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DAILY BRIEFING

DAILY BRIEFING

A word on resilience

Written by Javier Maquieira, senior associate 
Edited by Katie Stanton, associate partner
23 February 2021

Good morning,

Swiss-born British philosopher Alain de Botton wrote: “a good half of the art of living is resilience”. Under normal circumstances, I would agree with him. But resilience has taken up so much of our lives over the last year, that it hardly feels like half.
 
We’ve witnessed all kinds of resilience during these months of grief, hardship, and uncertainty. The term has surely been used and abused, not least because it would have been virtually impossible for individuals and businesses alike to cope as resiliently without proper support. For better or worse, however, there’s no denying that the word has particular pertinence during this moment in history.
 
The impact of Covid-19 has been felt by all organisations around the world, unleashing a new era of change for some and wiping others off the map altogether. Optimism has indeed been at a premium, fluctuating as new vaccines and coronavirus variants have come on the scene. 
 
Yet the last 24 hours have sent out new signals of hope in the UK. Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the recruitment firm Adecco found more than half of British firms (56%) plan to hire new staff in the first three months of 2021, chiefly among those in the healthcare, finance and insurance, education, and ICT sectors.
 
The same polling also shows redundancy intention among the 2,000 companies surveyed dropped from 30% to 20%, compared with the previous three-month period. In Scotland, only 10% of respondents expect to reduce staff, down 20% compared with last summer.
 
The pace of the vaccine rollout coupled with the expectation of a period of economic recovery later in the year are the two main reasons for rising confidence.
 
Arguably, however, the roadmaps through and out of lockdown, and an extension of the furlough scheme beyond the end of April will prove decisive, especially for the hospitality industry, which has been the worst hit, accounting for a third of the job losses.
 
The prime minister, Boris Johnson, unveiled the first of such roadmaps in the UK yesterday – a four-step plan that could see all restrictions lifted in England by 21 June, if strict conditions are met. All being well, shops, hairdressers, gyms, and outdoor hospitality could be reopened on 12 April, according to the plan.
 
North of the border, Nicola Sturgeon is expected to announce Scotland’s own strategy for relaxing restrictions in a ministerial statement later this afternoon. That is when we’ll know whether the Scottish government, which is committed to ensuring this is “the last lockdown”, will take a more cautious approach to England once again.
 
With our collective resilience under considerable long-term pressure, and nine days to go until the chancellor of the exchequer delivers his budget, we’ll take all the doses of optimism and support we can get.

News

As part of England’s roadmap out of lockdown, the prime minister has confirmed the return of all schools from 8 March, along with the introduction of twice weekly home testing for secondary school and college students. While schools will be able to decide a phased return during that week, attendance will be compulsory thereafter.
 
The president of the United States, Joe Biden, urged Americans to overcome their political divides and follow health guidelines as the country surpassed half a million coronavirus deaths on Monday. In an address to the nation followed by solemn rituals to honour the 500,000 deaths, President Biden focused on the loss Americans have felt because of the pandemic and the larger theme of coming together.
 
Nasa has released clear and detailed video images of its Perseverance rover landing on Mars, up to the point where the robot’s wheels make contact with the ground. The first audio of Mars was also briefly picked up by a microphone on board, which captures the sounds of a Martian breeze and the rover going about its first duties.

Business and economy

Facebook has struck an agreement with Australia’s government to restore news on its platform. The big tech company said it was satisfied with amendments to a draft law that would have forced social media firms to pay for news. Canberra said the changes to the proposed legislation provide more clarity on how the code will operate. (£)
 
The UK’s transport secretary, Grant Shapps, has announced that Boeing 777 aircrafts with the same engine as the one which caught fire in Denver will be temporarily banned from entering UK airspace. The move follows a separate incident on Saturday, when a plane’s engine caught fire shortly after take-off from Maastricht Airport in the Netherlands.
 
Airlines and holiday businesses have reported a surge in website traffic and bookings, following Boris Johnson’s announcement of England’s roadmap out of lockdown. Although the lifting of restrictions on international travel is not expected to happen until 17 May at the earliest, the likes of easyJet, Tui and Thomas Cook have seen bookings “flood in” for southern European countries, with interest strongest in August, followed by July, and then September.

Columns of note

Writing in The Times, Rachel Sylvester reflects on rising tensions within the Conservative Party over how to prevent the break-up of the United Kingdom in the face of growing support for Scottish independence. While the favoured approach under previous Whitehall advisers was one of hostility toward the SNP, Sylvester reports there is now widespread recognition that a plan is needed ahead of a potential indyref2, with the newest additions to the advisory team favouring collaboration over confrontation. (£)
 
Will Tanner argues in City AM that an online sales tax on internet retail giants would not be enough to redress the state of disrepair on Britain’s high streets, explaining that business rates are not fit for a digital age. He proposes taxing the property value rather than the rental value of commercial property, with no exemptions for vacant stock. Tanner further makes the point that if this were to be paid by the landlord, it would also create a strong incentive to keep shops open or to sell up for other uses such as housing.

Cartoon source: The New Yorker

Markets

What happened yesterday?

London stocks closed slightly lower on Monday as investors mulled Boris Johnson’s gradual roadmap out of lockdown. The FTSE 100 ended the session down 0.18% at 6,612.24 while sterling finished stronger against both the dollar by 0.45% at $1.41 and the euro by 0.16% at €1.16.
 
In the US, the S&P 500 was down 0.8% while the tech-focused Nasdaq Composite closed 2.5% lower, as shares of Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google parent Alphabet all fell.

In company news:

G4S tumbled 9.77% after Canadian security services firm GardaWorld said it would not raise its offer for the company, paving the way for Allied Universal to buy the security services firm.
 
Travel and leisure stocks gained on the prospect of easing restrictions, with Paddy Power owner Flutter Entertainment adding 3.71%; British Airways owner IAG up 7.45%; Premier Inn owner Whitbread ascending 3.39%; InterContinental Hotels 3.95% higher; Cineworld rising 8.99%; and TUI up 8.72%.

What’s happening today?

Finals
Croda International
Fondul Proprietatea
HSBC Holdings
InterContinental Hotels

Interims
Clinigen
Diurnal Grp
Mcbride
Springfield Pr.

AGMs
Aberdeen Di&g
Ediston Prprty
Image Scan Holdings

UK economic announcements
(07:00) Claimant Count Rate
(07:00) Unemployment Rate

Int. economic announcements
(10:00) Consumer Price Index (EU)
(14:00) House Price Index (US)
(15:00) Consumer Confidence (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

Sri Lanka and India were connected by land until the fifteenth century. According to temple records, a cyclone then wiped out some of the limestone shoal that connected the two. In many places, the ocean is still very shallow – less than a metre in depth. (source: @qikipedia)

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Health and Social Care (including topical questions)
 
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Youth Courts and Sentencing – Rob Butler
 
Opposition Day Debate
Opposition Day (17th allotted day) There will be a Debate on a Motion in the name of the Official Opposition. Subject to be announced
 
Adjournment
Death of WPC Yvonne Fletcher – Bob Stewart

House of Lords 

Oral questions
Providing laptops and tablets to those pupils who require such equipment for access to online learning – Baroness Blower
 
Balancing carbon sequestration and biodiversity in government plans to plant 30,000 hectares of trees annually – Lord Clark of Windermere
 
Democracy in Belarus – Lord Mann
 
Assessment of the report by the Centre for Policy Studies ‘ Northern Big Bang: Unleashing Investment in the North’
 
Legislation
Trade Bill – consideration of Commons amendments – Lord Grimstone of Boscobel
 
Orders and regulations
Judicial Pensions (Fee-Paid Judges) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 – Lord Wolfson of Tredegar
 
Electricity Supplier Payments (Amendment) Regulations 2021 – Lord Callanan

Scottish Parliament 

Ministerial Statement: COVID-19
 
Stage 3 Proceedings
Heat Networks (Scotland) Bill
 
Committee Announcements
 
Business Motions
 
Members’ Business
John Finnie: Investing in Scotland’s Railways

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