Coronavirus: This time it’s different
8 April 2020
EU talks on how to help southern Eurozone countries badly affected by the coronavirus epidemic have stalled for the second time (resuming tomorrow). The European Central Bank says the bloc may need up to €1.5tn to tackle the crisis. The outbreak is again exposing the divides between nations in a replay of the financial crisis. However, a deal seems closer this time around and public opinion in the richer northern countries is shifting. Unlike the financial crisis, the outbreak does not have a clear scapegoat and many see this as a global problem that can only be solved together. Negotiations resume on Thursday.
Buildings & Construction
•Gleeson – ‘On 25 March 2020, the company announced that, following guidance from the UK Government in relation to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19), it had taken the decision to temporarily suspend building activity. The Company has since completed the controlled wind-down and temporary closure of all its building sites. The company has also implemented a number of cost saving measures including halting land spend and new site starts, cancelling its interim dividend, cutting discretionary costs and imposing a recruitment freeze. The company further announced on 6 April 2020 that it was furloughing 76% of its workforce and introducing salary cuts of up to 30% for senior management to enable, where possible, the protection of salaries of those site level employees whilst furloughed.
The company builds and sells high quality, low-cost two, three and four bedroom homes to young, first-time buyers on average and lower incomes across the Midlands and North of England, an under-served market characterised by long-term structural demand. The company's two bedroom homes start from just £90,000. Following restrictions introduced due to the outbreak of Covid-19, the company will continue to work with Central Government and Local Authorities to ascertain what provisions might be put in place to see the safe resumption of the building of much-needed quality affordable homes as soon as possible. The company anticipates that the current situation, caused by Covid-19, will further reinforce the supply shortages of low cost homes for first-time buyers. It should also be noted that people designated "Key and Critical Workers" by the UK Government keeping the country safe, fed and healthy form c60% of the company's customers and will be prioritised by the company when the market returns.
The company currently has 1,046 plots built to slab level across its 67 activities. Of those, 236 plots have been practically completed of which 171 plots have exchanged or are ready to exchange. The company anticipates that, in addition to the resumption of building on its current sites and completion of its current order book (864 forward orders of which 364 have exchanged and 500 are reserved), there will be a significant opportunity to convert the company's current pipeline of new sites owned or under contract to help satisfy demand for the company's homes. The company has 22 new sites owned or in planning of which management had, prior to the current lock-down, planned to phase the openings of 17 sites during the remainder of H1 2020. However, in order to satisfy demand for its homes and maximise growth of sales and earnings the company is targeting a compression of these new site openings into a smaller window once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
The company believes that once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, low cost homes and those sold to first-time buyers will be the segment of the housing market that will recover the fastest. A precursor to home ownership is the saving of a deposit of as little as £5,000. A significant proportion of the company's customers are the Key and Critical Workers who will be working overtime during the current health crisis and may emerge from this period having saved such amounts. To be able to meet the demand for its homes,building on current sites and opening of new sites will be concertinaed into a much shorter time scale, which will be more capital intensive than usual. The company is therefore proposing to raise additional capital by way of the Placing to provide additional liquidity. The funds provided will be utilised to:
•Secure materials including the supply of bricks, block timber, kitchens, and other materials ensuring availability on resumption of building. This is expected to cost c£2 million; and
•Purchase and open new sites under contract. This is expected to cost c£10 million. The Placing, together with actions taken by management to date, will also result in the company being well capitalised and better able to withstand a prolonged period of the Covid-19 restrictions being enforced. Post the Placing the company will have cash on hand of c£82.9 million, with a monthly cash burn of £3.1 million down from £4.9 million pre the Covid19 restrictions, and an expected upcoming unwind of balance sheet payables over the next 6 months of £22.9 million.’
•Grafton – ‘The Chief Executive Officer, Gavin Slark and Chief Financial Officer, David Arnold have voluntarily requested that their base salaries and pension contributions are temporarily reduced by 20 per cent with immediate effect. They have also voluntarily requested the suspension of the Bonus Scheme for 2020 and the postponement of awards under the Long Term Incentive Plan, scheduled to be granted in April 2020, for further consideration by the Remuneration Committee following the announcement of this year's interim results.
The Chairman, Michael Roney and the Non-Executive Directors have also decided that their fees should be temporarily reduced by 20 per cent with immediate effect.
•Fiske– ‘Fiske announces that the company's trading since the announcement of its interim results on 26 February 2020 has been in line with the board's expectations. Commission revenue for March was above that of the prior year due to higher than usual market volumes caused by enhanced volatility in markets. However, asset values and subsequent fee revenue have fallen as a result of general market weakness. Trading volumes in the month to date have returned to levels consistent with prior years.Unsurprisingly there is significant macro-economic uncertainty given the Covid-19 outbreak and the ongoing impact of this on levels of trading and on equity and fixed income markets, which cannot be quantified at present.However, our systems are working effectively and it is expected that the firm will be able to continue to provide a full service offering for clients throughout the lockdown period. Although the longer-term economic impact is hard to predict, we remain confident that the company is well positioned to weather the storm and to continue to service our clients to the highest standard’
•River & Mercantile – ‘We have seen unprecedented market volatility over the last three weeks as the world has come to terms with the fast evolving Covid-19 crisis. Volatility closed above levels last seen in the Global Financial Crisis over 12 years ago and equity markets along with a range of other asset classes have seen dramatic falls. As events have unfolded, it has become increasingly likely that a global economic downturn is now almost a certainty and that large parts of the global economy will enter recession this year.
As the initial pressures subside, return-seeking assets may well find some temporary respite, however we believe markets do remain vulnerable. It is the unknown scale of the pandemic and the potential prolonged impact on the economy that provides potential for further uncertainty if economic data surprises to the downside. It is worth noting that consensus growth expectations for the latter part of the year and into 2021 are still positive. Whilst we hope to be wrong, we think current estimates maybe somewhat optimistic.’
•S&U# – ‘Nearly 90% of staff at Advantage, Aspen and Head Office are working from home with some staff redeployed to collections - none are being furloughed
S&U's strong financial and treasury position and conservative management is exemplified by its significant funding and covenant headroom
Strong Group cash generative position as sales temporarily fall and collections performance for March 2020 has remained just below normal
Under-writing reinforced at both Advantage and Aspen to navigate Covid-19 economic shock and potential temporary rise in unemployment
Early post year end potential reductions in lending, whilst key customer and broker relationships maintained
Internal stress testing and examination of material uncertainties is a constant process - updated daily
Due to the uncertainty regarding Covid-19's future impacts, the Group is withdrawing future guidance but will update the market on 9th June 2020’
Food, Drinks & Household
•AG Barr – ‘Along with our fellow food and drink manufacturers we are working closely with the Government, and DEFRA in particular, to maintain continuity of the food and drink supply chain, helping to keep shop shelves well stocked.
Our production and logistics sites currently remain operational and we are extremely grateful to our dedicated supply chain employees and partners.
Following the Government's 'lock-down' measures, introduced on 23 March,which initially saw the closure of pubs, bars and other hospitality venues across the UK, we are now understandably also seeing a significant impact on the ‘out of home’ consumption of soft drinks in general. Sales via our ‘impulse’customers (c40% of total revenue) have significantly reduced as a result.'Take-home' purchases have remained more resilient although sales since 23 March have been more volatile than usual. As a result, we expect there to be a material adverse impact to the Group's financial performance due to these fastc hanging circumstances, however at the current time the quantum of this remains uncertain.
The Group has a strong financial base and our balance sheet is robust, with net cash in the bank of £10.9m at the financial year-end, however given the highly unusual circumstances arising from Covid-19, we believe it is important to conserve cash at this time and maintain maximum balance sheet flexibility.We have drawn down our £60m revolving credit facilities in full. In addition,we have now frozen all new capital projects, as well as scaling back immediate marketing and commercial activity where sensible across the Group. In accordance with the Government's Job Retention Scheme, we have commenced the "furlough" process for a limited number of colleagues at this stage.
In addition, the Board and Senior Executive team have agreed to a voluntary 20% salary reduction for a minimum of 3 months to help support the business through these difficult times. We continue to take a prudent and vigilant approach to all working capital to minimise risk in the current climate.The Board is not proposing a final dividend at this time, and will review the dividend position when there is greater visibility of the impact of Covid-19.
•Real Good Food – ‘Overall, the Board expects there to be a material impact on sales at least in the first quarter of the new financial year due to Covid-19.Priority - business continuity – Our priority is the safety of our staff whilst still supplying our customers with the highest quality product. We are following all government guidelines, with most back-office staff now working from home and full risk assessments completed in terms of social distancing at our manufacturing sites. The recent IT upgrade at Renshaw's has enabled homeworking and the ability to hold virtual meetings with our international customers and colleagues (Brighter was already well invested in this area). In light of lower demand, production planning is being reviewed in consultation with customers to rationalise the products we are making.
RGF has a robust crisis management plan that we have been implementing including taking actions to mitigate risks. For example, when the pandemic first appeared in China, we reviewed our suppliers in China and sourced alternatives in Europe, ensuring adequate production cover.
The impact on the sectors we serve can be summarised as follows:
•the manufacturing sector is likely to be able to maintain or grow sales
•the wholesale sector has had a downturn due to its customers in the restaurant and leisure sectors having to close premises
•the retail sector has focused on filling shelves with 'essential' products, and has changed some order patterns, whilst rationalising some niche products and colours
Turning to the impact on our divisions, this may be summarised as follows:
•its snack bars have significant sales into the 'food on the go' and service station sectors and therefore the current restrictions on travel are impacting these sales
•the nutritionally controlled and diet sector is also facing challenges and therefore there are expected to be lower stock requirements•overall Brighter is operating in line with demand and is in close contact with its customer base to ensure forecasts are in line with production
•revenues impacted in both France and Netherlands where it has a high proportion of activity•revenues in America although lower are holding up relatively well so far
•Renshaws has furloughed nearly half of its employees, giving the business alower cost base, to offset some of the decline in sales
Funding - measures we are taking to conserve cash - We are working to prepare the business for varying levels of revenues and have modelled the effects of these, whilst reviewing all the measures we can take to ensure that the company exits this period with a sustainable business model for the future. We have close working relationships with our major shareholders and funders who remain supportive.In common with other companies, RGF is reviewing all options to mitigate the impact of the reduced sales. For example, Cake Decorations is utilising the government job retention programme and has furloughed c140 staff across all functions, for an initial period of three weeks.
The first priority is conserving cash, and we are using or considering a number of measures including the funding of our debtors; furloughed employees assistance from the government; the delay of discretionary capital expenditure and review of other discretionary costs; deferred payment of VAT; and deferring payments of rent and rates in agreement with our landlords and councils.
•Indivior – ‘in recent weeks, Indivior has observed impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic, including a meaningful decline in patient enrollments for both SUBLOCADE® (buprenorphine extended-release) Injection and PERSERIS® (risperidone) Injection and continued relative market share strength of SUBOXONE® (buprenorphine and naloxone) Film. The company believes these impacts largely reflect the general trends of substantialreductions in patient visits to healthcare provider offices and a corresponding increase in remote prescribing. The company cannot predict the duration or extent of the market disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic on its business.
Given the uncertainty of the duration of this trend and the continued negative impact on the remainder of FY 2020, Indivior is withdrawing its previously issued FY 2020 financial guidance as it can no longer be relied upon. The company does not expect to be in a position to provide revised guidance until the duration and extent of the market disruptions from the Covid-19 pandemic are known. As of March 31, 2020, Indivior had gross cash of approximately $911m and net cash of approximately $673m.
Indivior's priorities during this challenging period are the welfare of its employees, maintaining supply of all approved treatments to patients and understanding and planning for the potential impacts of the Covid-19 situation across its business.In order to protect our employees from Covid-19, and to comply with Government strategies regarding social distancing, Indivior is mandating its global workforce (excluding essential product supply manufacturing) to work remotely. This includes all healthcare provider-facing personnel across its global commercial organization. The company believes that remote working is also affecting the decline in patient enrollments for SUBLOCADE® andPERSERIS®, as its commercial organization is unable to engage in-person with HCPs and the Organized Health Systems (OHS) that constitute a key element of the company's growth strategy.
The company is providing its employees with access to resources, tools and training on topics including wellness and remote working. Indivior employees worldwide also have free access to employee assistance programs covering legal, parenting, elder care, childcare and mental health support. Our employees remain resilient and are working as passionately and efficiently as possible to continue to bring Indivior's approved treatments to patients under the current unprecedented circumstances.
•Churchill China – ‘The short and long term impact of Covid-19 is not yet clear. The company has acted quickly to assess the impact on its business and to develop and implement a set of immediate responses to the impact upon our operations in the short term. Our first priority was to ensure the safety of our employees. To that end, we commenced a programme of distancing within certain operations on 19 March and on 25 March, we suspended production at our Sandyford site and furloughed the majority of our workforce. We retain the ability to meet short-term demand from inventories held in our logistics operations in the UK, Rotterdam and Chicago.
Given that the majority of our costs are represented by production materials, labour and energy, the suspension of manufacturing operations, supported by the Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has, in the short term,substantially lowered the cash cost of our operations to below £1m per month.We anticipate that our current cash reserves, which are highly liquid, will provide a significant level of forward cover during and beyond the present lock down period.We are continually reviewing medium and longer-term business scenarios as part of our contingency planning process. As a business we enjoy a widespread of revenue both in terms of geography, distribution channels and product range and we are developing forward plans to provide flexibility should future market performance change from that previously experienced.Whilst we expect that Hospitality revenues may be lower in the short term and may take several months to recover to normal levels we retain the ability to optimise our UK manufacturing operations through a renewed focus on other sectors within the tableware market and other alternative measures.
Our record of consistent cash generation, regular investment, and strong balance sheet gives us a significant level of flexibility in the medium term. We believe that, if necessary, we may reduce the ongoing level of expenditure on revenue and capital projects without significantly impacting our ability to re-focus or grow our business.
•DS Smith – ‘Trading since our update on 4 March 2020 has remained resilient with relatively limited impact from Covid-19 seen to date, with performance for the financial year anticipated to be in line with our current expectations.
During these unprecedented times, our priorities remain to look after the safety of our staff, our partners and our communities as well as ensuring excellent levels of customer service. In virtually all markets in which we operate, governments have classified us as a critical business involved in the supply of packaging to sectors such food and essential products. All our factories are, and have been operational throughout, albeit with further enhanced safety and hygiene standards.
In terms of demand, corrugated box volumes have continued to be good and we have seen improvement on the first half on a like for like basis, with our focus on the FMCG customer base, in particular, benefitting us during these uncertain times. On a regional basis, the main impact to date has been in Southern Europe, which includes the markets of Italy, France and Spain. The Northern region including Germany, Benelux, UK and Scandinavia has seen less effect whilst Eastern Europe has not seen any meaningful effect to date. Within our North American operations, trading has remained relatively robust, consistent with the overall Group.
Supplies into the grocery sector have been very busy particularly in ambient food, drinks, hygiene, frozen food and dry packaged grocery categories. E-commerce has also been strong in most categories but increasingly in everyday essential products. These are sectors where we have clear market leading positions with outstanding service and product quality. The industrial sector has however been heavily affected but our more limited exposure has protected us.
Thanks to the exceptional support and resilience of our employees, our standards of customer service and product quality have remained excellent during this period, although there have been some additional operating costs as a result of Covid-19, particularly in relation to employees, logistics and enhanced health and safety measures as we continue to manage our operations within this challenging environment. However, pricing remains resilient and we therefore expect a return on sales for the current financial year to be similar to the first half.
Liquidity, financial position and cost reduction measures - The Group has a highly cash generative business model and our balance sheet and liquidity profile are strong, with c£1.4bn of facilities currently undrawn, and no significant refinancing required until 2023. We currently anticipate our net debt to EBITDA ratio at 30 April 2020 to be around our medium term target of 2.0. Although we will continue to invest in the maintenance and efficiency of our asset base, we are taking a number of steps to ensure the continued financial strength of the business including stopping discretionary expenditure and an enhanced focus on working capital and capital expenditure. The Executive Directors will be waiving their rights to any annual bonus in respect of the current year.
Outlook and dividend - Notwithstanding our strong liquidity profile, the resilient trading to date and the actions we are taking, we are conscious that we are operating in an exceptionally uncertain global environment and we will inevitably be impacted by any severe prolonged downturn in global economic activity. Against this backdrop and after due consideration, the Board has decided it is prudent to no longer pay the interim dividend due for payment on 1 May 2020, which would otherwise become ex-dividend on 9 April. The Board recognises the high degree of importance of dividends to shareholders and, as such, it will consider the appropriateness, quantum and timing of overall dividend payment relating to the financial year ending 30 April 2020 at the time of announcement of the results in July when it expects to have a clearer view of the effects of Covid-19 on the company's business, together with additional measures focused on cost mitigation and cash generation.
•JSW - the second largest Indian steel producer, is set to recommence production at all of its facilities post the end of the lockdown. Steel mills across India (and elsewhere) have been operating at minimal levels in order not to incur the huge cost of shutting down and then restarting. However,some 60% of migrant workers have returned to their villages so it will take at least a couple of months to get back to anywhere near normal.
•Porvair# – ‘Porvair is doing what it can to help governments and health services. We are supplying filter components for several of the consortia now building ventilator and breathing apparatus: one in France; one in Sweden;three in the US; and the Mercedes AMG/Formula 1 consortium in the UK. Porvair is supplying consumables for dozens of US testing laboratories,including the Mayo Clinic; is producing millions of pipette tips for Covid-19 testing kits; and thousands of filters for Diagnostics in the Real World. Shifts have been added to produce chromatography bed supports and pharmaceutical grade water filters. The Board anticipates further programmes will emerge as the crisis continues. Whilst these orders are relatively small they illustrate the capabilities and commitment of our staff.
In financial terms, the impact on the Group will depend on the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic and on the severity of its economic consequences. The Board of Porvair has considered various outlook scenarios, stress testing the Group for different levels of challenge, plant by plant. The Group has a strong balance sheet and is expected to be both profitable and modestly cash generative through the balance of the year in all but the most pessimistic scenarios. The Board does not believe it needs to change its final dividend recommendation.
In its outlook statement dated 31 January 2020 the Group noted its positive exposure to global growth trends including tighter environmental regulations;growth in analytical science; the expansion of air travel; the replacement of plastic by aluminium and the drive for manufacturing process efficiency. Looking to 2021 and beyond the Group expects these trends to continue.Indeed, 2020 has started well with revenues ahead of the prior year in the four months to the end of March. All plants are currently open and April is busy. However, there will no doubt be disruption during the rest of the year.Demand, in sectors including aviation, automotive and industrial manufacturing, is likely to decline. Other sectors, mainly in the Laboratory division, are expected to remain busy. As we wait to see how the economic consequences of Covid-19 develop, the Board therefore considers it prudent to withdraw guidance until the outlook is more certain.
•Direct Line Insurance – ‘Travel claims to date continue to develop reflecting international and domestic travel restrictions and isolation measures resulting from Covid-19. Travel gross reported incurred claims at 31 March 2020 totalled £22 million before reinsurance cover of around £18.5 million. Early signs across the rest of the Group indicate a reduction in claims, particularly in motor, as customers stay at home.’
•On the Beach#– ‘In line with market-wide communications made by OTB prior to and since its listing in September 2015, the Group has an asset light,flexible, no inventory risk model and has no fixed commitments on hotel rooms or airplane seats.
For context, a tour operator or airline will generally have an almost immovable committed inventory cost (aircraft and/or hotels) and infrastructure cost of 60-70% of its aspirational total sales (transaction value) with or without any demand. An online travel agent like OTB without any inventory commitment only incurs inventory costs on each sale made and under normal conditions will have an underlying operating cost of approximately 8% of sales of which almost 70% is flexible marketing spend. If demand falls away completely then the fixed cost base will drop to c3% of aspirational sales (or one twentieth of the costs of a similar sized asset heavy operator).
Perhaps more importantly in the current scenario, OTB is also the only listed UK travel business that operates a fully ring-fenced customer trust account in which customer funds are held until the point of travel. Therefore, the Group, unlike the majority of online travel agents, tour operators and airlines, does not rely on cash received for forward bookings to trade. Monies that have been received for holidays that are cancelled by a closure of airspace can be repaid to customers in cash with limited impact on the Group's working capital.
Notwithstanding the advantages of the OTB model, the Group took early action in February to manage risk and conserve cash. In this environment of limited demand and therefore limited revenue, the Group's marketing costs have reduced to almost nil and the Group has taken further actions to limit other non-essential costs meaning that monthly cash costs are now less than £2m across the entire Group. The Group has, however, maintained all costs associated with the delivery of its future strategy.
Further to the above and in light of the current market uncertainties, OTB is suspending full year guidance until such time that the overall impact of Covid-19 on the Group becomes clearer. The Board also announces that it will not be declaring an interim dividend in the current financial year to 30 September 2020. The Group's CEO is forgoing his salary and the remainder of the Board have voluntarily agreed to a 20% reduction in salary and fees. This is alongside no bonuses being awarded across the Group in the current financial year.Banking Facilities – In 2019 the Group renewed its existing Revolving Credit Facility to provide up to £50m to manage seasonal working capital requirements. The Group has recently reached agreement with its Bank to: extend the £50m RCF to all months of each year; extend the term to December 2023; and reset covenant tests for all periods up to and including June 2021.
The Group has also run theoretical stress tests of the Group's business model. It should be noted, however, that this is a stress test and not any expectation of the Group's future trading.
The stress test applied the following assumptions:
•There would be no bookings taken between now and the end of September 2020 across the travel industry for travel on any dates in the future;
•All flight programmes would be cancelled until the end of September 2020;
i) All forward bookings until the end of September 2020 would therefore have to be cancelled. All OTB customers would be refunded in cash within 14 days of the receipt of cash refunds from airline providers
ii)In the event of airline failure, monies paid for flights would be available via chargeback, as was the case with Thomas Cook Group andMonarch Travel Group
iii) Concerns over the financial viability of any airline would lead to thatairline being taken off sale by OTB
•Although bookings would return slowly once airspace reopens, bookings would remain at a significantly reduced level YOY until at least the end of March 2021 (H1 FY21).In the above scenario, the Group would end H1 FY21 with only a limited draw down of its facilities and significant headroom. This headroom would allow the Group to take advantage of the multitude of opportunities that these market conditions would present. The aforementioned position, of course, does not include any customer funds received for untraveled holidays, as these would be held separately in the Group's ring-fenced trust account.
•Hyve Group – ‘Hyve's Q2 results have been impacted by the measures announced by national governments to combat the spread of the coronavirus, as well as actions taken by the Group to safeguard the health and safety of our employees, customers and events as outlined in its updates on 5 and 23 March 2020. Three of the Group's top 10 events ran in the quarter, including Bettand Mining Indaba, both of which reported strong year-on-year growth.Spring Fair also took place in Q2 and despite an ongoing impact from Brexit and reduced attendance by Chinese exhibitors due to coronavirus travel restrictions, the rate of decline slowed compared to the previous year.
Coronavirus response - The Group has acted quickly to implement a postponement plan, with 33 events being moved to later this financial year, a further 12 events being postponed to FY21 and eight being cancelled.Management has had productive dialogue with most venue owners to rollover the cost to the new dates for these events and these discussions are ongoing.
Financial position and conservation of cash - To protect the Group's financial position a number of cost-saving and working capital management initiatives have been put in place. These include a freeze on salary rises and recruitment,the removal of current year bonus plans, the postponement of capital projects and the cancellation of contractor contracts. In the UK, over a quarter of the workforce has been put on furlough leave, as part of the UK Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The Board together with Hyve's global leadership team, have taken a temporary pay reduction of 20%. The Board has taken the decision not to pay a dividend for the current financial year, and future dividends will be kept under review.
Management continues to be engaged in constructive dialogue with the Group's lenders in relation to covenant headroom and facility flexibility. As an initial measure, the Group has secured a waiver of the June 2020 covenant tests under the debt facilities. This was the first covenant test date following the refinancing of the Group announced in December 2019.
As announced on 23 March 2020, the Group has access to total committed debt facilities of £250m which have been fully drawn in order to maximise flexibility in terms of short-term liquidity.’
•Centaur Media – ‘Following the completion of its transformation programme in 2019, Centaur has a strong balance sheet with a net cash position of £6.7m as at 3 April 2020 and an undrawn banking facility of £25m, provided by Lloyds Bank plc and National Westminster Bank plc, subject to certain conventional covenants.While the final impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Centaur's business remains uncertain, the Board has implemented a series of measures to conserve cash. These include freezing a substantial proportion of marketing costs,halting recruitment, temporarily furloughing employees in line with changes in customer activity, and deferring non-essential capital expenditure. Senior management has also taken the decision to waive their annual pay rises at 1 April.
Centaur has also taken several measures to ensure our products and services continue to support our customers, many of whom are working from home.We have moved many of our face-to-face training sessions online. In addition,several customers who were due to receive face-to-face marketing training have been converted to the April intake of the Mini-MBA. We have also launched a series of webinars on how Covid-19 is impacting marketing, which we expect to assist in generating new business leads. To minimise the impact of Covid-19 on our events business, we have moved two of The Lawyer events from Q2 to Q4. We are currently planning for The Festival of Marketing to go ahead in October, if appropriate to do so. We continue to review and assess our contingency plans.Centaur's subscription revenues remain resilient and our digital capabilities allow us to continue to offer many of our services across the globe during the Covid-19 pandemic. We are monitoring the situation closely and remain flexible in adapting to the changing conditions.
•CLS Holdings – ‘the Group remains in a strong financial position. As at 7 April 2020, CLS had cash of over £235 million with a further £50 million in undrawn facilities. Our balance sheet is well capitalised with a Loan to Value of 31.8% (31 December 2019: 31.4%).
The Group's rental income in the UK and France is due on a quarterly basis with the current payment due between 25 March and 6 April. In Germany,rents are due monthly and the current payment was due on 6 April. As at 31 March 2020, the Group's contractual rents are split 54% in the UK, 31% in Germany and 15% in France.
By close on 7 April 2020, we had received 84% of contractual rents due or 87% taking into account those tenants we are supporting by switching to monthly rents (2019: 96% of rents had been collected by 7 April 2019). We
•Derwent London – ‘All employees below the Board are on full salaries and benefits and none have been furloughed Increased support for our occupiers most in need and our communities 73% of March Quarter Day rents received, plus 6% now paying on a monthly basis and another 12% on agreed payment plans Developments:
•Construction temporarily paused at our three major sites
•Optionality over timing of future pipeline
ERV2, property yield and EPRA earnings guidance withdrawn until greater visibility returns
•Impact Healthcare – ‘as the quarter unfolded, the Covid-19 virus evolved from a potential threat to the full-blown pandemic that we are in the midst of.We believe that the Group has good resilience in the face of this crisis which comes from the satisfactory operational and financial position of our tenants and the healthy financial position of the Group.
The Group's tenants provide an essential service to the communities in which they operate and will play a critical role in helping to provide care to vulnerable elderly people during the Covid-19 pandemic. Our top priority remains the health, welfare and safety of the Group's tenants, care home residents, care professionals and wider stakeholders.
Up to the date of the publication of this report, there had been no direct effect on our tenants measured by occupancy at their homes, which the Investment Manager is now monitoring on a weekly basis. The Group's tenants have a strong level of rent cover, with an average of 1.8 times rent cover across Impact's portfolio in the year to 31 December 2019. They have limited debt in their businesses and all care home rents due to 30 June have been paid to the Group.
The Group is in a healthy financial position. We have deliberately maintained low gearing with a loan to value ("LTV") ratio of 6.8% at 31 December 2019 rising to a maximum of 18% if all the post balance sheet transactions mentioned above are completed. The Group does not have to refinance any debt before June 2023 and has £110 million of cash and available undrawn facilities against a maximum of £62 million of commitments to acquisitions,asset management, and potential deferred payments.
•Tritax Big Box REIT – ‘Our Investment portfolio of 58 high-quality assets islet to a diverse customer base. The average unexpired lease term across theportfolio is over 14.1 years with 99% let or pre-let.1
The Group's top five customers by income 1 are Amazon (13.1% of rent) ,Morrisons (6.8%), Howdens (5.2%), Co-op (4.8%) and Tesco (4.3%), with approximately 50% of annual rent generated from defensive sectors in the current climate: e-commerce, food retail and 3PLs (including postal couriers)many of whom are being called upon to assist with the UK's response to the pandemic.
Despite having fundamentally sound business models, a number of our customers are experiencing unprecedented disruption to operations as a result of the UK Government's measures put in place to combat the spread of Covid-19. This has led to an immediate impact on their near-term cash flows. Whilst there are various forms of assistance on offer from the Government, including loan schemes, we are working with our customers where we can through the relaxation of cash flow requirements over the short term.
We expect that 96% of rents will be collected by the end of May 2020 in respect of advanced quarterly rental payments that were due by 1 April 2020. This includes 86% which has been collected to date (2019: 100%) and a further 10% for which alternative short-term payments are expected to follow. Discussions are ongoing with certain customers over the outstanding 4% of rent due.
Our operational response to Covid-19 - Throughout this period, we are proactively engaging with our customer base. 95% of our buildings remain fully operational, with only three temporarily running with a skeletal maintenance staff framework. Our collaborative approach has been well received, as we endeavour to share practical advice and guidance to assist with the health, safety and well-being of our customers' staff.
With regard to our development portfolio, we are actively collaborating with our contractors and developers, to ensure that appropriate working conditions are in place to maintain operations within new Covid-19 guidelines. At present, there is continued activity at all our sites, albeit at reduced levels, signifying the importance of these buildings in our customers' supply chains.
Tritax Big Box has a low risk approach to development, with no speculative construction underway currently. We will only seek to pursue further developments on a pre-let basis and where this can be funded without applying pressure on our balance sheet.Well capitalised with a strong balance sheet, and significant covenant headroom In line with the company's conservative leverage policy, the Group's LTV was 30% at 31 December 2019 with a weighted average maturity across its loan facilities of 7.5 years. There are no significant refinancing events until 2024.Immediately available resources under existing, but undrawn, committed borrowings total £500 million. The Group has capital commitments of approximately £130 million in relation to its forward funded pre‑let development assets, asset management initiatives and commitments to development land.1 Rental income and asset values would be required to fall by more than 60% and approximately 50% respectively before any of the Group's principal debt covenants were breached.
•Unite Group – ‘At 31 March 2020, USAF's property portfolio was independently valued at £2,788 million, representing a like-for-like decrease of 2.2% during the quarter. The portfolio comprises 30,209 beds in 79 properties across 22 University towns and cities in the UK.
LSAV's investment portfolio was independently valued at £1,315 million,down 1.5% in the quarter on a like-for-like basis. LSAV's investment portfolio comprises 8,354 beds across 12 properties in London and Aston Student Village in Birmingham.
In light of current market uncertainty created by Coronavirus, the valuations have been reported on the basis of 'material valuation uncertainty' in line with recent RICS guidance.
Current trading - Requests by students wishing to cancel the remainder of their contracts for the 2019/20 academic year are currently being processed. We are also working closely with our university partners and will continue to provide accommodation through our nomination agreements and to all those students who are staying with us. As previously guided, we expect a reduction in Group cash flow of £90-125 million in 2020, which includes reduced income for the summer semester of 2019/20, a significant reduction in summer business, and an allowance for an impact to the start of the 2020/21 academic year. We currently expect that the 2020/21 academic year will commence on broadly the same timetable as prior years, reflecting the Government's proactive decision to cancel A-Level exams this year.
Reservations across the Group for the 2020/21 academic year are currently at 79%, in line with the same time last year (79%). However, we recognise there is a risk that travel restrictions imposed to combat Coronavirus result in a reduced intake of international students for 2020/21. We are shifting the emphasis of our marketing to target the c1.2 million students who we know have an accommodation requirement for the new academic year. This includes international students studying multi-year courses and domestic students living away from home, including those who might otherwise stay in houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs). We will also maintain a close dialogue with our university partners as their accommodation requirements for 2020/21 become clearer.
•Urban Logistics – ‘Of the 38 properties in the company's portfolio, only four are not fully operational as a result of Covid-19 and the Manager is currently discussing a revised payment plan with one of these tenants.
As at today's date, after taking the acquisitions into account, the company is in a strong net cash position with available resources of £94 million. The company will maintain a more cautious approach to leverage in the short term to maintain balance sheet strength.
While existing debt facilities are not due to mature until December 2022, the company is currently in the process of arranging additional facilities to cater for its increased size and scale.’
•Pendragon – ‘the Covid-19 virus is impacting all Pendragon owned companies - Stratstone, Evans Halshaw, Car Store, Pinewood, Quickco and Pendragon Vehicle Management - with many operations closed or severely reduced in each of these businesses.As of 24 March, the company closed all of its dealership sales showrooms in accordance with Government regulation. The company is currently operating with a reduced workforce at select dealerships to allow for the maintenance and repair of emergency service vehicles and those of frontline workers only. The required closure period will be re-evaluated on 13 April 2020.
Due to the sudden decrease in business activities and the uncertainty over its duration, Pendragon is taking a variety of actions to protect our financial position and flexibility of the company during this difficult time, which includes:•Furloughing over 80 percent of U.K. operating and staff employees for a21-day period
•Starting 1 April voluntary reduction of corporate compensation until further notice, as follows:
•Board Members and Senior Leadership salary reductions of up to 20 percent;
•Upper management salary reduction of up to 15 percent;
•Other corporate and field support personnel salary reduction of up to 10 percent.In order to support frontline medical workers, the company will be donating the 20 percent reduction in the salary of Chief Executive Officer Bill Berman to the NHS at his request.
•Tesco– ‘Our priority in dealing with the exceptional challenges posed by Covid-19 is to ensure the safety of our customers and colleagues, support our suppliers and maintain the availability of food. In every region, we are working closely with the government and public health authorities to ensure we are supporting wherever we can and following all the relevant guidelines.
The specific challenges across the Group are three-fold, and most keenly felt in the UK. First, the significant change in buying behaviour of our customers. Second, the impact of the virus on our colleagues and thirdly, helping the more vulnerable in society, as defined by the UK Government.
In the first few weeks of the crisis, significant panic buying (c30% uplift in the UK) cleared the supply chain of certain items. This has now stabilised across the Group and more normal sales volumes are being experienced. The size and nature of our workforce means we have experienced a significant absence of colleagues. Full colleague sickness support is in place and in the last two weeks alone, we recruited more than 45,000 colleagues in the UK.
Whilst we have already stepped up our capacity on Grocery Home Shopping by more than 20%, and will continue to increase this, there is simply not enough capacity to supply the whole market. Between 85% and 90% of all food bought will require a visit to a store and here significant changes to the store environment have been implemented to maximise safety for colleagues and customers. We will continue to try to prioritise home delivery for the most vulnerable in society as defined by the UK Government.
Covid-19 is having a material impact on the operations of our business and we are incurring significant additional costs, particularly in payroll as we recruit additional colleagues to meet demand and cover the work of those colleagues who are absent and being paid.
Whilst the full financial impact of the crisis for 2020/21 is impossible to predict with a high degree of certainty, we have considered a range of scenarios to understand potential outcomes on our business and plan appropriately. Dependent on the scenario, the estimated impact on our retail cost lines is between c£(650)m and c£(925)m including significant cost increases in payroll, distribution and store expenses.
At this stage it would not be prudent to provide financial guidance for 2020/21, however if customer behaviour were to return to normal by August it is likely that the additional cost headwinds incurred in our retail operations would be largely offset by the benefits of food volume increases, twelve months' business rates relief in the UK and prudent operations management.’
•Empresaria Group– ‘With the impacts of Covid-19 being felt from mid-March, we have experienced a significant reduction in demand across many of our businesses with the impact varying by location and sector.
We have acted swiftly to implement a range of measures to protect us from the financial impact of Covid-19. These include:
•Managing our cost base through reductions in headcount and salary, reduced hours, furlough and unpaid leave; •Halting discretionary spend and negotiating reductions in committed or essential spend;
•Where available, taking up government initiatives, subsidies and other support across our locations;
•Putting in place and exploring further cash flow measures, such as the deferral of capital expenditure and the deferral of tax payments where agreed with tax authorities.Given the uncertainties created by the pandemic and the government restrictions in place across the world, the extent of the impact on the Group's earnings for 2020 is unknown at this stage and it is therefore not possible to provide any meaningful guidance until there is more clarity.
•PageGroup – ‘PageGroup is reinforcing its financial position by proactively reducing the cost base by 20-25% in Q2 vs. Q1 - actions include:
•headcount decrease in Q1 already undertaken - 104 fee earners and 28 operational support staff•headcount reduction expected in April of over 250
•450 directors have agreed to reduce their salaries and fees by 20% for Q2, including the Executives and Non-Executives
•majority of consultants, managers and operational support staff agreeing to a four day week, salary reduction, furlough schemes where available and other government schemes, such as tax cash deferral
•postponement of non-essential spending
The Group continues to have a strong balance sheet, including cash balances of c £83m as at 31 March 2020, an undrawn £30m Revolving Credit Facility and is in advanced talks regarding access to the Bank of England's CCFF programmeThe Board has decided to cancel the final dividend of £30.2m or 9.40p per shareThe Group is suspending financial guidance for current and future years
•Robert Walters – ‘Group net fee income for the first quarter impacted by ongoing Covid-19 global pandemic.Strong but sensible cost reduction measures (Group's cost base reduced by 15% as of 1 April) are in place across the Group, including:
•Reduction in all discretionary spend.
•Executive PLC Board Directors have elected to take a 20% salary reduction; and
•Voluntary schemes for employees to adopt reduced working hours have proven successful across the globe - a testament to the strength of the Group's culture and unity of purpose.
The Group is in close contact with a number of national governments across the globe to ensure employment protection schemes are utilised for relevant employees.Asia Pacific net fee income down 5% (down 5% actual).
•Japan, the Group's most profitable country, South Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam have proven extremely resilient, all increasing net fee income by 10% or more year-on-year. Greater China significantly impacted. •Activity levels in Australia and New Zealand slowed significantly during the last two weeks of March as infection rates increased.
Europe net fee income down 2% (down 3% actual).
•Benelux, Switzerland and Portugal performed well all increasing net fee income year-on-year despite the impact of Covid-19 in March.
•France and Spain experienced slowdowns in March as lockdowns were instigated, resulting in single digit declines in net fee income for the quarter.
UK net fee income down 29%.
•Candidate and client confidence, in both specialist recruitment and recruitment process outsourcing, declined across the UK during March with the phased government moves towards lockdown.
•Technology, supply chain and logistics sectors have proven more resilient.
Other International (the Americas, Middle East and South Africa) net fee income down 6% (down 6% actual). Strong performance across North America particularly across technology and digital disciplines. Middle East also performed very well increasing net fee income significantly year-on-year. Group headcount decreased by 2% to 3,935 (31 December 2019: 4,027).Strong balance sheet with net cash of £109.8m as at 31 March 2020 (31 March 2019: £59.5m). The Group also has a £60m committed loan facility due for renewal in 2023. The cash position has benefited from a strong focus on cash collection and the ability to defer cash outflows in some countries.
•RWS Holdings – ‘All RWS divisions remain fully operational with our technology platforms supporting our people to work effectively from home. The one geographical exception to this is China, where our four offices have recently reopened following local Government guidance.To assist staff in this change in working practices, the Group has taken additional steps through enhanced communication, information sharing, and online activities to help maintain their wellbeing, effectiveness and engagement.
The Group is doing all it can to support global efforts to fight Covid-19, including having mobilized its global research community to find and provide relevant prior scientific research to pharmaceutical companies working on Covid-19 vaccines or treatments, on a pro-bono basis. In recent days, the Group has noted increased demand for services within both our Life Science and Moravia divisions, as our teams help with the clinical trials for new Covid-19 vaccines, translate training material for Covid-19 related antibody testing devices and provide additional services to the Group's technology customers, who are recording higher usage of their online communication and social networking platforms. However, there has been a fall in demand from a limited number of customers more directly exposed to the pandemic, predominantly those in the travel sector.We also now anticipate that RWS's second half revenues could be held back by Covid-19 as some of Moravia's customers curtail marketing-related localization expenditure and as a result of a lengthening of the onboarding of new customers across our divisions.
Given the unprecedented market uncertainty, it is impossible to predict with any accuracy the likely financial impact of Covid-19 on the operations of RWS and we are therefore withdrawing our previous guidance for the full financial year. Further details on the Group's first half performance are provided below and an update on trading will be provided when the Group releases its first half results, scheduled for 9 June 2020.
Financial position - The Group's business model remains highly cash generative and following robust stress testing, the Board is highly confident that the Group's cash generation and liquidity put it in a strong position to trade through this uncertain period and beyond. RWS currently has cash reserves of c£29m and recently agreed an amended US$200m banking facility, of which US$80m remains drawn, being the rollover of the original facility to acquire Moravia. This provides headroom of US$120m, of which US$40m is guaranteed under a Revolving Credit Facility and a further US$80m is available under a non-committed facility.
The Group has also taken a number of prudent steps to strengthen its cash position; including freezing recruitment, limiting capital expenditure, and reducing marketing spend. Naturally, we will also see lower travel and other operational costs as a result of the global lockdown. We will also assess the Covid-19 funding initiatives provided by local governments across the Group's global operations and will utilize these where appropriate to do so.
A decision will be made regarding the interim dividend by the time that we report our half-year results in June, when we will have been able to assess the impacts of Covid-19 more fully.It is important to highlight that RWS utilizes external freelancers for a high proportion of initial translations, which results in a highly flexible cost base that can quickly respond to any rise or fall in demand. In addition, the Group's geographical spread, diverse client base and exposure to the typically more defensive intellectual property and life sciences segments, provide resilience to the impact of the virus.
•EU finance ministers said on Wednesday they still had not agreed an economic response. Northern EU member states like the Netherlands and Germany fear they will end up carrying other countries’ debts, while hard-hit nations in the south like Italy and Spain say not enough is being done.
•The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus first emerged in December, is emerging from lockdown after more than two months. Travel is now allowed in and out of the city.
•Hong Kong says it will extend its closure of bars and pubs along with the ban on public gatherings of more than four people. The rules are now to be in place until 23 April.
•Mauro Ferrari, the EU’s top scientist resigned over bloc’s response.
•A general closure has been imposed across Israel ahead of the Jewish Passover holiday. The government banned travel between cities until Friday.
•Ethiopia has declared a state of emergency over the outbreak. The country, with a population of more than 102 million, has recorded 52 cases, including two deaths.
•The Democratic Republic of Congo has freed 1,200 prisoners to ease jail congestion and prevent the spread of coronavirus.
•Venezuelan President, Nicolás Maduro, has ordered all people diagnosed with coronavirus to be quarantined in hospital.
•The Egyptian government has announced that it will ban any public religious gatherings during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
•The first patients have been admitted to London's NHS Nightingale Hospital.
•In Singapore, social gatherings of any size whether at home or in public have now been banned.
•More than a billion workers are vulnerable to job losses or sharp wage cuts because of measures to lockdown economies and fight the spread of the coronavirus, according to the Geneva-based International Labour Organisation (ILO).
•Mumbai has ordered all residents to wear facemasks in public
.•Bank of France said that the country's economy shrank by about 6% in the first three months of 2020, the worst contraction seen since 1945.
•UAE has extended closure of commercial activities until April 18.