Tuesday update

Daily Business Live: SRU wages; Virgin Money halts cuts

5.05pm: Virus update

UK government says 381 people died of COVID-19 in the UK in the last 24 hours, the biggest one day tally and taking the total to 1,789. There were 13 deaths in Scotland, taking the total to 60.

4.45pm: Markets

The FTSE 100 benefited from encouraging news on Chinese factories re-opening to close the day at 5,671.96 +108.22 (1.95%).

4pm: Rugby cuts

The Scottish Rugby Union has announced that its senior management have all taken wage deferrals to help offset the financial repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.

Full story here

2.15pm: Virgin holds back

Virgin Money

Virgin Money has confirmed that it will suspend the planned closure of 52 branches and 500 job losses amid the difficulties caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The bank announced the cuts last month as part of a cost-cutting programme that followed the merger of Virgin Money and Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banking Group in 2018.

It was reported at the weekend that it was following Lloyds, HSBC and Deutsche Bank by delaying proposed cutbacks.

2pm: IoD backs freelancers

The Institute of Directors has added its voice to those calling for further government support for those companies and entrepreneurs who have “fallen through the cracks”.

Full story here

1pm: Law firm expands

Law firm Gilson Gray has made another acquisition to expand its operations in Tayside

Full story here

11am: Rail works to close

Wabtec has announced plans to close its Scottish rail maintenance facility and consolidate operations in Doncaster.

Full story here

10.10am: Supermarket sales ‘like Christmas’

Supermarkets this month have been busier than Christmas with grocery sales beating all previous records as shoppers stockpiled ahead of the lockdown.

The busiest days were 16 to 19 March, when 88% of households visited a food store, adding up to 42 million extra trips, according to consumer analysts Kantar.

In the last four weeks, year-on-year supermarket sales grew by 20.6%.

Kantar’s Fraser McKevitt said £10.8bn sales in the past four weeks were “even higher than levels seen at Christmas”.

10am: Middle East expansion

STATS Group has strengthened its presence in Oman with the opening of a workshop, storage and testing facility in Muscat.

The expansion comes after the Aberdeenshire pipeline technology specialist secured a two year extension to an agreement with Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) to provide pipeline isolation and hydrostatic testing services.

8.45am: Horticulture going to seed

Britain’s horticultural commercial grower industry, worth up to £50 million in Scotland alone, could be destroyed by the UK coronavirus shutdown.

Full story here

9.30am Markets

The FTSE 100 was holding on to a strong start to the session, trading at 5,679.03 +115.29 (2.07%).

7.15am: Sigma hires CFO

Private rented sector provider Sigma Capital has appointed former David Murray adviser Michael McGill to the board as group chief financial officer with immediate effect.

He was previously Group CFO at Baxters Food Group, CFO at Lomond Capital, the residential asset management company specialising in the UK private rental sector, and group finance director at Murray International Holdings, the property and metals group.

Full story on McGill appointment here

The company said it is well positioned, with a significantly de-risked delivery model, robust balance sheet with low gearing, and geographically diversified portfolio .

In an interim statement for its PRS REIT, it said construction work on all sites has been temporarily suspended. 

“Given the Company’s delivery model, which includes fixed price contracts, there is little adverse cash flow implication for the company during this period of suspension”.

Steve Smith, chairman, said: “While the coronavirus pandemic has created significant uncertainty in every walk of life, we believe that our business is resilient.

“Our customer base is diversified and the underlying demand for good quality rental housing is strong.”

7.10am: BA grounds flights

British Airways has axed all its flights to and from Gatwick Airport, following its decision to mothball flights serving Bournemouth, Glasgow and Cardiff. It is still operating out of London Heathrow with a reduced schedule. 

easyJet yesterday grounded its entire fleet of 330 planes. 

7.10am: Galliford Try site work

Aberdeen bypass by-pass

The construction firm, which helped build the Aberdeen by-pass, says it has “risk assessed” every one of its construction sites and modified or curtailed site activities to ensure that no work is undertaken if is unable to fully comply with the hygiene and social distancing guidelines, or if people cannot travel safely to work.

Sites that remain operating do so under the strictest of parameters.

“Galliford Try remains a well-capitalised business with no debt or bank covenants. 

“The board will at the appropriate time consider paying the interim dividend with the final dividend.”

7.05am: Costain funding ongoing

The builder said a proposed said its capital raising of up to £100 million is due to be completed in the coming weeks, fully underwritten by HSBC, Investec and Liberum on a standby basis.

The company, which has paused work on some sites, will not to pay a final dividend for year ended 31 December.

“We remain well placed to benefit from the long-term opportunity to address the UK’s changing infrastructure needs once our operations can fully resume.”

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