Coronavirus - 18 November


• British Airways to launch trial testing from US airports
• Pfizer vaccine efficacy 94% in over 65s
• Covid mass testing to begin in Merthyr Tydfil
• Germany bans some anti-lockdown protests

Company news

Buildings & Construction
• Breedon – “The improving trends reported in our most recent trading update in September continued into the fourth quarter, with Group revenues in both September and October ahead of the same period in the prior year, on a like-for-like basis. As a result, the Group delivered revenues for the first 10 months of the year of £750 million (2019: £800 million), including three months contribution from the former CEMEX assets in the UK.”


• International Personal Finance# – “We continued to deliver progressive improvements in our operational performance in October with a further increase in credit issued and a good collections performance. The second wave of the pandemic has resulted in rising Covid cases in all our European markets. Various restrictions have been introduced by governments, but our agents continue to serve their customers effectively. Whilst freedom of movement restrictions are beginning to result in a slight reduction in demand, the expected negative impact on collections for which we had planned has not arisen. In Mexico, reported Covid cases are stable and various state-by-state restrictions remain in place. Safeguarding our people and customers remains our priority and, applying the lessons learned in the first wave of the pandemic, we are well-prepared, providing safety guidance and PPE for all of our field-based colleagues and agents, and alternative repayment options for affected customers.”

• TBC Bank – “The economy continued to recover in the third quarter of the year with GDP declining by only 3.8% year-on-year during the quarter, compared with a 12.3% year-on-year drop in the second quarter. The recovery was particularly visible in September, with GDP decreasing only by 0.7%. While the return of tourism to its normal levels is unlikely before the second half of 2021, the recovery in other inflows has been strong: remittances grew 25.5% year-on-year in the third quarter and the drop in exports during the quarter moderated to 5.0% year-on-year, compared with a 24.7% decline in the second quarter. On the back of increasing domestic demand, imports also recovered, although at a slower pace than exports, which is positive for the trade balance. These trends highlight the resilience of the economy and its growth potential as fiscal stimulus is not the only driver behind the recovery. The banking sector continues to maintain strong capital and liquidity buffers and has started to support the growth of various sectors of the economy. There is a visible rebound in retail loan demand both for mortgage and non-mortgage products, with the former category being partially supported by the government's interest rate subsidy program. There are similar promising trends in the MSME segment. Loan growth in the corporate segment, however, will likely to take longer to return to its pre-pandemic levels.”

• DP Eurasia – “Trading performance has continued to improve in Turkey and Russia since our interim results release in September. Our Turkish operations have maintained their strong summer with a September/October like-for-like growth rate of 43.4%, driven mainly by delivery and, also, tailwinds from a temporary reduction in the VAT rate to 1% from 8%. Also, encouragingly, in our Russian operations we have continued to see an improving trend in like-for-like growth, at -6.4% and -2.2% in September and October, respectively, up from the -10.9% reported in July/August and the lows of -30%s during the Moscow lockdown in the spring.”

• Halfords– “Trading for the first five weeks of H2, to 5 November 2020, continued to be relatively strong, with good growth and increased market share in cycling, alongside resilience in our motoring products and services businesses. Since the 5th of November we have seen some impact on trading as the second national lockdown came into force. Cycling has continued to grow; we saw an immediate upturn in our Mobile Expert business; and we have seen another shift towards our digital and home delivery channels. However, sales of motoring products have been impacted, with Government data showing car traffic last week at 70% of pre-Covid-19 levels. Unlike the previous lockdown, we have been able to plan and mitigate against some of this risk early.
Outlook – We continue to have great confidence in the medium-term opportunity for our motoring products and services business as illustrated by the investment in recruitment and training that we are currently making in this area. We also believe that its resilient performance in H1 gives a clear indication of its potential once the pandemic has subsided. However, we remain cautious on the impact that national and local lockdowns may have on our H2 performance, with fewer vehicles likely to be on the road.
In Cycling, we expect good levels of demand to continue, notwithstanding the normal seasonal decline as we enter the winter months of H2.”

Support Services
• Speedy Hire – “Customer demand continues to improve, with UK and Ireland core hire revenue c.3.5% below prior year in October.
Improved UK and Ireland asset utilisation, increased to 60.2% by 31 October (2019: 57.9%)
Second lockdown not materially impacting the Group to date, with construction and infrastructure markets continuing to operate.”

• One in five black cabs have been taken off London's roads since June. The number of vehicles fell from 18,900 on 7 June to 15,000 on 8 November, Transport for London (TfL) data shows.
• House prices in the South West of England rose by 6.4% in the year to the end of September, compared with a UK average rise of 4.7%, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. Land Registry data also shows that detached homes saw the biggest annual price rises in the UK.
• The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine will protect 94% of adults over 65 years old, the latest trial data suggests.
• Mass testing will begin in Merthyr Tydfil this Saturday, the Welsh government has confirmed.
• US regulators with the Food and Drug Administration have approved the country’s first at-home test kit that can detect coronavirus in only 30 minutes.
• British Airways is to trial Covid-free flights from the US. BA will give volunteer passengers a series of free tests before and after departure on US-UK routes from Dallas, New York and LA from 25 November, to demonstrate that flying is safe and that testing could replace quarantine. Passengers will take a PCR test at home 72-hours before departure, watched remotely by medical professionals, and a second test will be carried out at Heathrow on landing. A third test will be taken via a saliva sample three days later. BA hopes these results will demonstrate that only the first two tests would be necessary to identify infected travellers.
• Berlin police revoked permission for a large protest against new coronavirus restrictions due to demonstrators refusing to wear masks. An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 people had gathered in central Berlin, where the German parliament is due to vote on a new law designed to help enforce coronavirus restrictions.

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