There continues to be much conversation on the second wave of coronavirus.
A resurgence of some kind should be considered inevitable but what is important to recognise is that the UK is in a completely different position to where it was in March when the first wave hit. Awareness is much higher, testing has improved and ongoing measures have been brought in by businesses and customer-facing services to limit the spread of outbreaks. As long as the response remains fast and agile, the second wave should not see a return to previous lockdowns.
• IMF downgrades global economic forecasts to -5% in 2020.
• Swissport to cut 4,500 jobs.
• UK adults spending four hours a day online.
• US CDC director says the virus could cost $7trillion.
Buildings & Construction
• Crest Nicholson – “From 18 May 2020 we started to resume build activity on our sites and reopened our sales offices in a phased and controlled manner. The Group has carefully considered guidance from Government, Public Health Authorities and the Construction Leadership Council in developing its new site protocols and procedures to safeguard the wellbeing of its customers and employees as they return to work. We will continue to review any updates to this guidance and actively monitor compliance in all parts of our organisation.
Given the economic and operational uncertainty resulting from Covid-19 the Group announced on 19 March 2020 that it was suspending financial guidance. While we have been encouraged by the improvement in the trading environment in recent weeks, with increasing levels of web traffic and footfall being converted into reservation rates similar to those seen prior to the lockdown, it remains a highly uncertain operating environment. However, in order to contextualise the Group’s half year results, and to give some visibility around the likely outturn for the full year, we are providing some additional market commentary and reinstating FY20 APBT guidance.
In the first two months of the period the Group experienced significant volatility and uncertainty associated with the run up to the General Election on 12 December 2019. Following the decisive political outcome our sales performance gained strong momentum in the run up to the spring selling season before the UK lockdown was introduced.
The combined impact of the political uncertainty, and the sales deferrals associated with Covid-19, significantly reduced profitability in the first half. Assuming that the lockdown continues to carefully unwind with supportive measures in place to facilitate building and selling homes, the Group expects profit in the second half of the year to be significantly higher than the first. On this basis the Group expects FY20 APBT to be in the range of £35m-£45m.
While the Group remains cautious in its assessment of the prospects for the UK housing market over the medium term it remains confident in its ability to successfully manage through further periods of instability. Accordingly, the Group has recently announced plans to defer its planned creation of another division and further reduce its overheads. The Group remains focused on improving its margins and increasing its cash reserves and is committed to returning to a sustainable dividend policy as soon as it is appropriate to do so.
The Group has a £250m revolving credit facility (RCF) provided by four of the UK's largest banks, expiring June 2024. It also benefits from £100m of senior loan notes which mature between 2024 and 2029. In addition, the availability of a further £300m of liquidity has been finalised through the CCFF commercial paper programme should the Group require it. At present this facility is undrawn. Accordingly, the Group believes it has sufficient and diverse sources of financing to operate in potentially more challenging market conditions.”
Food, Drinks & Household
• Premier Food# – “During the outbreak of Covid-19, food has been identified by the Government as a key industry and we feel privileged to play our part in keeping the nation fed. One of the most prevalent trends we have seen during the lockdown is that Britain has got cooking again, with particularly high levels of demand for items relating to meal preparation, including cooking sauces, gravy and baking ingredients. The health and wellbeing of all our colleagues has been our top priority and we have introduced a wide range of measures across our locations to safeguard our colleagues as we meet the unprecedented levels of demand we have seen for many of our product ranges. All our manufacturing and distribution sites have remained fully operational throughout this period and I am immensely proud of all our colleagues who have responded to this challenge with great energy and professionalism. As we look to the coming financial year, we anticipate making further progress, with increased consumer marketing investment planned. Revenues in the first quarter of FY20/21 are expected to be approximately 20% ahead of the same quarter a year ago reflecting continued strong demand for the Group’s product ranges, particularly in our Grocery business. Consequently, we expect to exceed current expectations for FY20/21 Revenue and Trading profit despite incurring some additional operating costs in our supply chain. Our options for
cash deployment and capital allocation will improve as a result of expected further Net debt reduction in FY20/21.”
• Wynnstay Group – “We are pleased to report a resilient trading performance in what was an exceptionally challenging period. Adjusted operating profit before non-recurring items1 in the six months to 30 April 2020 increased by 8% to £4.78m (2019: £4.43m) on lower revenue of £229.29m (2019: £260.57m), largely impacted by commodity price deflation. Reported profit before tax was 4% higher at £4.30m (2019: £4.12m). Both the Agriculture and Specialist Agricultural Merchanting divisions contributed to this recovery in performance, which also benefited from the efficiency programme we introduced a year ago.
The outbreak of the coronavirus and subsequent global pandemic created significant social and economic disruption. Our overriding priority has been to ensure the welfare of our colleagues, customers and supplier partners as well as to mitigate risk for the wider community. We are very proud of the way in which Wynnstay colleagues responded to the challenges. Remote working arrangements were put in place, and as an essential service provider we continued to trade across all areas of activity. Our depots initially adjusted to an ‘order & collect’ process to minimise infection risks, and our feed, seed and fertiliser processing activities and other distribution operations continued to function to plan. All depots, except for three, have now returned to more normalised operating procedures, with appropriate safe working practises in place.
These issues and restrictions impacted business opportunities over the first half, and additional costs were incurred, including extra short-term resource to cover for those colleagues unavailable to work because of shielding or isolation requirements. We have not had to make use of the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and as such no colleagues have been furloughed.
The pandemic created further pressures for farmers, in particular because of its effect on food distribution channels with the closure of restaurants and other food service outlets. Some milk producers were asked to dispose of their milk, rather than sell it into the market, for a short period of time. This together with ongoing Brexit uncertainty affected farmer confidence, constraining spending.
The mild but abnormally wet winter weather conditions inhibited demand for many of the Group's core product categories, particularly for arable inputs since many farmers were unable to sow winter cereal seed due to the heavy rain. Spring cereal seed was sown towards the end of March, but it has a lower yield and lower input requirement than winter cereals. Some land that would have normally been cultivated was also left fallow.
While we expect the remainder of the financial year to remain challenging, Wynnstay is well-positioned financially and operationally. Our balanced business model, supplying inputs to both arable and livestock farmers, provides a natural hedge. We will continue with our investment programme, upgrading facilities, systems, and processes, together with efficiency initiatives.
There is considerable uncertainty both in the wider economy and in our specific sector, created by the coronavirus crisis and Brexit. As we look over the remainder of the year therefore, we expect the trading backdrop to remain difficult. However, as the Group’s results have shown, we have a resilient business model and our spread of activities across the arable and feed enterprises continues to provide a hedge against sector variation.
Notwithstanding the immediate challenges, we view medium and long-term prospects positively. Our strong balance sheet and liquidity supports our ongoing programme of investment in infrastructure and systems to improve operational efficiencies and reduce cost. We remain focused on aligning ourselves closely with the changing needs and requirements of our customer base. This covers all aspects of the business, including the provision of advisory services direct to farm via our specialist sales team, as well as through our product offering and routes to our market.”
• Futura Medical – “The impact of Covid-19 on the Company has been limited to date. Futura’s virtual model has enabled a smooth and effective transition to home-working for all staff and all of our external suppliers, including regulatory agencies and laboratories who continue to operate in line with our expectations and timelines. Nevertheless, the safety of our employees, third-party suppliers and partners remains our primary concern, and we have continued to follow the government guidance in regions in which we operate.”
• Fuller Smith & Turner – “As previously announced, Fuller, Smith & Turner P.L.C. (‘Fuller's’ or ‘the Company’) had intended to publish its Full Year Results for the 52 weeks ended 28 March 2020, on Thursday, 25 June 2020.
Whilst the audit process is nearly complete, the auditors have informed the Company that they will need some additional time to complete the necessary routine audit procedures due to the practical implications surrounding Covid-19 and the related abnormal working arrangements. The date of the results will therefore be delayed for a short period.”
• JD Wetherspoon – “The company’s pubs in England are due to reopen on 4 July 2020, in line with the government's guidance. Following consultation with employees, resulting in over 3,000 suggestions, the company has created the ‘Wetherspoon Covid-19 Secure Operating Plan’, which sets out how we intend to safely operate pubs when we reopen.
New pub projects – The company does not currently intend to start any new pub development projects in the next 12 months. A small number of projects that were "on site" when pubs closed will be completed in due course.
Employee survey – We have carried out a survey and, as at 18 June, have received 36,004 (82%) responses from employees, the results of which have already been shared with them.
Of those who responded, 35,616 have said they intend to return to work, although 4,090 are not able to return immediately, due to maternity leave, caring responsibilities, or health issues.
388 have said they do not intend to return to work, and have either resigned, or intend to resign.
1,934 have said that they are either ‘shielding’ or are vulnerable. A percentage of them will not be able to return to work at this stage.
79 have tested positive for Covid-19, of which 74 have said they have recovered, and 5 have said that they are still unwell.
834 suspected they had Covid-19, not confirmed by a test, of which 780 have said they have recovered and 54 have said that they are still unwell.”
• PetroFac – “E&C financial performance for the first six months of 2020 has been significantly impacted by the deterioration in market conditions. First half revenues are expected to be around US$1.6 billion, driven by COVID-19 related project delays. Furthermore, we expect first half E&C business performance net margins to be between 2.00% and 2.25% largely reflecting Covid-19 related costs, project mix and commercial settlement of the Jazan project at completion. Excluding this non-recurring settlement, the underlying impact of current headwinds on E&C margins in the period was c.1% due to swift management action to reduce costs.
Covid-19 has caused significant disruption to our E&C projects year to date. Activity on our lump-sum projects in Iraq and India was suspended in response to Government-enforced lockdowns. Elsewhere, progress has been materially impaired due to stringent health protocols, supply chain disruption and travel restrictions. Whilst projects are still progressing, this has inevitably resulted in material delays in construction activity, which will not be recovered in 2020. Restrictions are beginning to ease in several countries, but it is not possible to predict when construction activity will return to pre-Covid levels.
We have secured new orders worth US$0.4 billion in E&C in the year to date (1H 2019: US$1.6 billion), comprising the EPC contract for the Seagreen project and net variation orders. Seagreen will be Scotland's largest offshore wind farm and is a landmark award in our continued diversification into renewable energy. The US$1.5 billion Dalma project, which was awarded in February 2020, was subsequently terminated by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company in April following the collapse of global oil prices. Under the contract, Petrofac will be reimbursed for all costs incurred.
Engineering & Production Services (EPS) – EPS is also being affected by the deterioration in market conditions. First half revenue is expected to be around US$450 million, in line with the prior year comparable period. Modest growth in Projects has been offset by a decline in operations activity and the Covid-19 related closure of our training centres. Net margins for the first six months of 2020 are expected to be between 3.5% and 4.0% driven primarily by a contraction in brownfield project contract margins. The year-on-year reduction in margins has been partly mitigated by overhead cost reductions and a first-time contribution from associates.
Operations and maintenance activity in EPS continues in all regions, albeit Covid-19 related travel and social distancing restrictions are having a modest impact on activity levels and our training centres have been temporarily closed. In addition, the decline in oil prices is expected to reduce brownfield projects activity as upstream asset operators seek to defer capital expenditure and reduce operating costs.”
• St Modwen Properties – “Our focus since the start of the Covid-19 crisis has been on protecting the health and safety of our people and customers, and preserving our strong balance sheet. We are pleased to have been able to restart activity on our sites safely and strengthen our liquidity and financial position, but the current economic disruption will inevitably have an impact on our financial results in the short term, as the pandemic continues to cause significant social and economic challenges. Whilst near-term visibility remains
low, recent trading has been ahead of our expectations and the long term structural growth drivers in our two key markets, residential and industrial/logistics, remain positive, so our strong financial base leaves us well positioned for the future.
Update on current trading – As we set out in our trading update on 25 March, we had a positive start to 2020, building on the growing momentum achieved during 2019. Since then, that momentum has unsurprisingly been affected by the Covid-19 crisis, although the impact to date has been less than we had assumed in our initial stress-testing.
In Industrial & Logistics, occupier interest has remained resilient and even though we have seen, as expected, some delays in construction and leasing, we have made good progress in leasing up our recent and committed developments. As a result, our 2019 completions are now 74% let or under offer (Feb 2020: 58%) and our 2020 pipeline is 53% let or under offer (Feb 2020: 18%), with around half of these new letting deals agreed during lockdown. We temporarily paused any new development commitments in March but our substantial c. 18m sq ft future pipeline and high c.8% yield on cost provide us with significant optionality, so given the continued good occupier interest, we anticipate starting further schemes in the near future. In our existing portfolio, we have so far received 94% of the £5.4m rent due in March, April and May. We have agreed to waive 1% of the rent and are working closely with our customers on reaching a solution for the remainder.
In St. Modwen Homes, sales were tracking ahead of plan before we decided to close our sites on 24 March. In line with Government guidelines, we restarted work on our sites in the middle of May and sales centres at our 22 sales-active sites have since reopened, but the delay in production means that our 280 completed unit sales for the half year were down 32% vs last year (H1 2019: 411 units). As operating costs are spread over this smaller number of sales, our half-year operating margin will be down by a broadly similar amount. However, customer demand so far has remained resilient, with overall private sales for the year to date, including units which are exchanged and reserved, down less than 5% vs this time last year. This means our private forward order book is up 27% compared to this time last year, with average sales prices generally holding up. Since the end of March, our average sales rate has been 0.7 per week (net of cancellations) and since site reopening our sales rate has been well ahead of this, although we are mindful this could slow later in the year as pent-up demand is satisfied.
In Strategic Land & Regeneration, our residual non-core retail and two retail regeneration assets have, as expected, been significantly impacted by the mandatory closing of non-essential shops. To date, we have received 61% of the £4.0m rent due in March, April and May, taking the overall rent received for the Group over that period to 80%. We have agreed to move to monthly payments on 1% of SL&R rent, waive 6%, defer 10% and continue to work closely with our customers with regard to the remaining element. We continue to focus on recycling capital and, despite the inevitable delays to some disposals during lockdown, we have agreed to sell £12m of non-core assets and £30m of surplus residential land since the start of the year.
Decisive action to preserve balance sheet strength, liquidity and covenants – Our balance sheet and liquidity remain strong. Our decision to pause any uncommitted capex and exercise tight control of costs means that since our trading update on 25 March, see-through net borrowings increased by only £14m to the end of May to £360m, including our £35m share of the cash held on deposit in our NCGM JV. This means our portfolio could withstand a c. 40% fall in value from November 2019 levels before we reach our closest LTV covenant. On a see-through basis, we had £157m of cash available at the end of May, excluding the cash held on deposit in our NCGM JV, and we have no debt maturities until December 2023, aside from a small JV facility, of which £2m is drawn (our share).
We have received confirmation that we are eligible in principle to access funding under the Government's Covid Corporate Financing Facility (‘CCFF’), should that be required, which provides assurance in the event of a severe deterioration in market conditions. The facility is currently being documented. We have also agreed an amendment of the interest cover covenants on our Group debt facilities. This has no impact on our interest cost but means that our interest cover could now withstand a downside scenario of a very material fall in housing sales volumes and prices and a loss of the majority of retail rent until the end of 2021.
Responding to the current climate – Overall, our significant portfolio repositioning over the past three years means that nearly 90% of our portfolio is focused on residential and industrial/logistics; both sectors where long-term structural growth drivers remain positive. Still, we are mindful that the significant economic and social challenges resulting from Covid-19 could affect consumer and business confidence for some time to come. The disruption from the Covid-19 crisis will lead to a reduction in housebuilding profits and retail rent in the first half of 2020, which is expected to reduce adjusted EPRA earnings to c. £4-5m (H1 2019: £16.2m). We also anticipate a reduction in the valuation of our residual retail assets and surplus residential land, as our focus remains on recycling capital into the higher returning parts of our business, principally our substantial Industrial & Logistics pipeline. Albeit not fully insulated, half-year valuations in this part of the business are expected to be more resilient.
Despite this impact on our financial results in the six months to May, our recent operational performance has been encouraging, particularly in terms of housing sales and industrial/logistics leasing. This is underpinned by our rapid response to the crisis, as we are adapting our ways of working to capture potential opportunities where possible. At the same time, we have taken a number of steps to manage our cost base, including the 20% voluntary reduction in Board pay and fees previously announced, a reduction in all discretionary spend and bonuses, a temporary tapered reduction in pay for higher earners, and selective redundancies. Combined, these measures are expected to result in cost savings this year equal to c. 15% of last year's business unit operating and central administrative expenses.
We are acutely aware of the social challenges the crisis brings for many. As part of our Covid-19 response, we have made donations to local causes in the heart of the communities that we serve and we are working with local organisations, from foodbanks to volunteering groups, where we can make a meaningful difference, with a combined £150,000 of funding initially pledged. We also offer a discount for key workers when buying a new home from us. Whilst most of our on-site activity had been paused during lockdown, we have continued to pay any employees on furlough their full entitled salaries and decided it would not be appropriate to use the Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ("CJRS"). We are encouraged by, and proud of, the strong dedication and commitment that our people have displayed throughout this period of uncertainty, which further underpins our solid base for future growth.”
• Naked Wines– “The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in significantly accelerated trading patterns across the Group. The first two months of FY21 have seen year on year revenue growth of 81%, driven by: • New customers sales +256%, from investment in new customers +115%.
• Repeat customer sales +50% with sales retention of 95.5%.
With considerable uncertainty around how long current market tailwinds will persist and a high likelihood of a consumer downturn in H2 it is challenging to accurately forecast full year performance for FY21 so we are not providing full year guidance although management have drawn up prudent forecasts for internal use to inform their planning decisions. Early data around retention and repeat purchase behaviour of the large new intake of customers we have seen at the start of the year is similar to historic patterns, however we recognise this may change as restrictions on movement and economic circumstances continue to change.
We continue to invest in the foundations of the business, and have two key areas that we intend to invest into during FY21:
A £3m Research & Development (R&D) marketing fund to explore new channels of customer recruitment. We will report this separately to new customer investment as it is expected to deliver minimal payback in the year.
Fixed costs of £28m - £30m, a £4m - £6m uplift year-on year. We intend to recruit to fill the vacancies we have had during FY20, and continue to add headcount in the areas of marketing, data science and finance. Should the current high level of growth persist we may require additional staffing above this.”
• discoverIE# – “The Group has responded decisively to the coronavirus pandemic, prioritising the well-being of employees and trading partners, supporting customers with fast solutions in medical markets, maintaining business continuity and preserving our resources.
As you will read in the Operating Review, changes were made to operating procedures and I am pleased to report high levels of operational continuity being achieved with only a small number of short term site closures, as required by local government regulations and all of which have since reopened. At its peak in early April, there were a dozen confirmed cases of coronavirus amongst our c. 4,400 employees, all of whom have since recovered.
I would like on behalf of the Board to thank all our employees for their flexibility in adapting so effectively to the new environment.
The pandemic had a limited effect on fourth quarter trading when our two sites in China were closed for nearly a month, rebounding quickly upon reopening. 23% of our sales in the year were linked to trade with China through our manufacturing sites, supplying customers or purchasing from suppliers there, but the effects of the closure were limited by flexibility in our manufacturing and supply chains, switching to alternatives where possible.
At the time of writing, and with the virus having spread internationally, the Group's dispersed operations are proving resilient and flexible through the disruption, with first quarter sales running only 10% down organically on last year. With its focus on high quality growth markets, the Group is well positioned for a return to growth as conditions recover.”
• Iomart# – ‘In the three months since the response to the Covid-19 pandemic was initiated in the UK, there has been limited impact on iomart's trading. We take great comfort from the resilience of our business model, especially the diversity and limited concentration of our customer base. We are not significantly exposed to industries that are suffering the worst effects. The level of customer churn across all segments of the business has been low, renewal levels high and cash collection in line with our typical profile. However, we remain vigilant to the economic impact the ongoing situation may create, particularly on the SME segment of the market.
Our priority has been the wellbeing and health of our staff and our teams have responded fantastically to the changes placed upon them. iomart has always had the technological capability to enable home working and implemented this mode of operation with no disruption from 9 March, while mission critical on-site roles, such as in data centres, have been manned in compliance with social distancing rules. As a result, our business has continued to operate 24/7 as near to normal as possible. Each of our data centres remains operational to high standards of security and resilience and all customer support has been maintained.
We have increased the monitoring of cash flow, and cash management has been strong. We have not applied for any support from the government's furlough scheme, preferring instead to continue to pay the salaries of the small number of the team whose roles are not currently required, while encouraging them to offer their time to the support of their communities.
The first two months of the new financial year have performed in line with our expectations, consistent with our high recurring revenue business model. As evidenced by our robustness during the Covid-19 period, our current cash balances remain at a similar level to the year end. Business development continues, with good discussions with both new and existing customers, although timing of new projects is likely to be more uncertain for the remainder of this calendar year.
While visibility of sales pipeline conversion remains less clear, we believe the medium-term impact of the social distancing measures implemented across the world will prompt the acceleration in the adoption of digital transformation and remote working, both of which are long-term drivers to the cloud. Our high levels of recurring revenues, breadth of customer base, industry leading profit margins and strong cash generation, mean we are confident iomart is well positioned to withstand the current challenges and deliver long-term growth.”
Tribal Group – “The Group expects results in the current year to be in line with market expectations, with revenue expected to be in the region of £70m, and Adjusted EBITDA of approximately £13m. Expenditure and cash have been tightly managed with collections stronger than forecast; net cash at 22 June 2020 was £7.2m. Net cash at the end of the first half is expected to be slightly lower than HY2019 having fully paid all tax deferrals that were permitted by the UK and Australian governments in relation to Covid-19. The Group has responded well to the challenges brought by Covid-19, benefitting from the strong annual recurring revenues that have been a key area of growth in recent years. Annual renewals of Support & Maintenance and Cloud Services contracts, which accounted for c50% of FY2019 revenue, have continued with no noticeable attrition. The Group continues to deliver existing software implementation projects globally with minimal interruption, with Tribal and its customers adapting their working practices to a remote delivery model quickly and successfully.
The existing sales opportunities have continued towards closure, and we are pleased to announce that the Group recently won a new five year contract for a full SITS implementation at Chartered Accountants Australia New Zealand (CAANZ) with a TCV of AUD3m. The pipeline of sales opportunities remains strong, with increasing interest from universities and colleges in moving to the Public Cloud, adopting Dynamics CRM and Engage (student engagement) mobile solution. Sales cycles have however lengthened, particularly in Higher Education, as customers consider their future budgets in light of the current uncertainty around student numbers for the 2020/21 academic year.
Education Services (ES) has continued to deliver the training and improvement contracts in the UK and US, with a rapid move to online and remote delivery. As previously announced, the Middle East schools inspections which account for approximately one third of ES revenue have paused for the current academic year due to school closures; we expect the work to resume for future academic years when the schools re-open. Surveys and benchmarking assessments have continued but at lower levels and our International Student Barometer in the Southern hemisphere has been delayed to 2021. ES however remains profitable albeit at a lower level than 2019.”
• ULS Technology – “It is difficult to talk about the outlook for the business without obviously mentioning Covid-19. As we went into lockdown there was around a 90% fall in transactional conveyancing instructions although remortgage instructions held up a lot better. Meanwhile completions fell to a lesser extent as a surprising number of people who had already reached the instruction point found ways to still complete their house sale or purchase. The housing market has been one of the first to come out of lockdown and instructions and volumes are already starting to recover towards pre-lockdown levels. It will remain an uncertain market for many months to come and it will take some time for volumes to sustainably return to pre-Covid levels but the recovery in volumes post the easing of the lockdown for the housing market has been better than anticipated.
We are delighted with the progress of DigitalMove with over 10,000 instructions having gone into the platform. Our Solicitor Portal will launch this year and will enable solicitors beyond those on our comparison platforms to use DigitalMove, giving the Group access to a substantial new source of conveyancing transactions and creating, what we expect to be, a significant new revenue stream.
We have also worked hard to develop and grow our sales teams and continually improve the products they have to sell; this has generated material growth in the number of advisers using our platforms to provide conveyancing choice to their customers. We have continued to keep the sales teams working during the lockdown to provide a full business as usual service so that we come through this period as a stronger business.”
• Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has set out a schedule for lifting restriction in the country. People will be allowed to meet up with two other households indoors from 10 July and pubs, restaurants, beer gardens, hairdressers and holiday accommodation can re-open from 15 July. Further, the five-mile travel limit will be lifted from 3 July.
• The Maldives will reopen tourist resorts from 15 July, its President Ibrahim Solih has said. Foreign visitors will not need to undergo virus tests to enter the country.
• The IMF now says economic activity in 2020 is likely to decline by almost 5% – nearly two percentage points more than what it predicted in April. There are forecast downgrades for 2020 in all the individual countries where the report gives details. The largest change is for India, where the IMF now expects a decline of 4.5%.
• The director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has told a Congress hearing the cost of ‘one little virus’ could be $7 trillion.
• According to Ofcom, UK adults have spent an average of four hours a day online during lockdown, up from three-and-a-half in September 2019.
• Swissport is set to cut more than half of its UK workforce. It is consulting on cutting up to 4,556 jobs, the GMB union said. Swissport operates at airports across the UK, including Heathrow and Gatwick.
• The French presidency has announced that President Emmanuel Macron will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday to discuss a European economic recovery plan.
• The BBC has announced that this year's series of The Apprentice has been postponed because of coronavirus.
• Fourteen members of staff out of 407 at the Princes tinned food factory in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire tested positive for Covid-19.
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