a topped up net initial yield of 5.0% and equivalent yield of 5.5%. Over the year, the valuation of the portfolio fell by 0.5% with distribution outperforming and providing a positive valuation contribution.
The portfolio metrics as at 31 March 2020 continue to reflect the company's focus on owning assets which deliver reliable, repetitive and growing income with:
• Occupancy increased over the year from 98% to 99%;
• Average lease lengths of 11.2 years and only 7% of rent expiring within 3 years;
• Contracted income increased from £90 million to £123 million p.a.;
• Contractual rental uplifts on 53% of income, 60% of which is inflation linked;
• Greater income granularity with top ten occupiers accounting for 35% of rent (2019: 51%).
Like for like income growth for FY 2020 was 4% on the standalone LondonMetric portfolio. Asset management initiatives added £5 million p.a. of additional contracted rent in the year with:
• Lettings signed on 2 million sq ft on average lease lengths of 12 years;
• Rent reviews agreed on 3 million sq ft delivering a 12% uplift on a five yearly equivalent basis, with urban logistics achieving average uplifts of 22%.
Our financial position remains strong and was strengthened by a £75 million unsecured revolving credit facility signed recently with HSBC. Based on unaudited financials, as at 31 March 2020:
• Loan to value is 35.9% (37.7% excluding disposals with delayed completion);
• Average debt maturity on drawn facilities is 4.7 years;
• Average cost of debt is 2.9%, with a marginal cost of debt currently of 1.5%;
• Undrawn facilities and cash is £220 million;
• Interest Cover on unsecured facilities is 4.3x.
Our response to the Covid-19 pandemic has focused on keeping our people safe and working closely with our other stakeholders. In addition:
• A special Covid-19 committee is in place to assist charities and local communities as well as put in process ways of showing LondonMetric's appreciation to the NHS and Key Workers;
• As well as working closely with all of our occupiers, we have provided short term accommodation on a rent free basis to several occupiers who are providing essential products and services to the NHS in response to Covid-19;
• The board of directors and certain key employees are waiving 20% of salaries and fees for three months, providing additional funds to LondonMetric's wider Covid-19 charity giving.
Overall, the company believes that it is well placed to deal with the current disruption. Driven by changing consumer habits and technological change, the trend towards online and convenience shows no signs of slowing. Whilst Covid-19 is creating an economic shock, the company believes that it will further accelerate these trends, with many temporary changes from the pandemic likely to become permanent. The company expects these structural tail winds to further benefit its portfolio as good assets in resilient sectors that generate long and strong income continue to be clear winners.
In addition, the challenging markets are creating uncertainty which is starting to give rise to some attractive investment opportunities seldom available in a normalised market, characterised by less competition and more attractive pricing than would otherwise have been the case. As referenced in this morning's announcement regarding a proposed equity raise, the company is in discussions on a number of urban logistics and long income opportunities.”
• Regional REIT# – “Regional REIT is pleased to provide a further update on the good progress achieved by our active asset management strategy in continuing to secure high levels of rent collection, despite the unprecedented current market conditions. As at 1 May 2020, 92.8% had been collected in total, which compares favourably with 91.6% rent collection at the same date in 2019. This comprised of 87.2% of our Q1 2020 rents due and agreed collections from occupiers who are now settling monthly amounting to 5.6%. In addition, we have agreed temporary rent holidays with repayment plans on an additional 1.3%. We continue discussions with tenants on the remaining outstanding element and expect to increase the collection amount in the next few weeks.”
• Air Partner – “The Group has had a strong start to the financial year, with the unaudited accounts for February, March and April showing expected underlying profit before tax of £6m. April was a record month, predominantly driven by unusually high levels of activity in Freight and Group Charter. However, as expected, activity in Private Jets and Safety & Security remains notably lower than in previous years, although Redline has recently secured two new security contract wins.
While the forward order book is encouraging as we head into May and June with demand for Freight and Group Charter services remaining high, visibility beyond this is currently limited.
Group Charter – Group Charter has continued to carry out significant repatriation and evacuation work related to the Covid-19 pandemic, flying people back to their home countries from around the world. In addition, the team is involved in flying agricultural workers into the UK from elsewhere in Europe, and has seen increased demand for corporate shuttles from UK and US customers that value their employees travelling in a more controlled environment at this time.
Private Jets – Activity in Private Jets remains very weak, reflecting wider aviation trends as people follow government advice globally against non-essential travel. However, we anticipate some improvement when international airways start to re-open, as some executives and high net worth individuals seek to travel independently and from less busy airports.
Freight – We continue to see high demand for our Freight services. Our team was extremely busy in April, notably flying emergency shipments of protective personal equipment (PPE) on behalf of a number of customers, and this is set to continue into May.
Safety & Security – Our activities in Safety have been adversely impacted by Covid-19, as government restrictions have led to a significant drop in aviation industry activities, resulting in a temporary reduction in demand for training, consulting and quality assurance from our airline and airport customers.
However, Redline recently won a five-year contract with international facilities management company OCS Group UK (OCS) to support Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service. Redline will be OCS's internal quality assurance provider, and will also hold responsibility for the security training of all OCS security officers deployed at every court and tribunal in the UK to ensure they meet Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) standards for security searching and screening. In addition, Redline has also won a quality assurance contract with Aéroport Nice Côte d'Azur, which becomes the sixth airport in France to use its unique quality assurance testing programme.
Cost management and cash conservation – While we have enjoyed a strong first quarter, we currently have limited visibility beyond the next couple of months. However, we are confident that our teams will maximise any opportunities that arise, as has been the case so far this year, and we continue to manage the business for the long term and in the best interests of all stakeholders. Accordingly, we are managing costs tightly across the Group to preserve cash and maintain our working capital.
At the end of April, the Group has normalised cash in the bank of £13m, excluding significant customer deposits and JetCard cash. The Group has access to a total debt facility of £14.5m, comprising of a £1.5m overdraft and a £13m revolving credit facility (RCF), which is drawn down by £11.5m as at 1 May 2020. The RCF is due to expire in February 2023.”
• Johnson Service Group – “The Group is continuing to see a significant amount of disruption across its markets, prompting the Board to implement appropriate mitigating actions.
Our Workwear business, which provides garment rental, protective wear and laundry services is continuing to supply key industries and all our processing sites remain open. Whilst trading for the first two months of the year was in line with our expectations, we subsequently saw a reduction in requirements from certain, mainly blue collar, industries although we are seeing some increased demand from our food customers which partly offsets this. Organic growth within our Workwear business for the first quarter overall was slightly negative and trading in April was some 12% down.
Within HORECA, which serves the Hotel, Restaurant and Catering markets, we have ceased processing at the vast majority of our 18 sites as the demand for linen has significantly reduced from most sections of the hospitality market. Organic growth for the first two months of the year was particularly strong at 9%, however, March saw volumes reduce resulting in a negative organic growth in the month of 27%. In April, revenue fell by some 97% on an organic basis due to the closure of the vast majority of our hospitality customers.
Due to the reduction in demand we have furloughed a significant proportion of our employees, most notably in the HORECA division. The Board and Senior Management Team have all accepted a temporary salary reduction of 20%, initially for a three-month period from 1 April 2020, and the majority of other employees in support and administration roles who have not been furloughed have accepted a salary reduction of 10%, initially for the same period.
The above measures, together with a hold on capital investment and the cancellation of all non-essential revenue expenditure, are aimed at conserving cash within the business.
Net debt, excluding IFRS 16, at the end of March 2020 was in line with December 2019 at £87.7 million, resulting in a net debt to adjusted EBITDA leverage ratio, calculated in accordance with our bank facilities, of 1.3:1 (December 2019: £87.7 million and 1.3:1 respectively).
Government Support Initiatives – In addition to accessing the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the Group has welcomed the VAT and PAYE payment deferrals announced by the Government.
Financing, Liquidity and Covenants – The Group has always adopted a prudent approach to its cost base and capital allocation and, with the benefit of its ordinarily cash generative business model, has maintained a strong financial position.
We are currently engaged in constructive discussions with our three principal banks and have agreed that, although we expect to achieve the June 2020 covenants, they will waive that test. No fee has been charged for this waiver demonstrating the strong relationship we continue to have with our lenders.
Alongside discussions with our principal banks for the drawing of the £40 million Accordion Facility, we are also pursuing a resetting of covenants into 2021 to reflect the significant changes we are currently experiencing in trading, particularly within our HORECA business, and the continuing uncertainty around the length of time that the current containment measures may be in place.
We are also exploring the availability and suitability of other Government funding initiatives and a further announcement will be made as appropriate.
Dividend – As announced on 20 March 2020, given the current need for prudent cash management, the Board will, at today's Annual General Meeting, withdraw Resolution 3 in the Notice of Annual General Meeting relating to the final dividend payment in respect of the year ended 31 December 2019 of 2.35 pence per Ordinary share. The cash benefit to the Group of this action will be some £8.7 million which will further ensure the Group's financial resilience.
Furthermore, the Board anticipates that no dividend will be payable in respect of the current financial year.
Outlook – As a result of the significant uncertainty surrounding the impact of Covid-19, the Board is unable to provide financial guidance until the expected duration of the current stay at home measures, as well as the details of how and over what timeframe they will be relaxed thereafter, becomes clearer.
In the meantime, our priority remains the health and wellbeing of our employees and customers and we are continuing to ensure that we have the appropriate measures and precautions in place for their safety. We would like to recognise our employees' commitment during this challenging time.”
• Mears Group# – “Since providing an initial update on 25 March 2020, Mears has made excellent progress in adjusting the business to address the current challenges whilst ensuring that the Group is well positioned once the UK sees a return towards normality. The Group's primary focus is the safety and well-being of our customers and staff and to ensure continuity of service as far as possible. The Group has quickly adapted to new working practices, following and often exceeding Government guidelines. This has been enabled by our long established cultural focus on safety, service and social responsibility.
Operational progress - Normally, the Group's housing maintenance activities would account for around two-thirds of Group revenues. These services are largely non-discretionary and provide a consistent and highly visible revenue stream. However in the current climate, we have worked with Local Authority and Housing Association clients to agree to defer works and only to deliver an emergency service. The Group has secured interim arrangements with the majority of maintenance clients which, together with the use of the Government's furlough scheme, ensure recovery of direct labour and local overheads. This has substantially reduced the financial downside risk. The Group will continue dialogue with each client in respect of transitioning services away from a full lockdown as Government guidance changes and the Board will provide further updates to the market as circumstances change.
The Group's housing management activities normally amount to around one-quarter of Group revenues. There is no reduction in demand in this area, given the large numbers of vulnerable people, who often need daily support. The challenge is to continue to support vulnerable service users whilst adhering to the strict rules around how our employees can safely interact with colleagues and service users. Indeed, within the Group's Asylum contract, volume numbers are increasing, with new service users entering the system and few exiting. Whilst the requirement for additional accommodation is challenging in the short-term from an operational perspective, the contractual mechanism reduces much of the financial risk.
The Group's development activities would normally account for around five per cent. of Group revenue. These activities have been mothballed, and action taken to immediately reduce the fixed cost base. This area is considered low risk from both an operational and financial standpoint. The working capital already absorbed in this area is secure but will unwind over a longer time horizon than originally envisaged.
The Group's care activities account for the balance of Group revenues and continue to deliver service as normal. The Board is very appreciative of the hard work and professionalism of the Care team where we continue to provide an excellent service to a particularly vulnerable group of service users. The Group has successfully used every avenue possible to ensure our staff have the PPE needed to carry out their work and to support them in every way we can. Feedback from our customers has been exceptionally positive.
Financial impact - Excellent progress has been made in mitigating the financial impact of the operational changes described above. The Group believes that operating losses during the full lockdown period, where an emergency only service is being provided, will be modest, and a small positive free cash flow should be generated.
The Group has taken advantage of a number of reliefs made available by Central Government. The Group has furloughed staff where appropriate and only where staff costs could not be recovered through our customer contracts. The Group has also enjoyed the benefit of the deferral of its VAT liability for the March 2020 quarter, which now becomes payable in March 2021.
Liquidity and funding - The Group reported average daily net debt in 2019 of £114.4m. However, following the mobilisation of the Group's Asylum contract, average net debt during the last quarter of 2019 was £126.1m which is more reflective of the debt requirement of the business at the start of 2020. Average daily net debt in the first four months of 2020 continued at a similar level. Importantly, cash flow in April was positive, reflecting our clients' commitment to pay efficiently during this period.
The Company believes that its existing banking facilities, a total commitment of £170m with maturity out to November 2022, will provide sufficient liquidity. However, the Board has considered it prudent to secure additional headroom given these are unique and uncertain times. An increase in facilities totalling circa £22.6m is agreed and paperwork to enable availability of funds will be completed in the next few weeks. The Board remains confident that it will be fully compliant with its banking covenants on 30 June 2020, being the next measurement point.
The Company announced on 25 March 2020 that it believed it inappropriate to declare a final dividend in respect of the 2019 year. However, it remains the Board's intention to return to a progressive dividend policy once it is confident that activity and working practices have returned to normal and that it would be prudent to do so. For the time being, the Company considers that it should refrain from providing guidance as to likely financial performance for the 2020 year.”
• Wizz Air- “In April 2020, Wizz Air continued to grow its network and improve its customer offering as follows: • In addition to the regular passenger traffic detailed below, Wizz Air has operated 71 cargo flights with medical equipment as well as 28 rescue flights since the breakout of the Covid-19 pandemic.
• Wizz Air announced five new destinations to Abu Dhabi, with the first flights from Budapest and Bucharest commencing in June 2020, and three additional destinations starting in September. The launch of the Group's new low-cost airline Wizz Air Abu Dhabi is progressing in line with the initial timeline.
• Operations were resumed from Wizz Air's bases in London Luton and Vienna on 1 May with flights to selected destinations.
• Wizz Air announced the opening of a new base in Lviv, Ukraine from 1 July with one based aircraft and five new destinations, as well as two additional services from Kharkiv.
• Wizz Air continuously operates at the lowest CO2 emissions per passenger/km amongst all competitor airlines, with 57.2 grams per passenger/km for the rolling 12 months to 30 April 2020. For the month of April, emissions in grams per passenger/km were 9.9% higher due to the drop in load factor, while total CO2 emissions in tonnes decreased in line with capacity.
| April 2020 || April 2019 || Change |
| Capacity || 104,956 || 3,577,062 || -97.1% |
| Passengers (booked) || 78,386 || 3,288,731 || -97.6% |
| Load Factor || 74.7% || 91.9% || -17.3ppts |
• The NHS app that aims to track the spread of the virus has begun on the Isle of Wight. Council and healthcare workers will be the first to try the contact-tracing app, with the rest of the island able to download it from Thursday. If the trial is successful, it could be available nationwide within weeks.
• New car registrations fall by 97%, April preliminary figures from industry body the SMMT show. Only 4,000 cars were registered, the lowest monthly level since 1946, 70% these new registrations were by companies buying for their fleets.
• In France approximately 30 miles (50km) of some of Paris's busiest roads will be open only to cyclists when the lockdown is eased next week, in an effort to limit crowds on public transport. Another 30 streets will be made pedestrian-only.
• New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, says the country will not have open borders with the rest of the world for "a long time to come". However, she joined Australia's official virus cabinet meeting (via phone) to discuss a potential "travel bubble" between the two nations.
• A French doctor has claimed to have found evidence that a patient diagnosed with pneumonia on 27 December actually had the coronavirus. If this is verified, it would prove that the virus was already circulating in France weeks before the first known cases were reported there.
• The US has said it will borrow a record-breaking $3tn in Q2, in a bid to offset the huge costs of coronavirus-related rescue packages. The figure is more than five times the previous quarterly record, set at the height of the 2008 financial crisis.
• The NFL has cancelled the four games scheduled to take place in London later this year. The London games were set for autumn 2020, but no firm dates had been set.
• Clubs in the top two German divisions have returned 10 positive results from 1,724 coronavirus tests, says the German football league. Clubs have been training in groups, with the tests taken before a planned return to training as teams.
• A major study by the University of Bonn in Germany suggests up to 1.8 million people in the country may have been infected with the virus. After results of studying the town of Gangelt, which was badly affected in the outbreak, where extrapolated.
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