Coronavirus - 9 September


• UK bans social gatherings of more than six people
• Oxford vaccine trial put on hold
• June factory emissions back to within 5% of pre-lockdown levels
• Daily cases in the Netherlands and Portugal highest since April, but daily deaths less than 10% of the same month’s levels

Company news

Buildings & Construction
• M Winkworth – “Since the ending of lockdown, we have seen a significant uplift in activity in the sales market, with pent-up demand being combined with new movers entering the market, looking for a change in their living environment following enforced time at home. This has been further fuelled by the raising of the stamp duty threshold, and since the start of the second half we have seen the highest weekly number of applicants in five years registering, viewing and agreeing sales. With the stamp duty cut remaining in place until March 2021, we anticipate that this surge in demand will be maintained through H2 2020. While we do not expect this to lead to higher prices, as increased demand is met by greater supply, we anticipate that the number of transactions will continue to be elevated. The change in taxation highlights the negative impact that increased stamp duty has had on the property market and its liquidity since the end of 2014.
In rentals, we have seen increased supply outstripping demand, particularly in central London where restricted international movement has undermined tenant demand. While we anticipate seeing increased activity as the market catches up from lockdown, we expect this to be against a background of flat pricing overall as rents fall in prime London areas.
A significant amount of management time has been spent on dealing with the unique challenges presented by Covid-19, and the prompt re-opening of all of our offices led to an increase in our market share. But we have also remained focused on delivering our strategy of creating profitable growth for the long term by developing new opportunities and optimising performance. From an operational point of view, we continue to invest in our digital offering and the launch of a new platform for our website in H1 2020 has enabled us to integrate seamlessly with new proptech solutions. The early signs for the new website platform are extremely encouraging as we drive record leads to our offices.
Whilst the extent to which some of the exceptional trends will continue longer-term is not yet clear, in the absence of further Covid-19 restrictions the board is expecting both sales and rentals activity to be positive for the remainder of the year. The company’s strong balance sheet means that it is well positioned to withstand any further challenges, while also continuing to invest in key areas of growth.”

Food, Drinks & Household
• Anpario# – “Looking forward, we will continue the online and direct marketing tactics that produced such a strong first-half performance. Additionally, we will be able to build upon new business gained from those competitors unable to supply during lockdown. As a result, we remain confident of continuing the profitable development of the group.”

• Quiz – “Consistent with other businesses, the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly impacted QUIZ’s sales in the period. From late March, the group’s stores and concessions were closed and online operations were suspended for two weeks in April 2020 in order to protect QUIZ’s distribution centre colleagues.
During the period, the group has extended its casual ranges to respond to the additional demand for this product. This is in response to the decline in demand for occasion wear further to the ongoing restrictions on social events.
The group’s total sales in the period amounted to £12.8m, a 77% decline on the £55.2m revenues generated from 1 April to 31 August 2019 (“2019”).”

Support Services
• Biffa – “Trading has remained slightly ahead of the group’s base case scenario, which was developed at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic. During August, group revenues recovered to 90% of FY20 levels, with I&C at 87% and landfill at 86%. As a result, underlying profit contribution is also continuing to steadily improve month on month and the group expects to cease furloughing staff at the end of September.
Ongoing pressure on plastic prices will impact trading at the Seaham plant until it starts to produce food grade recycled materials in April 2021. The Group’s established HDPE operations have been largely unaffected by these price weaknesses.
The Collections division has now completed its first I&C business acquisition of the year, of a trade waste business which had pre-Covid-19 run rate revenues of around £4m. Active negotiations continue on several other deals and the pipeline is expanding as expected.”
• Wincanton – “The group has seen a continued improvement in profitability in July and August, with a particularly strong performance in Digital and eFulfilment.
The Digital and eFulfilment business is benefitting from an increase in demand for online retail, with revenue significantly ahead of pre-Covid-19 levels. Volumes in the two-person home delivery business within this sector have remained high through the summer months. Furthermore, operational efficiencies have led to an improvement in operating margins in Digital and eFulfilment.
Performance across the rest of the Group is encouraging, supported by changes to the cost base implemented earlier in the year in the face of challenging external conditions.”

• RM# – “Trading started to improve following the partial reopening of schools and colleges in June and that improvement has continued through the summer months. RM was profitable in FY Q3, including provision for the repayment of the amounts received under the Government furlough scheme and continues to manage its financial resources closely, ending the period with net debt of £11m.
While it remains early in Q4, and uncertainty continues regarding the impact of Covid-19, the performance in Q3 and the return of all pupils to UK schools and colleges has given the board greater clarity over the expected full-year performance and it now anticipates that all three divisions will be profitable in the current financial year.”

• Social gatherings of more than six people will be illegal in England from Monday. The new restrictions will not apply to schools, workplaces, weddings, funerals or organised team sports, as long as Covid-19-secure guidance is followed.
• Final clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University have been put on hold after a participant had an adverse reaction in the UK.
• Global daily emissions fell 17% YoY in April to 2006 emissions levels, but were back up to within 5% of 2019 levels by early June, according to a report by several UN agencies.

#corporate client of Peel Hunt