The Taplow Group has been active throughout the pandemic. This is the fourth in our ‘Biweekly Business Updates’ from our partners around the world. The situation is showing clear signs of recovery although it is still characterized by nuances that exist in every country and region.
- The pandemic is seeing countries in Africa going into various versions of “lockdown”. The business community is striving to come to terms with the situation with the backdrop of little or in some countries no assistance.
- Africa has not seen as many cases primarily due to there being less travel spreading the pandemic, still notable clusters are emerging.
Australia has done an amazing job of flattening the curve, and we have seen encouraging results and the easing of some government restrictions. Early moves to wind back the restrictions in Australia started this week. What we have seen so far includes:
- Massive government stimulus both fiscal and monetary to individuals and organisations.
- Early signs of staged reopening with different regions of Australia opening up more than others.
- Vaccine and treatment trials to be funded by government and private organisations.
- A restriction on activity and closure of shop front retail has driven a surge in ecommerce with ‘Australia Post’ experiencing high volumes of parcels for delivery.
- Current processing volumes are close to two million parcels a day and are exceeding the busiest Christmas period.
- Some travel may return soon with Qantas flying a small number of international, domestic, and regional services for essential travel.
- Australian domestic and trans-Tasman flights have been cancelled till the end of June 2020 and with the exception of perhaps New Zealand, international travel restrictions are likely to remain in place to the end of July 2020.
- Government of India has announced an economic package of INR 20 lakh crore (~$265 billion) including those announced earlier which accounts for 10% of India’s GDP.
- This package has brought in some relief for MSME (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) by infusing collateral-free automatic loans, subordinate debt for stressed MSMEs, equity infusion for MSMEs through a "Fund of Funds", and rapid clearance of dues of MSMEs by Government of India
- GOI has also made some tax reforms to maintain liquidity
- There is some relief for migrant workers, small farmers, small business owners, and those who are self-employed as the GOI is providing them with loans at concessional rates, credit moratorium, interest subvention, liquidity support, and new credit cards sanctions
- In a strategy to attract FDI, particularly foreign firms wanting to move out of China, to boost investment., the Indian government is reportedly in the process of identifying and developing 4.6 lakh hectares of land, including 1.1 lakh hectares of existing land in industrial areas, and planning fiscal incentives in the form of preferential tax rates, tax holidays etc in order to attract foreign firms
- With the median age of 27 and around 900 million “working-age” population, India is a young and aspirational economy.
- GOI has also announced some policy reforms to fast-track investment which is an effort towards a self-dependent India
- Incentive schemes for promotion of new champion sectors will be launched in sectors such as solar PV manufacturing; advanced cell battery storage; etc.
- Upgradation of industrial infrastructure along with availability of industrial land/ land bank for promoting new investments and making information available on industrial information system (IIS) with GIS mapping is also proposed.
- Commercial mining has also been introduced in coal sector by introducing competition, transparency and private sector participation in the coal sector through revenue sharing mechanism instead of regime of fixed rupee/tonne, liberalizing the entry norms, and investment of Rs 50,000 crores for incentivising coal gasification / liquefication and infrastructure development is on the cards.
- There would also be enhancement of private investments in the mineral sector through structural reforms to boost growth, employment and bringing in of state-of-the-art technology, especially in exploration.
- Enhancing self reliance in defence production, reduction in flying cost Rs. 1000 crores for efficient airspace management for civil aviation, more world-class airports through PPP, and boosting private sector investment in social infrastructure through revamped viability gap funding scheme are some other concrete steps taken by GOI.
- Construction contractors that have met the COVID-19 safety measures for the construction sector announced by the Singapore Government on Friday (May 15) can begin work on their projects.
- This is in addition to the plan to let critical and time-sensitive projects such as train works and sewerage system tunnelling projects to begin first when the “circuit breaker” is lifted, as well as activities that cannot be left idle for too long due to safety concerns.
- For the remaining sectors, gradual safe re-opening of workplaces is to start on 2nd June with employers having to implement safe management measures.
- The good news is that since 11.59pm on Wednesday 13th May, alert level 2 has been implemented. This is due to the number of new Covid-19 cases reducing significantly to a point where most new cases (for several days lately there have been no new cases reported) are linked to known clusters. Moving to alert level 2 means that much of the economy will open including restaurants, malls, cinemas, shops, health services, and hairdressers. People will be able to socialise with others and travel around the country, as well as playing team professional sports (be it in empty stadiums). Schools and early childhood centres will open from 18th May 2020. Finally, on 21st May 2020 will be allowed to reopen.
- This week the New Zealand Government announced $50 billion of new spending. This is in addition to the $12.1 billion delivered on March 17. Cumulatively, this amounts to a staggering 20% of GDP. $20 billion of the $50 billion touted still lies unallocated. This gives the government time to see how the crisis evolves before making its next move. Targeted extension of the wage subsidy scheme, the creation of thousands of environment-improving jobs, a decision to build an extra 8,000 state houses and a massive injection into the health sector are some of the key aspects of the new spending.
- Like most of New Zealand’s economic indicators for April, job advertising fell dramatically. This month can be termed as the most impacted month by the nation’s maximum-level economic and social lockdown. This level 4 lasted from 26 March to 27 April, after which level 3 came back into play. The 65.3% drop in job advertising in April, followed a 27.0% fall in March, makes for an annual decline rate of 75.4%.
The region has suffered in unequal parts over the last few weeks. A flattening of the curve of infections is starting to show with many countries starting to move out of “lockdown” periods and allowing business to open again.
- Banks have confirmed their support for the French economy. Launched on March 25, the loan guaranteed by the State (PGE) is quite popular with companies and professionals. After a month and a half, there are more than 500,000 applications for almost €100 billion, from companies and professionals whose economic activity has been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak and the lockdown period.
- The banks along with the Government support, put the PGE in place in record time, in order to provide the necessary cash flow for the territory's businesses and activities (professionals, companies of all sizes).
- European economic figures for the first quarter show that France is suffering more than its neighbours from the health crisis. From January to March, economic activity fell by 5.8%, compared with 5.2% in Spain, 4.7% in Italy and around 2% in Germany. According to Brussels' forecasts, over the whole year, France's economic contraction should exceed 8%. This slippage is due to the particularly strict containment conditions imposed by the Government.
- The imprecise directives on the health conditions for the resumption of activity have slowed down the recovery of businesses, as has the very generous short time working scheme set up by the Government. France has just begun to unlock on May 11th with a first assessment on the last week of May for checking if there is a decrease in COVID cases. Then, on the 2d of June, a second phase will begin with the reopening of tourist activities such as restaurants and hotels.
- What we can immediately see in our customer base and read in the news is that recruitment is mostly on hold for big companies, especially when it comes to manager-level assignments. In C-level, the situation has not really changed as CEO´s and CFO´s still need to be replaced, perhaps even more in these circumstances.
- Many industrial companies working in global markets, report that particularly in Asia and China, the demand is the same as before the crisis.
- Also, in Finland the government is extending full support and funding for suffering companies. A huge amount of money is being spent, and we are waiting to see the results.
- Many of the services will be opened soon and in the hospitality sector as well. Also some travelling between neighboring countries also could happen now, so we can easily assume that we are gradually coming out of the lockdown period.
- Due to low infection and death rate, hospitals are not over crowded. Schools are also opening again
- Borders to our neighboring countries are being opened and border control should end by June 15th
- Businesses (smaller shops,) are opening, and we expect that our economy will go back to work in 2nd and 3rd quarter
- Due to on going rules like distancing, masks etc. we do not expect that our economy will fully recover this year.
- The UK has implemented a recovery programme. Phase one has seen construction, garden centres and manufacturing return to work. Phase two will see small shops and some school children return to school depending on social distancing. Phase three will see restaurants, bars, gyms and all other businesses return.
- The government has extended the furlough scheme until October 2020; therefore employers can bring staff back in a structured manner
- A “Business Bounce Back” loan scheme has been released giving SMEs the ability to borrow up to £50,000 at 2.5% interest (repayments to start in 2021), the loans are 100% government backed
- The coming month will be critical in regard to how quickly the UK Economy starts functioning again.
The Americas are fast becoming the new epicentre of the pandemic.
- Two and half months after the first cases of the pandemic, Brazil is currently the fourth country worldwide in terms of infected citizens. It has reported 223 thousand cases including15.6 thousand deaths. Lockdown and other pertinent decisions rest with each state. In the State of São Paulo, current lockdown term expires on May 31st. A new prorogation is likely to be instituted due to the fact we did not reach our pandemic peak yet
- 2020 Brazilian GDP is currently estimated to be -7% or more. US$ rate previously quoted at R$ 4.03 on 12/1019, now peaked at R$ 5.82. Government is designing a plan to help state and municipality finances, mainly to cover public worker’s payrolls. Banks are being asked to provide emergency credit lines to the private sector
- The government is beginning to pay the second of three monthly installments of the “Emergency Allowance” pay of R$ 600,00 (US$ 103.00) to 60 million small entrepreneurs and informal workers not covered by Social Security, government social assistance program (Bolsa Família) or by the Brazilian Labor Laws.
- Due to the reduction in oil prices and the pandemic situation restrictions, Petrobras, our oil state owned company was hit by a US$ 10 billion loss in the first quarter of 2020.
- The São Paulo State Government (30%+ of Brazilian GDP) has started to design a “post-pandemic recovery plan” for the state economy, involving representatives of all economic sectors, like: agricultural/agribusiness, general industry, services, banking, private economic experts, representatives from the university institutions, and social leaders.
USA and Canada:
- All but the most marginal US businesses are adjusting to the new normal of dealing with the Corvid 19 pandemic. Some, particularly capital-intensive businesses such as airlines, as well major medical facilities will have to be both creative and will have to rely on government aid to make it through this time.
- Pharma (Life Sciences), Tech and communications services providers seemingly will do well. New industries such as “just in time” home delivery business models will fill in with many new jobs. Entrepreneurs will tighten their belt and adjust their business to this transient state.
- The US economy has suffered the most severe setback ever seen during our current working lifetime. Approximately 18,000,000 US workers will have applied for unemployment benefits in the last 4 weeks and over 2 million small businesses have applied for some form of financial relief. Response times are slow and according to some news media, we have already fully used the relief funds approved by our Congress and signed by our President.
- Companies are finalizing their exit from enforced lockdown across the globe
- Executives are dealing with the nuances of getting back to work, with a workforce that is uncertain of the future; leadership skills are being tested across every sector
- Companies are reassessing their working practices, in the cessation of lockdown, new ways of producing products, servicing clients need to be quickly identified and actioned
We hope that you, your family, and work colleagues continue to stay healthy and safe, we at Taplow are here to support you and your company through this crisis and we will be back with updated news soon.