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Friday updates

Daily Business Live: Wall St close; airport jobs; retailers update

10pm: Wall Street

Wall Street ended its worst week since the financial crisis of 2008 as stocks again fell after a brief upturn. The Dow Jones index finished lower by 916 points, or 4.6%, leaving it 35% below its record high in the middle of February.

The S&P 500 index dropped 4.4%, taking its loss for the week to 18%, with no sign the sell-off will ease as the effects of the coronavirus sweep through the global economy.

6.30pm: Edinburgh airport to axe jobs

Unite the union has today been informed that Edinburgh Airport are proposing 248 job redundancies.

Full story here

5.45pm: Easyjet grounds planes

EasyJet has become the latest to announce that it will be grounding the majority of its fleet in response to the growing number of coronavirus travel bans.

The airline stated that the new measures will take effect from Tuesday.

It will operate rescue flights ‘as required to repatriate customers’ and will continue to run a ‘minimal schedule of essential services’, which will mainly involve routes serving the UK.

5.30pm: Virus – latest measures

Government orders closure of bars, pubs, restaurants, clubs and gyms.

Will pay up to 80% of workers’ wages.

Full story here

4.45pm: Markets

The FTSE 100 gave up most of the day’s gains, closing at 5,190.78 +39.17 (0.76%). The day’s high was 5,419.30 and the low 5,151.61.

1pm: Virus latest – social distancing

Policies to limit the spread of coronavirus, including “social distancing”, would need to be in place for “at least most of a year” in order for hospitals to cope, according to official scientific advice to the government.

Full story here

Noon: Liberties warning

The Mayor of London has hit out at people who continue to go to pubs and use public transport, warning he will ‘infringe’ their human rights if necessary. 

Sadiq Khan said ‘liberties and human rights need to be changed, curtailed, infringed’ in order to protect people and prevent further coronavirus deaths.

11.00am: Frost in isolation

The UK’s Brexit envoy has followed his counterpart Michel Barnier into self-isolation after showing ‘mild’ signs of coronavirus.

David Frost, 55, is avoiding all social contact in case he has contracted the disease, in a fresh blow to hopes of making progress with trade talks. 

The move will fuel speculation that the post-Brexit transition period will need to be extended beyond December, as the globe struggles to get a grip on the raging pandemic. 

It has also emerged that China has reported no deaths for a second successive day.

10.30 am: Virus arrest

British police today made their first arrest linked to coronavirus quarantining after a 26-year-old was held for allegedly failing to self-isolate.

Officers on the Isle of Man held the suspect last night – 48 hours after the British Crown dependency passed emergency legislation to strangle the virus on the island in the Irish Sea. 

9.30am: Oil action off

Unite the union has suspended industrial action at the Sullom Voe Terminal following an improved offer from EnQuest. 

9am: Markets

The FTSE 100 has opened sharply higher on the back of the latest stimulus measures and the prospect of wage support from the Chancellor. After the first hour of trade it was trading sat 5,302.40, up 150.79 points (2.93%)).

8.00am: Rail timetable

Rail services in Scotland will move to a reduced timetable from Monday (23 March) onwards.

The decision is to protect services for essential workers and allow vital freight trains to continue to operate.

Full story here

7.50am: HSBC

Interim HSBC CEO Noel Quinn has been appointed on a permanent basis after leading the bank for seven months.

During his time as interim CEO Mr Quinn has cut 35,000 jobs and scaled back operations in Europe and the US.

7.40am: Wetherspoons

JD Wetherspoon

The pubs chain has decided to delay most capital projects and to reduce expenditure, where possible, including the cancellation of the interim dividend.

As a result of these actions, combined with the Government’s proposals on business rates relief and credit guarantee facilities, the company believes it has sufficient liquidity to maintain operations at a substantially lower level of sales.

“As many companies and commentators have noted, the current health crisis places the hospitality industry, in particular, under great pressure. Wetherspoon, like our peers, will be working closely with all parties, including employees, banks, landlords and suppliers, in order to emerge from the situation in the best shape.”

Profit before tax for the year to 26 January came in 15.2% higher at £57.9m. 

7.30am M&S

M&S label

Marks & Spencer says it is too early to make any reasonable forecast for revenues in the next financial year but the company is planning for a prolonged downturn in demand for Clothing and Home, and some stores may have to close temporarily.

Ir expects to redeploy significant numbers of staff to support the food business.

The forecast was within the range of market expectations and in line with the guidance issued in January until the current week.

“Our Food business has so far remained strong illustrating the resilience we derive from having the combination of related businesses under one umbrella. The final result could be at or below the bottom end of the range of PBT of £440-460m, given probable very depressed trading in Clothing and Home.”

The board does not anticipate making a final dividend payment for this financial year, resulting in an anticipated cash saving of c.£130m. 

7.25 am: Heathrow


The airport says the spread of Coronavirus represents a “seismic challenge” for the global aviation industry – including Heathrow which is reducing operating costs, cancelling executive pay, freezing recruitment and reviewing all capital projects.

It will take steps to reorganise and shrink operations to remain open throughout the crisis. Keeping Heathrow open will enable some passenger services to continue, as well as facilitating cargo operations which will safeguard vital supply lines for the UK.

The company is taking a number of “immediate actions to safeguard the financial resilience of the business”.

The management team are reviewing further actions which can be taken if required and as the situation continues to develop.

The UK Government has confirmed that it will provide support for the UK aviation sector – including airlines and airports. 

“Prudent management over the past decade means that our business is well funded and in a robust financial position, with cash and committed facilities available of £3.3 billion designed to maintain at least a 12-month liquidity horizon.

7.15am: Stress tests

The Bank of England and the Prudential Regulation Authority have cancelled the 2020 stress test for eight major UK banks and building societies, as the country’s economy fights the spread of Covid-19.

7.10am: Frasers to miss target

House of Fraser (LDC)

Frasers Group, which includes Sports Direct and House of Fraser, said it expects COVID-19 will cause “significant disruption to its business”, including reducing customer footfall.

It therefore says it will not achieve the range of guidance of 5% to 15% EBITDA growth previously given for the financial year ending 26 April 2020.

Accordingly, and given the ongoing uncertainty, the company is no longer giving formal guidance in relation to the financial year 2020.

Frasers Group’s year-to-date performance had been in-line with expectations prior to COVID-19.

The company said it has a strong management team which can adapt and respond quickly to challenges and changing market conditions. Over the longer term, the Board remains confident in focusing on the company’s elevation strategy.

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