Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Flight Centre warns of 'inevitable' job losses as travel ban accelerates cost cutting

Major travel agent Flight Centre has accelerated its plans for a business-wide cost savings review in light of the government's unprecedented ban on international travel, with the company warning it would be "significantly impacted".

In a statement to investors on Wednesday, Flight Centre said the ban, coupled with reductions in airline capacity, would further damage the travel agent, which has around 850 stores across Australia.

Flight Centre CEO Graham Turner has said job losses would be “inevitable” in the current environment.Credit:Attila Csaszar

Urgent discussions with landlords, suppliers, banks, vendors and insurers will be held to help the company manage the "precipitous drop" in near-term travel activity.

The business has also asked the federal government for an assistance package in light of the recent $715 million airline bailout announced yesterday.

"The conditions that our industry is facing are unprecedented and have clearly arisen as a result of the coronavirus and the initiatives that are being implemented to slow its spread," chief executive Graham Turner said.

"Management is determined to overcome the significant challenges that it currently faces and, with the support of our stakeholders, is ready to prosper when conditions eventually normalise."

On Friday, the company announced it would shut 100 of its stores amid the coronavirus outbreak and suspended its full-year profit guidance. Recruitment was also frozen, and non-essential projects deferred.

At the time, the company said it was confident the only job cuts would be in head office roles, but today it walked back on that assurance, saying while it hopes to preserve as many roles as possible, job losses "across the industry and within the company" were inevitable.

Flight Centre shares ended the session on Wednesday 4.7 per cent weaker at $14.80, having slumped more than 60 per cent since late February.

Australia's travel sector has been one of the worst affected by the coronavirus outbreak, with widespread and deep cuts to airline capacity and a sharp drop in tourists as travellers stay away.

Virgin Airlines chief executive Paul Scurrah warned on Wednesday more help would be required in the face of "an unprecedented time in the global aviation industry".

"If this lasts for six or 12 months, the aviation sector as a whole in this country is going to need the government to support us," he said.

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How China Bent Over Backward to Help Tesla When the Virus Hit

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After the coronavirus outbreak caused a nationwide shortage of face masks in January, Chinese officials were quick to ensure thatTesla Inc. wouldn’t be left without.

China’s government helped the California-based carmaker secure the sought-after supplies that allowed it to reopen at a time when many of its competitors were still shut down. Tesla received 10,000 masks, cases of disinfectant that require a government permit, thermometers and other materials that allowed the company to restart its factory near Shanghai thefirst working day after the extended Lunar New Year break, according to state-run media.

The support for Tesla — which also included providing accommodation for some employees as the outbreak snowballed — is emblematic of China’s wider embrace of Elon Musk’s car venture. The tycoon has waged a charm offensive since deciding to build his first plant outside the U.S. in China, home to the world’s biggest electric-vehicle market, and has been rewarded with the support of officials even as the trade war strained relations with the U.S.

That backing is crucial for Musk’s vision to make China a centerpiece of his automotive ambitions, but also serves a purpose for Beijing, with Tesla’s new factory south of Shanghai a symbol of the government’s efforts to open the economy to global competition and be a world pioneer in EVs.

“Given Tesla’s image of having advanced electric-vehicle technology and expected strong demand for made-in-China Tesla Model 3s this year, no local government anywhere in the world would neglect such a new project,” said Yale Zhang, founder of AutoForesight, a Shanghai-based consultancy.

‘All Efforts’

As Beijingpushed local authorities to get the country back to work last month, officials in Lingang singled out Tesla as an example of their success in helping the area’s industry to recover.

The management committee of Lingang “will make all efforts to help key companies including Tesla return to normal production,” Xu Wei, a spokesperson for the Shanghai municipal government, said at a briefing in February. Tesla representatives in China declined to comment on the help it received from authorities.

Teslahas been impacted along with the broader auto sector in China as the virus prompts customers to stay home, causing ahistorical plunge in car sales. But the support it got allowed the automaker to recover from a shutdown aimed at slowing the virus’ spread that virtually paralyzed industry in China. A gauge of Chinese manufacturing plunged to arecord low in February, according to government data.

Dorms, Transportation

Besides the protective materials, Chinese authorities helped arrange dormitories for hundreds of Tesla employees, as well as transport to and from the plant amid the turmoil caused by the outbreak. Shanghai Lingang Human Resources Co., a government-backed agency that coordinates hiring in the area, said it’s helped Tesla add more than 100 new workers since the outbreak, assisting with virus screening and online interviews.

Authorities are also trying to ensure that Tesla’s parts suppliers in China resume production as soon as possible by providing epidemic-prevention materials, Sun Xiaohe, a local official in charge of assisting Tesla, told state media. Catering was also arranged, they reported.

While other automakers such as China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. also received masks and other support, the actions to help Tesla have been trumpeted in state media and by local government-backed outlets. Footage of locally-built Model 3 sedans being assembled amid the epidemic have proliferated on TV and online.

Even before the virus, a swift regulatory-approval process enabled Tesla to start deliveries to customers in China in January, a year after it first broke ground on the factory.

“The Gigafactory project illustrated the cooperation between Tesla and the Shanghai government, and that the city has improved its business environment,” Wu Qing, deputy mayor of Shanghai, said at a ceremony that saw Tesla hand over its first China-made car.

Chinese Loans

Local banks provided financing for Tesla’s China push, including a$1.6 billion injection announced at the end of last year. The acquisition of land for the plant and a slew of local permits were cleared swiftly, and the plant was hooked to the nation’s power gridquicker than the average for other firms.

As the factory was being planned and local permits pending, Musk visited China often for meetings with everyone from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. founder Jack Ma togovernment officials including Transport Minister Li Xiaopeng. He met with Premier Li Keqiang in Zhongnanhai, the leadership compound next to the Forbidden City in central Beijing where the country hosts its most high-profile foreign visitors. Musk was also photographed eating steamed buns, a local delicacy, during a visit to the capital last year.

In China, Elon Musk Sure Felt the Love That Was Missing at Home

Soon afterward, Tesla obtained an exemption from China’s 10% sales tax on cars. Typically, only electric vehicles made by Chinese companies have been exempt.

“The fact that Tesla received significant government support to overcome the current crisis shows China is delivering its promises to treat foreign firms on equal footing with local ones,” said Ivan Su, an analyst at Morningstar Inc. in Hong Kong.

— With assistance by Chunying Zhang, and Ying Tian

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Monday, March 16, 2020

Crypto Exchanges Suffering Major Outflows Even As Bitcoin Soars

Despite soaring prices for Bitcoin and other digital currencies, several crypto exchanges are experiencing major net capital outflows as allegations of fraud and manipulation create market volatility for the young industry. Withdrawals from trading platforms including Bitfinex, BitMEX, Binance and Kraken have exceeded inflows by roughly $622 million in the five-day period ended Wednesday, according to data from TokenAnalyst, a London-based blockchain research firm, per a detailed story in Bloomberg as outlined below.

Crypto Exchanges Seeing Major Net Capital Outflows

  • Bitfinex
  • BitMEX
  • Binance
  • Kraken

Source: Bloomberg

Bitcoin's Share of Crypto World Increases

It may seem counterintuitive that funds are being pulled from crypto exchanges just as Bitcoin has surged. The currency has risen about 100% this year and by over 55% in the last thirty days amid upheaval in the broader stock market. Yet experts say it's logical that investors spooked by turbulence and negative news in the crypto universe would favor what they view as the most secure asset in the group: Bitcoin.

That's illustrated by Bitcoin’s rising market share as a percentage of the entire crypto universe. It has increased from 53% at the start of the year to 60%, according to data provider CoinMarketCap.com.

“That Bitcoin, which is clearly the quality asset in the space, has outperformed in this recent rally is likely the result of it not only breaching the psychologically important $6,000 level, but also some significant institutional and/or sovereign buying. These buyers would be expected to invest disproportionately in the most established and vetted asset — and that asset is clearly Bitcoin," said Josh Gnaizda, chief executive officer of Crypto Fund Research, per Bloomberg.

To be sure, withdrawals have even affected Bitcoin and even could distort the currency's pricing. Since April 26, net outflows of Bitcoin and Ether from Bitfinex reached $1.7 billion in the wake of reports that the New York attorney general was investigating the exchange for covering up nearly $1 billion in losses.

Tether Behind Bitcoin Volatility

According to Bloomberg, Bitcoin’s sharp rise last week could have been amplified by capital flight from Bitfinex and Tether, which are affiliated.

“Since Tether is insufficiently backed, it means that some of the reserves backing customer assets on exchanges are likely insufficient,” said John Griffin, a finance professor at University of Texas at Austin who has researched cryptocurrency market manipulation. “So smart customers will not custody their funds on exchanges and pull their crypto off exchanges. This could put further upward pressure on Bitcoin prices as one would rather take fake money and exchange it to Bitcoin.”

Looking Ahead

While Bitcoin faces its own share of challenges as the largest coin in the crypto space, growing institutional interest in trading the asset has helped bring Bitcoin into the mainstream and thus grant it more stability. Many bulls view Bitcoin’s recent surge, even amid negative headlines of fraud and manipulation, as signaling that the “crypto winter” is over.

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Japan's Abe hails BOJ easing as 'swift' and 'appropriate'

TOKYO, March 16 (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday the central bank’s decision to ease monetary policy was a “swift, appropriate” move that addressed unstable global market moves.

“The government will continue to work closely with the Bank of Japan and G7 countries, with a close eye on global economic developments,” Abe told parliament.

At an emergency meeting on Monday, the BOJ eased policy further by ramping up purchases of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and other risky assets to combat the widening economic fallout from the coronavirus epidemic. (Reporting by Leika Kihara Editing by Chang-Ran Kim)

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Sunday, March 15, 2020

Amazon Glitch Stymies Whole Foods, Fresh Grocery Deliveries

Amazon.com Inc. suffered a technical glitch on Sunday affecting online grocery orders through its Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh delivery services, which have become lifelines for household essentials for people looking to avoid stores due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“As COVID-19 has spread, we’ve seen a significant increase in people shopping online for groceries,” an Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement. “Today this resulted in a systems impact affecting our ability to deliver Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market orders tonight. We’re contacting customers, issuing concessions, and are working around the clock to quickly to resolve the issue.”

The disruption also affected Prime Now orders, according to an internal Amazon memo reviewed by Bloomberg.

Panic buying that has left store shelves empty is also straining Amazon’s delivery capacity. Around the country, Amazon staff reported long lines to enter delivery stations and delays getting items they were supposed to deliver. Amazon notified delivery drivers Sunday evening about a “technical issue that is causing a delay to Prime Now, Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Markets orders being assigned to delivery partners,” according to the company memo.

Jordan Insley, a resident of Woodinville, Washington, who pays $120 a year for Amazon Prime fast-delivery service, said he is considering canceling his membership since he hasn’t been able to rely on the online retailer for essentials like laundry detergent, garbage bags and bottled water since shortly after the outbreak began in the Seattle region. Amazon warned shoppers on March 2 that surging demand wasoverwhelming its delivery capacity.

“If you’re paying for Prime, you’re paying for a service that doesn’t exist,” he said.

Some shoppers took to social media to vent about grocery shortages using the hashtags#panicbuying and#coronapocalypse.

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Saturday, March 14, 2020

Airbnb Q4 loss widens to $390m - and that's before the coronavirus hit

SAN FRANCISCO (BLOOMBERG) – Airbnb’s losses deepened for the fourth quarter of last year, even before the coronavirus outbreak caused global travel to nearly grind to a halt.

The world’s biggest home-sharing company reported a loss of US$276.4 million (S$390 million) excluding interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation, compared with a loss of US$143.7 million a year earlier, according to a person familiar with the company’s accounts. Revenue increased 32 per cent in the period to US$1.1 billion, and it has more than US$2 billion in the bank, the person said. Airbnb declined to comment on the figures.

Covid-19 has hit the travel industry hard and is likely to throw a wrench in the start-up’s growth trajectory and possibly thwart its plans for a public stock listing this year. Airbnb projected revenue to increase 25 per cent in the first quarter of this year, according to the person, who asked not to be named discussing information that’s not public. That projection likely underestimated the full effect of the coronavirus on international travel, the person said.

The coronavirus is now active in more than 100 countries, and has put Italy on near total lockdown. The Trump administration announced on Wednesday that it would significantly restrict travel to the US from Europe for 30 days. Airlines have cancelled flights to several countries, hotels have closed and many companies have forbidden international travel for their employees.

On Monday, Booking Holdings, the world’s largest online travel-booking site, withdrew its already bleak first-quarter guidance, citing the worsening impact of the coronavirus. Some analysts predict hotel revenue to decrease more than 50 per cent in the second quarter.

In China, Airbnb’s business has been devastated by the virus. Planned bookings for February and March were down by more than 90 per cent from a year earlier, the person said.

The widening losses could also raise flags for investors who are scrutinising the company ahead of a potential listing. Airbnb was profitable before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation in 2017 and 2018, but lost money on that basis in 2019, a person familiar with the accounts said previously. The company has been spending heavily on marketing ahead of its public debut.

With a private market valuation of US$31 billion, Airbnb had been seen as one of the most highly anticipated stock listings for 2020. But one of the main ingredients for a successful stock market debut is evidence of growth and – if not profit – the potential for big earnings in the future. The virus will make that harder for Airbnb to show this year.

Airbnb has already been fielding scores of complaints from guests who have been forced to cancel travel plans and are being denied a refund. Airbnb’s “extenuating circumstances” coronavirus policy currently only covers China, South Korea and Italy, while new travel restrictions are emerging frequently.

Unlike big hotel chains, Airbnb is a two-way platform, which means for every guest cancellation it approves there is a host at the other end who winds up out of pocket. As the company tries to strike a balance between the two, many guests have been left to negotiate over refunds with their hosts, who are not always willing to be flexible.

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Friday, March 13, 2020

Duggars finally flip Arkansas mansion, bagging more than $1M

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, stars of the reality TV show “19 Kids and Counting,” have successfully flipped one heck of a house. A Northwest Arkansas mansion renovated by the famous family sold in mid-February for $1.53 million.

The couple purchased the 10,000-square-foot residence in Springdale, AR, for $230,000 in November 2014. At that time, the oversize mansion was in sad shape.

The Duggars proceeded to work their magic, transforming the once run-down residence into a luxe estate. They hoisted it onto the market for a hefty $1.8 million last May.

The mansion had its price shaved to $1.65 million soon after its initial splash on the market. By July, the Duggars had discounted it to $1.45 million, before reducing the price even further to $1.1 million in September.

It disappeared from the market for a bit last fall, and in December, the couple relisted the home and bumped up the asking to $1.38 million.

Why? Well, when we first laid eyes on the family’s handiwork nearly a year ago, the enormous home was sparkling — but empty and a bit cavernous.

For its return to the market in December, it was rephotographed and stylishly staged. With four bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms and an abundance of other rooms, the home takes a lot of furniture to make it feel homey.

View Slideshow

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Thursday, March 12, 2020

US ban on European travel heaps new coronavirus woes on airlines

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) – A clampdown on European travel to the United States will heap more pressure on airlines already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, analysts said, raising the odds of government relief packages as billions of dollars of tourist spending vanish.

The 30-day curbs from Friday (March 13), which exclude Britain, Ireland and other countries outside the European Schengen passport-free travel area, are similar to those that went into effect targeting China on Feb 1. They come after the outbreak’s rapid spread across the European continent and in the US.

Combined with a fresh US State Department advisory asking citizens to reconsider the need to travel globally, the move could create chaos at dozens of airports across Europe as passengers attempt a last-minute rush to fly to the United States before the ban takes effect.

Flights from Europe can still operate to a limited number of US airports with enhanced screening under measures announced on Wednesday evening. But only US citizens, permanent residents and immediate family members will be allowed in, severely denting the passenger base and hurting the US tourism industry.

As well as slashing arrivals, the move is set to decimate spending by European tourists in the United States. In March 2019, European visitors to the US accounted for 29 per cent of arrivals and US$3.4 billion (S$4.7 billion) of spending, the US Travel Association said.

“Temporarily shutting off travel from Europe is going to exacerbate the already-heavy impact of coronavirus on the travel industry and the 15.7 million Americans whose jobs depend on travel,” US Travel Association President Roger Dow said in a statement.

The news sent shares in Asian carriers sliding during the region’s trading day, with analysts warning of a significant impact to come when European markets opened.

Qantas Airways fell 10 per cent as Australia weighed similar restrictions on travel from Europe. Singapore Airlines was down 4 per cent, as was Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways. Japan’s ANA Holdings and Japan Airlines were both down more than 5 per cent.

US President Donald Trump said the ban was needed because the country was entering a “critical time” in the fight against the virus, which has spread across the US and killed at least 37 people and infected 1,281.

US airlines had already slashed flight schedules to Italy, facing the largest European outbreak, and will take another hit from lower demand for flights from major destinations like France and Germany.

Nicholas E Callio, president of airline trade group Airlines for America, said the ban would hit US airlines, their employees and travellers “extremely hard”.

He said his group respected the need to take the unprecedented action, but Association of Flight Attendants-CWA President Sarah Nelson called the ban “irresponsible”.

“There is no explanation for how this will help fight the spread of the virus,” she said. “It makes little sense when the virus is already in the United States.”


William Reinsch, a former senior US Commerce Department official and fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies said the restrictions would be “enormously disruptive” to airlines, hotels and restaurants already taking a hit because many Americans are staying home.

“I think the administration will be forced to provide some relief to the airlines,” he said.

The new restrictions will particularly batter foreign carriers like Germany’s Lufthansa and Air France KLM that dominate the market for flights between mainland Europe and the United States and had already grounded dozens of planes, analysts said.

“The ban on flights on Europe will really zap foreign carriers,” said independent aviation analyst Mike Boyd of Boyd Group International.

Lufthansa said it was assessing the impact of the changes on its US operations, while Air France KLM did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Boyd said American Airlines Group was the relative winner among the US carriers because its alliance with British Airways would do well carrying passengers to London.

“Delta has alliances with Air France KLM, which will be shut down in trans-Atlantic markets. United’s alliance with Lufthansa leaves it with zero access to the EU,” he said. “That sounds dire, but the fact is that with the news of the spread of the virus in Europe, the flights would be empty anyway.”

American Airlines said it was in contact with the US government to understand and comply with the directive.

Delta Air Lines Inc said it would waive reservation change fees for customers traveling to, from or through Europe and Britain through May 31. United Airlines Holdings Inc and British Airways parent IAG did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Coronavirus sends city landlords scrubbing as events are canceled

Real estate organizations and companies worried about the spread of the novel coronavirus are scrubbing down offices and hotels and canceling events and cocktail parties while tenant companies are deploying workers to separate locations.

This week alone, the Young Men’s/Women’s Real Estate Association canceled its monthly luncheon that was to feature Bob Knakal of JLL speaking about the investment sales market. It also postponed next week’s 6th annual table tennis event, Ping Pong @SPiN, in Midtown.

The Real Estate Board of New York was still unsure of its luncheon next week, and the mayor was yet to cancel the St. Patrick’s Day parade for Tuesday.

But the law firm Kramer Levin postponed its real estate and land use division’s preview party at the new Waldorf Astoria New York. “The health and well-being of our clients, colleagues and communities is our highest priority,” an email stated.

The construction giant Aecom, along with the city and nonprofit partners including the Waterfront Alliance, has postponed A Sustainable Vision for Rikers Island conference scheduled around this month’s World Water Day until May 15.

City Planning also canceled Wednesday’s workshop in Brooklyn targeted to a comprehensive waterfront plan.

A New Jersey medical worker believes he got the coronavirus after going to a health care conference at the Westin Times Square New York, which didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Breather, which provides spaces for short meetings as well as private offices on leases of one month or more, is busier than usual, Chief Executive Brian Murphy said. That’s because companies are dividing up their employees, or removing them from crowded co-working facilities, he said.

To ensure Breather’s offerings are safe, he is among those cleaning and disinfecting its 170 locations. Targets include door handles, elevator buttons, bathroom faucets, desks, tables and “anything that gets touched.”

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Singapore stock watch: SIA, Sats, SIA Engineering, CAO, ComfortDelGro, Starhill, Aspial

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) – The following companies saw new developments that may affect trading of their shares on Tuesday (March 10):

Singapore Airlines (SIA), Sats, SIA Engineering, China Aviation Oil (CAO), JEP Holdings and A-Sonic Aerospace: Singapore’s aviation industry is bracing for the Covid-19 outbreak disruption to persist, with companies in the sector implementing pay cuts and slashing flight prices and change fees. SIA shares closed down $0.37 or 4.6 per cent to $7.60 on Monday, while Sats shares closed $0.25 or 6.2 per cent lower at $3.78. China Aviation Oil fell $0.09 or 8.4 per cent to $0.98, JEP Holdings lost $0.01 or 4.8 per cent to close at $0.20 and A-Sonic was unchanged at $0.335.

ComfortDelGro Corporation: The mainboard-listed taxi operator is expanding its UK presence through a £7 million (S$12.5 million) acquisition of the Liverpool City region’s third-largest taxi and private hire operator, it said on Tuesday. ComfortDelGro shares ended at $1.81 on Monday, down $0.12 or 6.2 per cent.

Starhill Global Reit (SGReit): Fitch Ratings has assigned SGReit a BBB long-term issuer default rating with a stable outlook, SGReit said on Tuesday. Its units closed down 6.1 per cent or $0.04 to $0.62 on Monday.

Aspial Corporation: The company, which sells jewellery and develops property, on Monday said it is offering $50 million worth of three-year notes at par. The notes will have a fixed coupon rate of 6.5 per cent per annum. Shares of mainboard-listed Aspial closed down 0.4 cent or 2.5 per cent to 15.5 cents on Monday, before the announcement was made.

Singapore Exchange (SGX): The bourse will be appointing a new deputy chief financial officer who will take over as chief financial officer (CFO) following the current CFO’s retirement. SGX shares closed down $0.27 or 3 per cent to $8.64 on Monday, before the announcement was made.

DLF Holdings: The engineering firm has sold a second car – a Mercedes Benz S320L – less than a month after it sold a BMW to “enhance cash flows”. DLF Holdings shares last traded at 18.5 cents on Sept 5, 2019.

Sino Grandness Food Industry Group: The company will be appointing a new CFO in April. Sino Grandness shares closed at 1.4 cents on Monday, down 0.2 cent or 12.5 per cent, before the announcement was made.

CH Offshore: The vessel chartering firm filed a notice on Monday of three years of consecutive losses. It said it will make an immediate announcement should it be notified by SGX that it will be placed on the watch list. CH Offshore last traded at 4.8 cents $0.048 on March 6.

Silverlake Axis: The business software firm has sold its shares in Auckland-based Finzsoft for NZ$4.4 million (S$3.9 million), reducing its shareholding interest from 43.59 per cent to zero. Silverlake Axis shares closed down 3.5 cents or 10.8 per cent to 20 cents on Monday, before the announcement was made.

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Singapore stock watch: Keppel DC Reit, BHG Retail Reit, Nam Cheong, Chasen, Dyna-Mac

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) – The following companies saw new developments that may affect trading of their securities on Wednesday (March 11):

Keppel DC Reit: KGI Securities has reduced its call on Keppel DC Reit to “neutral”, but raised its target price on the counter to $2.19. “While the data centre industry remains an attractive investment thematic, we think the sub 4 per cent dividend yield of Keppel DC Reit signals a fair valuation for its current share price,” wrote KGI analyst Kenny Tan on Tuesday night. Keppel DC Reit units closed at $2.38 on Tuesday, down $0.07 or 2.9 per cent, before the report was released.

BHG Retail Reit: The real estate investment trust’s manager said on Tuesday that it has reopened two of its malls in Anhui, China after certain stores were temporarily closed from Feb 7 due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. Mainboard-listed BHG Retail Reit units closed at 58.5 cents on Tuesday, down two cents or 3.3 per cent.

Nam Cheong: In its response to the Singapore Exchange (SGX) on Wednesday, mainboard-listed Nam Cheong’s board said the use of the going concern assumption is appropriate for the offshore support vessel builder’s financial statement preparation for the year ended Dec 31, 2019. On Tuesday, Nam Cheong separately said its direct subsidiary acquired a 49 per cent equity interest in Malaysian oil and gas company SK Hull at the cost of RM49,000 (S$16,060). The counter ended at 0.7 cent on Tuesday, up 0.1 cent or 16.7 per cent.

Chasen Holdings: The mainboard-listed investment holding company on Tuesday confirmed that there was a fire at its warehouse on Monday night. It has asked for the trading of its shares to resume. Prior to the trading halt, Chasen shares closed at 5.7 cents on Monday, down 0.8 cent or 12.3 per cent.

Dyna-Mac Holdings: The mainboard-listed offshore oil and gas contractor said in an exchange filing that its wholly-owned subsidiary is selling two properties at 37 and 39 Tech Park Crescent at $9.5 million, booking a loss of $3.9 million. The properties will be sold to SCW Investment. The counter closed at 10.3 cents on Tuesday, up 0.4 cent or 4 per cent.

Darco Water Technologies: The mainboard-listed firm is preparing to write off $2.46 million worth of debts it has deemed to be of “low recoverability” after they have been due for some three years. The impairment loss stems from three projects and a former subsidiary, Darco said in its response to SGX’s query. Darco shares closed flat at 13.1 cents on Tuesday.

Trading halts: Frasers Commercial Trust (FCOT) and Frasers Logistics & Industrial Trust (FLT) on Wednesday called for trading halts ahead of the extraordinary general meetings for their proposed merger. Meanwhile, Moody’s has lowered its outlook on all FCOT ratings to negative to reflect the uncertainty related to the trust’s funding mix for the proposed acquisition. On Tuesday, FCOT units closed at $1.62, up $0.03 or 1.9 per cent, while FLT units ended at $1.23, up $0.03 or 2.5 per cent.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Millions of over 65s overpaying by hundreds on energy and rationing heating as bills rise

Statistics suggest around 2.8 million over 65s are set to ration their energy usage during the current cold spell, due to worry that they cannot afford their energy bills. According to new research by comparethemarket.com, nearly a quarter (23 percent) of over 65s are set to ration their heating during the coming months, in an effort to combat rising household bills.


  • How much money are you saving? ‘Happiest’ over 50s save this much

It comes shortly after Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis hit the UK in recent weeks.

Following the periods of bad weather, research suggests that nearly half (48 percent) of over 65s are concerned that the cold weather could lead to energy bills which are higher than usual.

Should cold weather cause energy bills to rise, there is concern about how over 65s would be able to afford higher costs.

Of those aged over 65, 17 percent are worried that they would not be able to cover the cost of their bills from their income or pension alone.

And, if energy bills were to rise sharly during the colder months, more than two fifths (43 percent) have said they would have to dip into their savings or turn to credit in order to cover the cost.

Meanwhile, just over a quarter (26 percent) have said they would consider cutting down on expenditures such as food in order to pay for it.

A proportion of respondents (eight percent) said that their decision to limit the amount of heating they use during the winter causes their health to suffer, while 17 percent say they eat less or buy cheaper food in order to offset the cost of energy bills.

Peter Earl, head of energy at comparethemarket.com, said: “These findings should make sober reading for policy makers and energy company chiefs alike.

“We hear a lot of commentary about how today’s over 65s are more financially secure than previous generations, but such a broadbrush perception risks leaving millions of elderly people out in the cold and overpaying for their energy in silence.

“Not all over 65s are vulnerable, but many undoubtedly are.

“With the memory of blizzards and a nationwide blanket of snow in March 2018 still fresh in the public’s mind, it is a tragedy that nearly a quarter of the elderly say they will take measures, including rationing their energy usage, to save money in order to stay warm.”

Furthermore, comparethemarket.com data suggests that almost one fifth (18 percent) of people over the age of 65 are on an uncompetitive Standard Variable Tariffs (SVTs).

This equates to 2.1 million elderly people being on deals which could mean that they are paying over the odds.


  • Over-65s urged to switch provider as 3 million turn off heating

A further 12 percent don’t know what sort of energy tariff they have – meaning the number on a Standard Variable Tariff could be higher.

Based on energy usage, the average saving for those aged 65 and over who switch energy provider is £286, the price comparison website said.

This suggests the nationwide cost of not switching in terms of this age group alone comes in at more than £600million.

Over the past 12 months, the cost of energy has risen by £106, with the average energy bills standing at £1,813, compared to £1,706 in 2018.

The cost of energy itself has steadily been rising over recent years – with the average cost of energy coming in at £1,289 in 2015.

These findings follow a previous analysis by the price comparison giant, which found that lower income households spend £60 more on average every year when it comes to energy bills, compared to higher income housholds.

This is, in part, because these households are more likely to be on SVTs, and not switch provider.

Mr Earl continued: “If the average person aged over 65 on a SVT switched provider, the saving would be more than the annual cost of a TV license.

“For those less comfortable online, switching to a cheaper supplier by phone or post is an option that some may not realise is available.

“The energy market is more competitive than ever before, and there are many cost effective fixed deals available.”

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