Monday Update

DB Live: LV= confirms talks; TM Lewin; easyJet; EY; Metro Bank

4.45pm: London close

The FTSE 100 recouped some ground but closed in the red as coronavirus fears swept through trading floors.

After plunging below 6,000 the FTSE 100 index closed down 40.48 points, or 0.7%, at 6,064.70.

1.30pm: retail plan

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave a further indication that shops will soon be able to re-open.

“I very much hope that on Thursday we will give a date on the re-opening of our retail sector,” she said during her daily briefing.

Daily Business reported yesterday that high street chain Primark was targeting the end of this month.

8.10am: London opens sharply lower

London Stock Exchange

London has followed Asia’s sell-off (see below) amid concerns over a resurgence of Covid-19 cases in China and worries about global growth. The FTSE 100 was 120.49 points lower (1.97%) at 5,984.69.

7.10am: Grossart buys Springfield shares

Investment banker Sir Angus Grossart has more than doubled his stake in Elgin-based housebuilder Springfield Properties.

Full story here

7.05am: BP reviews plans, takes £13.9bn write-off

BP is reviewing some of its exploration plans and revaluing its assets as it assesses the impact of the coronavirus on the oil price.

Full story here

7am: LV= on press speculation

The board of Liverpool Victoria Financial Services, trading as LV=, has confirmed it is assessing a “wide range of strategic options” following the disposal of the general insurance business.

This would ensure that the remaining business continues to be operated in the best interests of all its members, it said in a statement.

“Some but not all of these options may involve a transaction with a third party.

“No conclusions have yet been reached as to the most appropriate option to pursue and there can be no certainty that this review will result in any transaction being agreed or with whom.”

The statement follows recent media reports that it has engaged Fenchurch Advisory Partners, which is part of the investment bank Natixis,  to examine whether a sale of its life insurance and pensions units would be in the best interests of its 1.3 million member customers.

At the beginning of this year, LV= ended its long friendly society status by becoming a company limited by guarantee – a transition that it said would allow its board to act more effectively on behalf of members.

It sold its general insurance operations to Allianz in 2019.

7am: Metro Bank in talks

Metro Bank has confirmed that it is in exclusive talks about acquiring RateSetter, a UK-focused peer-to-peer lender.

It said Ratesetter’s distribution platform could accelerate the company’s stated strategy to grow its unsecured consumer lending book.

Discussions regarding the potential acquisition are at an early stage, said Metro Bank in a statement.

6.15am: TM Lewin stores plan

The new owner of shirt and tie retailer TM Lewin has told landlords it is likely to shut most of the 66 stores and that it wants rent cuts for those that remain.

The company was acquired at the end of March by SCP Private Equity, which is run by James Cox, the founder of Simba Sleep, and backed by Allan Leighton, the former boss of Asda, and Paul Taylor, who previously ran Harrods. SCP is believed to have appointed advisers to look at the retail estate.

It is now part of Torque Brands, a new vehicle that aims to create a stable of British brands that have global appeal.

6am: EasyJet resumes flights

EasyJet resumed UK services today with the first aircraft since 30 March taking off from Gatwick at 7am for the 90 minute flight to Glasgow.

Chief executive Johan Lundgren told the PA News Agency that the carrier has taken guidance from international regulators to develop an enhanced safety and hygiene regime.

Passengers and crew will be required to wear masks, aircraft will be regularly deep-cleaned and disinfection wipes and hand sanitiser will be made available. With passengers occupying one in every three seats, prices were considerably higher than normal.

The airline plans to reopen half of its 1,022 routes by the end of next month, increasing to 75% during August.

But flights will be at a lower frequency than normal, meaning the airline will operate at around 30% of its normal capacity between July and September.

EasyJet announced plans to cut up to 4,500 jobs as it does not expect demand to return to 2019 levels until 2023.

Ryanair intends to restore 40% of its flights from 1 July, while British Airways is due to make a “meaningful return” next month.

Economy shrinks

The UK economy is expected to shrink by 15% in the second quarter of 2020, according to a forecast by the EY Item Club.

However, it is predicting a stronger recovery with year-on-year GDP growth of 5.6% in 2021, against 4.5% in its previous forecast.

The report warns that the UK economy is not likely to return to its pre-coronavirus size from the last quarter of 2019 until early 2023.

5.50am: Markets

Shares were mostly lower in Asia over concerns that a new wave of coronavirus cases has erupted in China and Latin America, and grim economic news from the US.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.6%; Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 0.6%, while the Shanghai Composite barely moved.

On Wall Street on Friday, the S&P 500 rose 1.3% 24 hours after dropping nearly 6% in its biggest rout since mid-March.

Today’s top Daily Business headlines

Hopes rise for Scottish shops to reopen at end of June

Tram works resume as construction workers return

Student housing may take hit as overseas students fall

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