COVID-19, the global pandemic has been affecting businesses across every sector, in all parts of the world. Taplow partners have all come together to provide insights into how their countries/ markets are dealing with the pandemic and the impact on business. I thought it would be of interest to you and your team to gain a local, regional and global insight of the situation as of today.
Africa has not seen as many cases primarily because there was less travel spreading the pandemic. However, there are notable clusters emerging
South Africa: Today enters day 10 of lockdown, concerns over a ‘second wave’ of COVID-19 infections and subsequent extended curfew poses significant socioeconomic fallouts. Since all three rating agencies last week downgraded South Africa to junk status, global investors that track this index will be forced to sell South African exposure. This will result in a mass outflow of capital of up to $12 billion according to analysts.
The region is seen as being “ahead of the pandemic curve” although the signs are encouraging, the predicted end to the regions crisis is still to be realised.
Australia: Australia is “Open for Business” in a diminished capacity. Some areas of the economy are busy; for instance, government is very busy providing support to the citizens and the economy. People have been asked to “stay home” and no more than two people are to be together when doing essential tasks like shopping for food or exercising. Financial Services and real estate will be challenged for a while because organisations will have worked out that they don’t need all the people they have or all the space they are leasing because they can have people work with more flexibility and from home. Financial planners may become financial counsellors to assist people through the debt they accumulate after being stood down or from losing their jobs. They will need technology to do this. Retail leasing is going to go through another round of “hurt” but warehousing and delivery services are going to grow as items are ordered and delivered.
China: Although the nationwide lockdown has been relaxed over the last two weeks based on the small success of curbing the spread of coronavirus, epidemic prevention and control in Mainland China will probably become a long-term normal, some medical experts said on Sunday. The major commercial centres for international exchanges, still bear the brunt of the risks as the worldwide spread of the COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating, there is no chance to call off the tier 1 major cities’ prevention and control work in a short time. The government’s overall strategy of guarding against imported cases and a rebound in indigenous cases will remain unchanged, with scientific analysis of the epidemic situation and accurate control methods taken. This has highlighted the importance of seizing the critical window to resume work and production, and bring people's lives back to normal as transmission of the epidemic has been basically interrupted in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and nationwide, although there were still imported and sporadic local cases. Most survived businesses have been operational for nearly one month, many have not reached their full capacity yet, especially those export-oriented manufacturing companies in the coastal areas. The most serious economic recession is already a reality, even though the government organs do not want to face it for sake of their own agenda.
India: India is in the midst of a strict lockdown, most companies, big and small are working from home and have found technology that will support them. Most recruitment plans are on hold until after the lockdown. Fitch rating agency warned that India GDP growth for 2020 – 2021 may stand as low as 2.1%, the lowest in 30 years.
Singapore: All workplaces except for those providing essential services and those unable to operate remotely will be suspended from Apr 7 to May 4 during a month-long "circuit breaker" campaign to curb further spread of COVID-19. These measures include closing of schools and most workplaces, as well as disallowing dining in at food establishments. Singapore's crown jewel for 40 years Singapore Airlines (SIA) has been an exemplary performer and regarded as an industry leader in the aviation industry. Between 1972 to 2011, it had only one loss-making year. It has continued to be profitable - until this year. SIA had since reduced capacity by 96 per cent and grounded almost all of its fleet due to COVID-19. Most of SIA’s costs are fixed, taking a heavy toll on its cash position, even when no flights are being operated. SIA has already announced it will bolster its capital and aim to raise 15 billion Singapore Dollars from shareholders and assistance from the Singapore Government in terms of reduced or deferred fees and wage offsets, among others.
New Zealand: The virus forced New Zealand into full lockdown from 31st March as well as closing its borders last month, 25 days after the first case was reported. This is the lowest number of days in the world that we are aware of and seems to be making a difference. Tourism is New Zealand’s biggest export industry, contributing 20.4% to total exports with overseas visitors who came to New Zealand in 2019 spending the equivalent of NZ$47 million a day. New Zealand’s national symbol is the Kiwi, which is flightless. Quite ironic really as Covid-19 has abruptly clipped our tourism wings, and has put a virtual stop to international tourism for some time. As a result, the impact on New Zealand’s economy will be significant with huge job losses, lower accommodation prices and higher airfares to name a few. On the positive side, exports via air freight continues to gain traction requiring innovative solutions to support the New Zealand Government’s flying medical supplies into New Zealand and helping our nation’s exporters to get everything from fresh seafood, including lobster, fruit (apples, kiwifruit) as well as honey and dairy products into overseas markets with 18 international return flights operating each week to keep the supply routes open.
The region has suffered in unequal parts over the last few weeks, although a slowing of the curve of infections has already started.
France: Government has given very little information on how and when the lockdown will cease or at least be less strict. For now, only sectors operating on the vital needs (health, food, transportation & logistics, food retail) are allowed and encouraged to work or if the company is able to operate in the secure restricted way of working for employees. For the vast majority of french people, they have been asked to stay at home and work remotely if possible, and only go out once a day for medical reasons, shopping for food or exercising ( only running is authorised) for 1 hour around 1 km at the most, starting from their home). 337 000 firms have asked for government support putting their employees on shirt-time working, representing 3,6 millions people. And lastly, this week Prime Minister said that the end of the lockdown will be complex and long, which means it will happen progressively depending on the areas and the sectors, while opening the borders will also be an issue and we have no clue so as to when will we be able to travel again.
Germany: Germany is contemplating a major question from an European (not just EU) standpoint which is: Do we stay together and how do we support each other? Will the economically more stable countries support the weaker ones? Business opportunities will be more favorable in Germany (e.g. market entry of Chinese companies in Europe) and locally, mainly due to the lack of skilled workers post lockdown. According to what we have heard from our German contacts across segments, more contacts fear the economic issues more than the health issues. Most of the consulting business is continuing, but because there is no possibility to meet new clients face to face and there is no possibility to get new business. For the time being there is only continuation or extensions of same contracts. Despite large help programs, liquidity will be a challenge soon and some consulting companies may change focus and modify target services from advisory services to business continuity or treasury or tax or help program optimisations and corporate finance, recovery programs and restructuring.
Russia: Our company is in self-isolation mode. Some of our clients are freezing vacancies in general but very few of our search projects have been halted. We note some delay in projects where decision makers are in countries where quarantine regimes have been introduced. Some industries in Russia are doing fine, for instance pulp and paper industry, pharmaceuticals and food industry. In Russia, the presidential decree has extended the regime of non-working days with pay until April 30 2020.
UK (United Kingdom): is on a 21-day lockdown. Most people expect this to be extended. UK government has announced a range of financial support for businesses and employees for the next 3 months. It is paying 80% of basic salaries for employed people that are furloughed to avoid mass unemployment. Businesses will see buying opportunities in the Financial, Retail and Real Estate sectors whilst online, internet and logistics can prosper in the “new normal” business climate.
The Americas are fast becoming the new epicentre of the pandemic.
USA and Canada: The explosion of this corona virus was not readily obvious or not well communicated by the epidemiological experts in a way, which was readily understandable. The sudden serious outbreak was met by a lack of preparation by the government, business and in our homes. Acceptance and response was very weak because the western leaders as well as leaders in nations adjacent to China could not fully comprehend or were being slow to react. Initially USA and Brazil also denied the serious nature of this outbreak. Economic consequences, which might have taken months to emerge in a more cyclical downturn – have happened in weeks. Italy, Spain and other countries including Singapore for the second time are virtually standing still. Economists and other financial pundits talk about a U-shaped recovery or a V shaped recovery. However, a sustainable recovery will take time and will not be very healthy if the government and business don’t nurture it.
- Companies are getting to grips with the “New Normal”, remote working, video conferences and evolving government business initiatives are common place globally.
- Executives are utilising the time to enhance their skill sets with online learning. Eminent universities such as Harvard, INSEAD and Oxford to name a few, have free short online courses on a number of subjects.
- Companies are reassessing their “routes to market”, today during the pandemic and for lengthy return to work periods thereafter
- No one is anticipating a clear exit from this pandemic, experts say we will see shortened periods of lockdown, we will see “economic bounces” rather than a defined “V” shape recovery. Companies are planning today for the remainder of 2020 and setting plans to drive growth in Q3 and Q4.
We hope that you, your family and work colleagues stay healthy and safe. We at The Taplow Group are here to support you and your company through this crisis and we look forward to interacting with you again soon.