Starting with this month, BAME Nation will start giving you bi-weekly updates about the top news stories of the last two weeks that you should not have missed. With that, you are always covered by your team at BAME Nation.
Now to the top five news stories of since the week commencing 27 April:
Disney’s money problems or not:
Disney’s predicted money problems as a result of coronavirus was finally confirmed by Disney this week with Disney announcing that it lost $1.4 billion in expected profit in the last quarter. As expected, its largest loss ($1 billion) came from foregone revenue as a result of closed theme parks. With such losses, it was no surprise that Disney decided to cancel its July dividend payment which would have cost it $1.6 bn.
While the decision to cut dividends makes some commercial sense, some have called it more of a PR move by Disney in response to damning criticisms from individuals such as Bernie Sanders and Abigail Disney who criticised Disney for its decision to furlough 120,000 employees whilst maintaining executive bonuses. This PR face-saving exercise theory is believable especially in light of the fact that Disney has net liquidity of about $17.5bn so could easily have paid the dividend.
US unemployment problems:
US unemployment problems continue to stun the country as years of employment growth are wiped out by coronavirus. Last week, there were 3m additional claims for unemployment benefits bringing the total benefit applications to 33.5m.
While data indicates that compared to previous weeks the 3m rise shows some stabilisation from previous peaks in early April. The numbers nonetheless represent real people and families being affected by the coronavirus. The numbers have also forced some parts of the country to either lift lockdown measures or consider lifting them. But Lazard has warned that while eased lockdown measures will provide temporary economic relief it is likely that any “premature efforts to reopen economies will undermine US progress towards controlling the pandemic and risk extending the duration of the labour market downturn.”
BOE forecasts Recession:
The Bank of England (BOE) has forecast that the UK is set to enter its worst recession in 300 years due to coronavirus. The signs of such a recession are already showing with household spending dropping 30% since early March. But the BOE expects much grimmer statistics with it estimating that output will fall by almost 30% in the first half of 2020 and the unemployment rate is likely to rise to 9% by 2021.
However, the BOE is convinced that these grim statistics represent the reality now but not forever as the BOE expects a V-shaped economic recovery in the coming years. It will be interesting to see how quickly the economy will rebound as the UK still has to deal with some expected Brexit turbulence. In the meantime, the focus of BOE will be to decide on when to deliver its next stimulus and how it can continue to convince banks to lend, in order to avoid a credit crunch that may complicate problems.
Germany’s Court vs ECB:
This week Germany’s constitutional court stunned Europe by setting aside the ECJ’s 2018 judgement which ruled that the ECB’s purchases of government bonds did not amount to the ECB illegally straying into the monetary financing of governments. While the German Court did not rule as to whether the ECB had broken EU law it nonetheless asked the ECB to provide documentation that it did not exceed its mandate under EU law.
At the moment, the ECB has responded to the ruling by stating that it is undeterred by the German court’s challenge. But it will be interesting to see how this saga plays out in the coming days. What we know is that if the ECB fails to respond within three months the German Court will block the ECB’s planned bond-buying of Germany’s bonds as part of ECB’s wider $750bn Pandemic Bond buying programme. We also know that if things in this saga plays out badly, EU’s stability will be threatened.
In our earlier updates, we noted that WeWork filed a legal challenge against SoftBank for pulling out of a $3bn tender offer for shares of WeWork. In the suit, WeWork claimed that SoftBank’s decision is a “clear breach of its contractual obligations” and a breach of “SoftBank’s fiduciary obligations to WeWork’s minority stockholders, including hundreds of current and former employees”.
This week the saga continued with Adam Neumann the co-founder and former chief executive of WeWork launching his legal claim against SoftBank. Adam Neuman like WeWork claims that SoftBank’s decision represents an abuse of power by SoftBank and a breach of SoftBank’s contractual obligations. At the moment, Adam Neumann is seeking to consolidate his lawsuit with WeWork’s own.
It will be interesting to see how the saga plays out. One thing we know for sure is that both sides will be relentless in fighting their claims. SoftBank will be keen because it is under pressure from its investors to cut its exposure to loss making startups like WeWork. While WeWork will be keen to pursue its claims as it seriously needs the money in light of dim outlooks for its business models as a result of social distancing rules that will continue after the coronavirus pandemic.
There is a lot for you to look out for in the coming week from ECB’s saga to WeWork’s own. But if you have spare time next week we will recommend you log onto FT’s Global Boardroom seminar which will run from the 12-14 May 2020. The focus will be on the economic impact of the pandemic. The lineup of speakers is amazing from Andrew Bailey to Al Gore and Ngozi Okonjo-Iwela. You register at https://globalboardroom.ft.com/?reference=ftcomnewsletters&utm_source=news&utm_medium=ftcomnewsletters&utm_campaign=2020pftglobalboardroom
As always, have a nice weekend!