(Alliance News) - The following is a summary of top news stories Friday.
easyJet said it has completed the sale and leaseback of 23 aircraft, generating USD771 million in proceeds. The proceeds of the sale will be used to maximise liquidity and further strengthen easyJet's financial position. The USD771 million, or GBP608 million, proceeds is at the upper end of the company's GBP500 million to GBP650 million forecast range. The final transaction was executed with Jin Shan 37 Ireland Co, a unit of Bocomm Leasing, for the sale and leaseback of five A321neo aircraft for USD266 million. The agreement will see the aircraft leased back until each of them reach 10 years of age. Following the deal, 50% of the company's fleet remains unencumbered. easyJet said it has now raised over GBP2.4 billion since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic to maximise liquidity and strengthen its financial position.
The UK government said it has agreed access to 90 million doses of two promising Covid-19 vaccine candidates in deals with the US's Novavax and Johnson & Johnson. Novavax has agreed to supply 60 million doses of NVX-CoV2373, its potential Covid-19 vaccine. It will carry out a phase three trial to assess the efficacy of the vaccine in the UK population. The trial is expected to begin in the third quarter of this year, with the UK government supporting and providing infrastructure for the study to take place. Novavax will expand its collaboration with Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, which will manufacture the antigen component of NVX-CoV2373 from its Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees site in the UK, in addition to its US sites in North Carolina and Texas. The UK site is expected to produce up to 180 million doses annually.
London shares were lower following disappointing retail sales figures from China, raising fears over the country's economic recovery from the coronavirus shutdown. Travel stocks were in the red after the UK government's decision to add France to its quarantine travel list. US stock market futures were pointed to a lower open.
FTSE 100: down 2.2% at 6,048.91
FTSE 250: down 1.3% at 17,689.26
AIM ALL-SHARE: down 0.5% at 951.45
GBP: down at USD1.3070 (USD1.3084)
EUR: down at USD1.1792 (USD1.1830)
GOLD: down at USD1,945.10 per ounce (USD1,947.60)
OIL (Brent): down at USD44.57 a barrel (USD45.18)
(changes since previous London equities close)
ECONOMICS AND GENERAL
UK travellers trying to return from France on Friday to avoid the quarantine restrictions face a scramble for tickets costing hundreds of pounds. British Airways, part of International Consolidated Airlines Group, was charging GBP452 for a direct flight from Paris to London Heathrow on Friday night, but the plane was fully booked by 1030 BST. The same journey on Saturday can be made with the airline for just GBP66. The cheapest ticket on a Eurostar train from Paris to London is GBP210, compared with GBP165 on Saturday. Car-carrying Channel Tunnel trains are fully booked until Saturday, which is too late to avoid the quarantine. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insisted the UK government had taken "a practical approach" to the new restrictions. It was announced on Thursday night that people arriving in the UK from France after 4am on Saturday will be required to spend 14 days in self-isolation due to rising numbers of coronavirus cases there. The quarantine conditions will also apply to travellers returning from the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, Turks & Caicos and Aruba. Shapps said an estimated 160,000 holidaymakers are expected to try to return to the UK from France on Friday.
The eurozone economy crashed 12% in the second quarter of 2020, according to figures from Eurostat. This quarter-on-quarter decline was the worst reading since the series started in 1995. In the first three months of the year, gross domestic product fell 3.6% sequentially. Year-on-year, the eurozone economy shrank 15% in the three months to June, again the sharpest decline seen since 1995 and a deterioration from the 3.1% fall posted for the first quarter. Two quarters in a row of contraction mean the eurozone economic is in recession. Separately, Eurostat showed the euro area trade surplus was EUR21.2 billion for June, up from EUR19.4 billion a year ago.
Negotiators from the US and China will on Saturday discuss the "phase one" trade deal signed earlier this year - before the coronavirus slammed the world economy and relations between the two economic powers took a turn for the worse. Washington and Beijing's January deal represented a partial truce in their months-long trade war, and obligated Beijing to import an additional USD200 billion in American products over two years, ranging from cars to machinery to oil to farm products. But purchases of those goods have been lagging, while US President Donald Trump has stepped up rhetoric against China ahead of what's expected to be a tough fight for a second term in the November elections, raising questions about the deal's fate as well as the possibility of a second phase of the truce. "The outcome of the trade talk will signal if both sides are willing to continue to keep the deal, which will signal whether the relationship will deteriorate further," said Iris Pang, chief economist for greater China at financial services giant ING. Neither the US nor the Chinese government confirmed the talks to AFP but the deal mandates meetings every six months after it takes effect, which would be Saturday.
China's retail sales dropped in July, official data showed, indicating that sluggish consumer spending could hold up the country's recovery from the coronavirus outbreak. Retail sales - a key indicator of consumer sentiment - shrank by 1.1% on-year, falling short of forecasts and suggesting many are still reticent about going out to spend time and money, even as China appears to have the virus largely under control. The latest data follows a drop of 1.8% on-year for retail sales in June. Bloomberg analysts had projected sales would recover to a modest 0.1% growth. Industrial production grew by 4.8% in July â€“ the same as the previous month, but below predictions from Bloomberg analysts of 5.2% growth. Meanwhile fixed asset investment for the year so far was down 1.6% year-on-year; an improvement on last month's data, but still weak.
The US Senate on Thursday adjourned until September despite not reaching an agreement over a fresh round of stimulus to help the virus-battered economy and struggling Americans. US President Donald Trump's administration and Democratic leadership have for weeks been discussing a new round of emergency aid to workers and businesses hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, but have been unable to agree on how much to spend. Congress has already allocated USD3 trillion in the stimulus bills enacted since March to fight the pandemic and help the economy, with fiscal hawks growing increasingly worried about the deficit. However, the unemployment rate remains in the double digits, and there are signs that the economic recovery is slowing. The Aspen Institute has estimated as many as 40 million people could be at risk of eviction in the coming months, leading to "destabilization of communities" across the country. The Senate will return on September 8.
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, called for a nationwide face mask mandate in the US to curb coronavirus contagion. "Every single American should be wearing a mask when they're outside for the next three months at a minimum," Biden told a news conference. "Let's institute a mask mandate nationwide starting immediately and we will save lives." The former vice president said the measure could save more than 40,000 lives in the next three months, and noted that more than 165,000 people have died already in the US. "It didn't have to be this way," Biden said, adding that if President Donald Trump had acted earlier, thousands of fatalities could have been avoided. Biden was speaking at his second public appearance with his newly-selected running mate, Kamala Harris, after the pair was briefed on the coronavirus by public health experts.
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