Friday 15/05/20

  1. In NEWS ON WINNERS, Nissan Sunderland gets a lift, Norwegian Zoom rival goes moonbound on flotation, e-scooters come into their own, a covid-test supplier predicts ongoing sales and Apple buys into VR
  2. In AIRLINES NEWS, a number of US airlines announce job cuts – as do Qatar and British Airways – while Virgin Atlantic appeals for finance
  3. In RETAIL NEWS, Boohoo wants to go shopping, Garden centres look forward to opening, M&S has a massive sale and WH Smith faces a rocky road
  4. AND FINALLY, I bring you suggestions for things to do under lockdown and a story that will surely melt your heart…



So Nissan Sunderland gets some potentially good news, Pexip skyrockets, e-scooters get a boost, a biotech selling covid tests does a roaring trade and Apple makes a VR acquisition…

Nissan in talks to build Renault models at Sunderland plant (Financial Times, Peter Campbell, David Keohane and Kana Inagaki) heralds some potentially good news for workers in Sunderland (but bad news for those in Spain) as the company is in talks to swap production of the Kadjar and Captur models from Spain to the UK. This would be part of Nissan’s global overhaul of its operations as it prepares to cut 20% of its global production capacity. Sunderland would be suited for this move because they use the same manufacturing system as the Qashqai and Juke, which are currently made in the UK. Talks are still ongoing, so it’s not in the bag yet. * SO WHAT? * Nissan is supposed to be making a major strategy announcement on May 28th, where it is expected to give more details on a European restructuring.

In Shares in Norwegian Zoom rival Pexip soar on stock market debut (Financial Times, Anna Gross) we see that the videoconferencing company which touts itself as a more secure alternative to Zoom – and is used by the likes of Amnesty International, PayPal and the US Airforce, no less! – saw its share price shoot up by over 40% on its stock market debut in Oslo yesterday. It raised Nkr2.4bn in the biggest Scandinavian software listing in history – made all the more impressive given the lack of listings elsewhere in Europe. Pexip’s revenue is almost entirely subscription-based and rose by 72% in 2019 while recurring revenues doubled in the first quarter of this year versus Q1 last year. * SO WHAT? * Sceptics worry that the gains such companies made under lockdown will disappear as people will go back to meeting face-to-face in the slow return to normality. However, as Pexip’s chief pointed out, people will be much more used to using video now and so will be more likely to use it in future. I can understand the sceptics’ point of view if people were in lockdown for a few weeks and videoconferencing was just used on the odd occasion, but the fact is that even the office technophobes have been forced to embrace this technology on a regular basis. When you couple that with (probably) fewer flights being available due to airlines going bust etc. and companies all wanting to cut costs, video is the obvious way to go and EVERYBODY will have used it in some shape or form so I think any previous resistance to using it will continue to fall.

Transport revolution: wheels in motion for e-scooter trials (Daily Telegraph, James Cook) highlights the new boost

that could propel the success of e-scooters as Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, announced that they will be tested on Britain’s roads next month. The idea is that their use could take the pressure off public transport that will find it difficult to incorporate social distancing as more people return to work. If all goes OK, a number of transport laws forbidding the use of electric scooters on public highways will have to be revised. Scooter company Bird is all a-flutter about the prospects as it is now resuming talks with local authorities who had previously expressed an interest and another start-up called Ginger, is also gearing up for launch. * SO WHAT? * Although e-scooters sound like a great solution to commuting at the moment, they are not without issues. Paris was an early adopter of the tech and it welcomed the likes of Bird and Lime (the latter of which recently got a hefty investment from Uber) in 2018 only to find that its pavements then became littered with them. There also needs to be some education on how to use them safely and how drivers need to behave so they can co-exist on the tarmac. There’s also the issue of hygiene for hire scooters and the spread of germs. You may then think – why don’t I buy my own? Not so fast – according to this article in TechRadar, they are not yet road legal. At the moment, the government is looking at hire scooters and doesn’t want to let any old scooter on the road for safety reasons (which sounds fair enough). For the record, I had a quick scan on Amazon and they look like they would cost £300-500 from a make you have never heard of.

Elsewhere, Bumper year ahead for firm selling Covid tests to the NHS (The Times, Alex Ralph) shows that dual-listed French/UK-listed biotech company Novacyt, is forecasting continued strong demand for its Covid-19 diagnostic test well into 2021. Most of the company’s operations are in Britain and it now supplies tests to over 100 countries, as well as to the NHS in Britain. Novacyt became the second company after Roche of Switzerland to have its test listed by the World Health Organisation for use in emergencies and it has also been approved for use in over 16 countries including the US and India. Wow!

Then in Apple buys virtual-reality streaming upstart Next VR (Wall Street Journal, Kimberly Chin) we see that Apple has used some of its massive cash pile to buy virtual reality streaming company NextVR for an undisclosed sum. The company broadcasts a mixture of live and recorded events like music concerts and sporting events for VR headsets. * SO WHAT? * This sounds exciting, don’t you think? Apple has been looking into VR and AR tech for many years and is rumoured to have built headset prototypes. It has made a few other acquisitions in the last two months including weather app Dark Sky and Ireland-based AI voice start-up Voysis. They do this sort of thing from time to time, so you shouldn’t read too much into it. Still, it does sound interesting!



Airlines announce more job cuts and Virgin Atlantic continues to seek out cash…

There just doesn’t seem to be any good news among airlines at the moment. US airlines eye job cuts once bailout strings expire (Financial Times, Sujeet Indap and Claire Bushey) takes a look at what’s in store for US airlines following the government bailout – more pain but also the

prospect of being able to access a second $25bn bailout fund should they need it. Elsewhere, though, jobs are continuing to get slashed in Qatar Airways to cut 9,000 staff (Daily Telegraph) and Walsh condemns quarantine plan as he confirms job cuts (The Times, Ben Martin), which shows that BA’s ultimate boss is going ahead with announcing 12,000 job cuts.

Virgin Atlantic in talks to raise £750m rescue cash (Daily Telegraph, Oliver Gill) highlights the troubled airline’s current efforts in raising money in order to survive. The company has approached a number of investors to get backing in addition to offering a stake in Virgin Galactic recently. The fight continues.



Boohoo wants to go shopping, Garden centres look forward to opening, M&S has a big sale and WH Smith faces tough times…

There seems to be an air of positivity surrounding some parts of UK retail at the moment. Boohoo plans to raise up to £200m as it eyes acquisitions (Financial Times, Jonathan Eley) shows that the online fashion retailer Boohoo wants to raise up to £200m to fund potential acquisitions. Rivals such as Asos and Joules have raised money this year from investors, but this is the first time that a high street retailer is expressly saying that the money raised would be for acquisitions. It said that it wants to make the best out of current circumstances and is reviewing a number of M&A deals. Punchy! Then Garden centres upbeat on reopening (Financial Times, Jonathan Eley) shows that some in the business of garden centres are also hoping to make the best of a disastrous year so far. The logic goes that not many people will be able to go on holiday and so those who have managed to hang on to their income through the outbreak will have more money to spend at places like gardening centres. Although business levels have generally been weak, some have seen success already from a sharp increase in online orders.

Elsewhere on the high street, Marks & Spencer holds huge sale after clothing piles up amid lockdown (The Guardian, Zoe Wood) shows the high street stalwart trying to shift its mountain of untouched spring and summer fashion by announcing a big sale. As part of this “rainbow sale”, 10% of takings will go to NHS charities. M&S is due to report its annual results next week. * SO WHAT? * Well M&S has to try and get rid of its stock somehow – and it’s great that it is using this opportunity to give money to the NHS. Still, there will no doubt be many other retailers getting rid of their apparel stocks – so there will be many bargains to be had!

WH Smith hits the buffers after collapse in rail travel (The Times, Ashley Armstrong) highlights yesterday’s announcement by the company that sales fell by a whopping 85% in April as its railways and airport business took a hammering due to lockdown. It has furloughed two thirds of its staff and is losing between £25m and £30m a month at the moment. Although it’s managed to keep 203 of its 600 high street shops open by being classed as an “essential retailer”, footfall has been poor as people have stayed at home. * SO WHAT? * It’s ironic that the boring high street part of the business has proved to be the saviour of the company just as its railway station and airports business was really taking off. It really needs the restrictions to be lifted on people moving about before it can get back to growing ways.



And finally, in other news…

I thought I’d leave you this week with a few things to possibly inspire you during lockdown in 50 Fun Things to Do When You’re Bored (mental-floss, Then there’s the rather lovely story of Mum comes up with heartwarming idea so kids can hug grandparents in lockdown (The Mirror, Paige Holland I got quite emotional reading that!

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Some of today’s market, commodity & currency moves (as at 0747hrs green is up, red is down). THIS IS INTENDED AS A ROUGH GUIDE ONLY!

FTSE 100 *Dow Jones *S&P 500 *Nasdaq*DAX *CAC-40 *Nikkei **Shanghai **
5,742 (-2.75%)8,94410,337 (-1.95%)4,262 (-1.74%)20,037 (+0.62%)2,868 (-0.07%)
Oil (WTI) p/bOil (Brent) p/bGold Per t/oz£/$€/$$/¥£/€$/₿

(markets with an * are at yesterday’s close, ** are at today’s close)