Monday 26/10/20

  1. In CORONATRENDS NEWS, private jets get popular, home workers seek refuge elsewhere, Lloyds tells staff to go home until spring and copper prices rise
  2. In RETAIL NEWS, Debenhams’ suitors face a deadline while Cath Kidston returns online
  3. In INDIVIDUAL COMPANY  NEWS, Apple faces Google fallout and the Oxford Covid trials go well
  4. AND FINALLY, I bring you a dancer’s save and some dodgy handwriting…



So private jets soar, home workers escape, Lloyds staff go home and copper demand rises…

Hello there! Just wanted to remind you that I’m doing an Instagram Live tonight at 5pm with April Parker – aka According To A Law Student – for the launch of our e-book on Commercial Awareness. Just follow us on Instagram and see us tonight!

Private jets take off as wealthy flyers seek to avoid virus (Financial Times, Philip Georgiadis and Alice Hancock) shows that increasing numbers of wealthy flyers are snapping up places on private jets to avoid breathing the same air as us dirty plebs 😁, according to a number of private jet operators and brokers. Passengers can often drive straight to the plane without mingling with anyone else – and they are willing to pay up in rising numbers. * SO WHAT? * Interestingly enough, while commercial flight numbers were down by around 50%, private flight numbers only fell by about 10% between September 1st and October 15th versus the same time period last year. Although companies like Colibri Aircraft, LunaJets and Flexjet have benefited from strong demand, they are feeling nervous going into the end of the year due to tightening restrictions around Europe designed to avert a second wave. There is a fear that falls in the number of business trips will actually have a knock-on effect on leisure travel as many business travellers use their loyalty points on holidays.

Desperate UK home workers renting solace from nimble-footed firms (The Guardian, Joanna Partridge) shows that some businesses are pivoting to supply out-of-home working alternatives as increasing numbers of home workers are going stir-crazy. They provide a workspace, decent wifi and refreshments and Fraser Campbell, who is ambassador for Dewar’s whisky, has set up a “work from bars” initiative designed to showcase venues that are now offering this service. Hilton has started to offer day rentals across most of its 160 UK hotels, European group Accor (which owns brands such as Novotel and Ibis) is doing something similar across its 220 UK locations and David Lloyd fitness club has reported a 40% rise in online inquiries for corporate membership as companies appear to want to offer their employees gym access and an alternative workspace. * SO WHAT? * Businesses are being forced to be creative in order to survive and any efforts to

do so are to be applauded. I do not know how long this is sustainable, but if it buys time then that has to be a good thing. I also wonder whether in some cases, this could continue post-Covid. If it did, this would be very bad news for the likes of WeWork as it would provide yet another alternative for solo workers.

In Lloyds orders staff home until spring (The Times, Louisa Clarence-Smith) we see that Lloyds Bank has told the majority of its employees not to come back to the office until at least springtime in a memo circulated last week to its 65,000 staff. It had originally asked most of its staff to work from home if they can until the end of the year. Rivals Barclays and Nat West have also given staff similar guidance for various periods. * SO WHAT? * This is another blow to London especially as fewer office workers = lower footfall at retailers. Data from retail researcher Springboard says that weekly visits to central London have fallen by the sharpest margin versus anywhere else in the country – down almost 60% versus the previous year. This compares to a 48% decline in regional cities and 26% in market towns. Having said that, this may actually be good news for high streets in suburban areas that have seen an uptick in customer traffic as people working from home try to support their local area.

Then in Copper price soars on back of China’s Covid-19 recovery (The Times, Tom Howard) we see that copper prices broke through the $7,000 a ton level last week – its highest level since June 2018 – in a 12% rise so far this year. This has been due to three things. Firstly, increasing demand from China, the world’s biggest consumer of raw materials, as it cranks up the number of new infrastructure projects to stimulate the economy; secondly, the yuan is at its highest level against the dollar since summer 2018, meaning that it is cheaper for China to buy copper; and thirdly, there have been supply disruptions as mines have had to close due to coronavirus-related restrictions, especially in Chile, which produces about 30% of global supply. * SO WHAT? * Given that copper is used in so many things, including electric vehicles, their batteries and chargers and water pipes, it makes sense that demand is rising as economies try to encourage building and infrastructure projects. There may be another boost to come in the form of Joe Biden winning the US presidential race as he is expected to spend big on green energy and infrastructure. Companies like Anglo American and Antofagsta are among those who could benefit from a Biden victory as they have exposure to a higher copper price.



Debenhams suitors face pressure and Cath Kidston emphasises online…

Suitors get three days to bid for Debenhams (The Times, Ashley Armstrong) highlights the fact that we are now entering, as Sir Alex Ferguson would put it, “squeaky bum time” as prospective buyers for the stricken department store have been told by advisers to put in a proper offer by the close of business this Wednesday or walk away. Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group has been dithering (although, TBF, he did try to buy it ages ago but was rebuffed) and if it continues to do so, the whole chain could be liquidated or broken up and sold off in bits to a group of hedge funds including Silver Point Capital. * SO WHAT? * It’ll be interesting to see whether Frasers Group is successful. I would have thought it makes strategic sense if nothing else, given all the other assets that Mike Ashley owns, but I

would have thought loads of stores and jobs would be in line for the chop if he took the reins. Mind you, I think that would happen whoever “wins”. The company itself is obviously talking a good game – saying that trading had been better than expected – but of course they are going to say that! We’ll just have to wait for the outcome…

Cath Kidston set to put on the chintz but its future is online (Daily Telegraph, Laura Onita) highlights a new dawn for the purveyor of “timeless” flowery bits and pieces as it moves forward with online sales, having ditched all 60 stores in the UK in April as footfall evaporated overnight. It has continued operation throughout lockdown and will actually reopen its Piccadilly store in November as its flagship and sole physical branch. * SO WHAT? * Covid no doubt accelerated the physical stores’ demise but the company seems to have had a turbulent time of it over the last few years. At the end of the day, although its designs are said to be “timeless”, many said the same about Laura Ashley years ago and look where that’s gone. Trends ebb and flow, so let’s hope for the company’s sake that it manages to track the trends rather than lag them.



Apple could face Google fallout and the latest on the Oxford Covid trials sounds positive…

Apple’s booming services business could be hit in Google antitrust battle (Wall Street Journal, Tim Higgins) shows that the lawsuit brought last week against Google by the US Department of Justice could actually take a major toll on Apple. This is because the massive deal that Google has with Apple to be its default browser – which it has had for 15 years – could be a major target of any punishment. * SO WHAT? * Given that Google pays Apple the equivalent of

20% of Apple’s overall profits under this deal, the danger is clear. However, investors seemed to be pretty calm about this last week – presumably because they think that this case will drag on for years and that Apple will make more money elsewhere in the meantime. Still, this is a case that is definitely worth following!

There’s some good news in Oxford Covid vaccine trials offer hope for elderly (Financial Times, Sarah Neville, Clive Cookson and Anna Gross) as one of the vaccine frontrunners – the one that is being developed between the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca – looks like it has produced a “robust immune response in elderly people” – the group most at risk from the coronavirus. * SO WHAT? * This is great, but we should only really be getting excited when/if the vaccine gets through phase three trials.



…in other news…

I thought I’d leave you today with a spectacular save in Dancer praised for incredible reaction after bottomless brunch goes wrong (The Mirror, Rosaleen Fenton) and the occasional hilarity of parenthood in Dad left cracking up after seeing daughter’s accidentally rude ‘handwriting practice’ (The Mirror, Courtney Pochin). I have a number of these examples myself from my own kids! If I can find them I shall dig them out for you…

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Some of today’s market, commodity & currency moves (as at hrs 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 **
Oil (WTI) p/bOil (Brent) p/bGold Per t/oz£/$€/$$/¥£/€$/₿

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