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SWR Group are the New Zealand partners to the global search brand - Taplow Group SA. Please read our fortnightly update on business news around the globe.

Taplow Group – Pandemic Business Overview

The global pandemic has seen businesses affected across every sector, in all parts of the world. Taplow partners across the globe have combined to give insights into how their countries/markets are seeing the impact on business and the positives that are starting to shine through.

AFRICA:

Although Africa has not seen as many cases primarily due to their being less travel spreading the pandemic, there are notable clusters emerging.

South Africa: The pandemic is seeing countries in Africa going into various versions of “lockdown”. The business community is striving to come to terms with the situation with the backdrop of little or in some countries no assistance.

ASIA: 

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: They say a day in politics can be a long time and in the current global conditions the changes daily are rapid.

In Australia there has been a closure of the borders and this has been the case in many countries. This has seen a huge decrease in the volume of international passenger flights to and from Australia. Many of these passenger flights carry cargo in their belly, high value exports and imports.

The Australian Government Austrade Website has insights on the world regions. To China for instance, “there are now only 108 international passenger flights into China per week under new restrictions to minimise the risk of COVID-19 cases entering the country. The number of weekly international cargo flights has increased to 1,195 (up 28.5% in the past week and 17.85% compared to pre-COVID-19 levels).”

The Australian Government advises it is supporting “extra freight-only" flights including 55 commercial freight-only flights have been scheduled for April, totalling 540 services for this month and to support Australian exporters, Australian airlines Qantas and Virgin Australia are offering air freight capacity on repatriation international passenger services to Auckland, Hong Kong, Los Angeles and London, from Thursday 9 April 2020.

While these services are limited, this will give Australian producers a way to obtain valuable inputs for their businesses. It is expected the return flights to Australia will bring in vital medicines, medical supplies and equipment to support Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

A link to the Austrade: https://tinyurl.com/yct28dfe

India: As per the World Bank's latest assessment, India is expected to grow 1.5 per cent to 2.8 per cent. Similarly, the IMF projected a GDP growth of 1.9 per cent for India in 2020, as the global economy hits the worst recession since the Great Depression in 1930s. 

The coronavirus pandemic came at a time when India’s economy was already slowing, due to persistent financial sector weaknesses. The severe disruption of economic activities caused by covid-19, both through demand and supply shocks, has overtaken the incipient recovery in the Indian economy leading to massive job losses.

As per analysts, combined with the disruption in several manufacturing and service sectors, it is now estimated that the economic loss in 2020 will be close to $234.4 billion or 8.1% of GDP, if India will remain under a partial lockdown at least until the end of May.  However, for India, IMF estimated a sharp economic recovery in FY22 at 7.4%.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reviewed the impact of COVID-19 on the Indian economy and discussed a possible second stimulus with India’s Finance Minister to boost sectors hit hard by the pandemic. The focus will again be aimed at the urban and rural poor; disadvantaged sections of society; Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises sector; and some of the worst-affected sectors.  The Finance Minister last month announced a INR 1.7b core stimulus that included free food-grains and cooking gas to poor for three months, and cash to women and poor senior citizens as it looked to ease the economic impact of the nationwide lockdown. One of the reasons why markets have recovered is because it is expecting a stimulus from government.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has further announced a number of liquidity and credit easing measures and given relaxation to bank and financial institutions to ensure markets continue functioning, and credit and liquidity is provided to impacted sectors. RBI cuts reverse repo by 25 bps to 3.75%, announces liquidity steps for NBFCs.

Singapore:

Singapore Banks

Credit rating agency Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded its outlook on Singapore’s banking system to “negative” as the city state grapples with an economic slowdown and declining interest rates amid the Covid-19 pandemic amid surging cases exceeding 5000 cases as of 18 April. 

Problem assets will increase as delinquencies grow among small and medium-sized enterprises and larger corporations. To this end, credit costs are slated to rise in tandem with worsening interest rates, causing a drag on the profitability of banks. This will further impede the banks’ ability to generate capital. 

Even so, they note that funding and liquidity will remain strong given Singapore banks’ historical strength in liquidity coverage and high net stable funding ratios that exceed 100%.

New Zealand: It has been reported that New Zealand exports have held up while imports are weaker. Sources state that exports were up 13.2 percent compared on the same week in March 2019, while total imports were down 3.9 percent, and weaker demand is expected in the coming weeks. 

Looking from a positive angle, we understand that Chinese domestic activity is slowly recovering, which we believe will be great news for New Zealand, as the trade figures between China and New Zealand (both ways) is reportedly worth more than $30 billion, so any recovery in China is a good sign for New Zealand. 

The most optimistic scenarios released by the New Zealand Treasury last week suggest a 4.5% drop in GDP, which will take two years to recover, in part because unemployment will more than double. Also, best estimates reportedly suggest that GDP could contract by 3.1% between the December 2019 and March 2020 quarters, with a further 5.6% contraction between the March and June 2020 quarters. The hit already taken by the tourism sector is the primary driver for the reduction. In addition, some of New Zealand’s commodity exports, particularly to China, have also taken an impact.

As stated in many publications, the ultimate impact on the economy will be determined by how many people lose their jobs. Unfortunately, as reported last update, there are already major job losses occurring, with tourism being the biggest contributor to this impact. Economists predict that the hospitality, sports, arts, and entertainment sectors are next. Following this the ‘public facing’ sectors particularly Retail will be forced to retrench staff following the expected ‘frenzy’ that is likely to occur following New Zealand coming out of lockdown. Sources state that there are around 400,000 people employed in the retail, accommodation, and hospitality sector. There are a further 160,000 employed in sports, arts and culture. By doing the numbers, if 10% were to lose their jobs then employment would drop by 56,000 however our reading suggests that this number is going to be far greater.

Counterbalancing this are the sectors that are likely to grow and these include the infrastructure development sector (including telecommunications companies), call centres, horticulture and finally our health sector which is “singing out” for staff (the latter is very much a global issue).

EUROPE:

The region has suffered in unequal parts over the last few weeks, although a flattening of the curve of infections is starting to show as well as many countries starting to move out of “lockdown” periods and allowing business to open again.

France: The Governor of the Banque de France announced that French GDP fell by 6% in the first quarter of 2020. This is indeed the worst figure since the quarterly statistics exist, i.e. since the second world war. It confirms the estimates used by INSEE: the lockdown "costs" 3% per month. It started on March 17, and thus cost 1.5% of annualised GDP in the first quarter (6%/4), knowing that the growth was close to zero between January 1 and mid-March.

We can imagine that the lockdown, which will be extended until May the 11th, will have a deep impact on GDP in the second quarter of 2020. As the end of the lockdown promises to be very gradual, the decline in GDP will be very continue probably until the end of June; it could reach - 20% (impact of -5% on annual GDP). The decline in national GDP could exceed -10%.  On the social side, the number of employees on short-time working have reached 8 million people.

Germany: We see a growing market and are successfully offering consulting + executive search to Chinese (Asian) companies entering the German (European) market – in close collaboration with selected partners, as our Senior Advisor Manuel Vermeer  who has 30 years experiences as a business advisor for Asia, international law firms and a market research institute.

Consulting and law firms are adapting their service offering to the situation (e.g., cash-flow planning, liquidity analysis, purchasing, supply chain optimisation, HR management, restructuring) and are preparing for the ramp-up phase. Some of them are massively increasing their investments and marketing activities. Certain industries, including aviation, oil & gas, and tourism & hospitality, are particularly impacted. The drawbacks in these areas will impact other industries as well.

The automotive industry is also clearly impacted, but companies like VW, Daimler and BMW are restarting their production, depending on the availability of parts. The impact on the banking industry will depend on the number of insolvencies in the future. Decisive factors will be the duration of the fight against the virus  and the success of the measures taken to avoid business failures.

Russia: Current situation with an escalation of Corona cases, business in Russia is not easy to describe. On the one hand, small and medium size companies are suffering the most. On the other hand, a lot of companies continue to maintain high productivity levels. Among such enterprises are producers of equipment for oil and gas sector and construction firms. Food production is operating almost at usual level as well as its suppliers. Packaging and logistics business experienced some issues, but it is reactivating now. Entertainment industry and catering business are indeed having a tough time in Russia. It is essential to mention that employees work from home-offices.

UK: There has been a significant rise of business in the food, logistics and (of course) the healthcare sector. Many food retailers recruited thousands of staff although this has been tempered with several “non-food” retailers going into administration. The logistics and delivery market has seen a remarkable period of growth, one that we see continuing “post virus” as companies seek to near source services, goods, and suppliers. The financial markets have continued throughout the pandemic, we are starting to see financial groups from Asia and Middle East move into the UK market and seek acquisitions in numerous sectors. We anticipate senior management recruitment to grow in HR, Risk Management and Financial sectors as clients move from “near term survival” to the “new normal” of business life.

AMERICAS:

The Americas are fast becoming the new epicentre of the pandemic.

Brazil: Is entering its 6th week of involvement during the Pandemic situation. As of today, about 2.200 deaths and over 35.000 cases of infection were officially registered in Brazil. Many more are occurring for sure, due the impossibility of mass testing. Most of the cases are concentrated in the states of São Paulo, and in the Northern area – States of Amazon and in Ceará.

Central government is also prorating/postponing public debt payments for all Brazilian states.

Business Outlook

It is estimated that the 2020 Brazilian GDP will reach a -5.00% figure from an already low prior estimate of 1.5% growth, based on a consistent low basis from the past years. It will be a major disaster!

Companies/clients are extremely far from demanding recruiting services. It is estimated that this scenario will be here for the rest of 2020.

Our action, from our homework possibilities, just like everybody else, will be to feed clients with news, such as your expected Excerpts and other pertaining information and possible phone calls offering any kind of potential help. Potential services demand, in our estimation, will be mostly related to human capital initiatives – organisational studies, adaptation to the “new normal”, coaching help and the like, before going into an actual recruitment demand period. Organizations will also be able to recompose their own cash flow!

USA and Canada: A very mixed story. Our US business is not as strong as in Q1 of 2019.  We are actively engaged with North American, APAC and European firms seeking to enhance their relationships and business in the US and US based firms seeking to plan for international growth.  Recent conversations suggest that a good deal of planning is going on for how we will need to respond after the worst of the crisis is over.

The Good: All but the most marginal US businesses are adjusting to the new normal of dealing with the Corvid 19 pandemic.  Some, particularly capital-intensive businesses such as airlines, as well a major medical facility will have to be both creative and will have to rely on government aid to make it through this time. 

Pharma (Life Sciences), Tech and communications services providers seemingly will do well.  New industries such as “just in time” home delivery business models will fill in with many new jobs.  Entrepreneurs will tighten their belt and adjust their business to this transient state.

The Bad;  the US economy has suffered the most severe setback ever seen during our current working lifetime.  Approximately 18,000,000 US workers will have applied for unemployment benefits in the last 4 weeks and over 2 million small businesses have applied for some form of financial relief . Response times are slow and according to some news media, we have already fully used the relief funds approved by our Congress and signed by our President.

Social distancing, state, local government and various international quarantines and travel bans have made doing business ever more difficult.  As we originally planned for the possibility of a modest downturn during 2020 , we now must cope with negative performance for several quarters – possibly well into next year.

The Ugly: As we are about to approach another round of elections, we are distracted by the political theatre and seeming distraction of many current leaders.  The lack of respect for scientifically based solutions vs. a hurry to get back to normal might result in less ability to normalise than might otherwise be expected.  We note that business leaders around the world seem to be more concerned about a sustainable recovery than a quick recovery.

A variety of analysts and pundits have suggested that there are at least 5 possibilities we should plan for:

1)    A gradual recovery – what some are calling the “U” shaped recovery. Perhaps taking up to 3 years.

2)    Fits and starts – exactly as defined – steps forward and steps backwards making planning of all sorts exceedingly difficult

3)    A worst-case scenario in which even after the virus is contained, we have joblessness, business failures and personal bankruptcies for an extended time due to continued shutdowns without scientific break troughs to stop completely contain the virus

4)    A major correction including a “lessons learned” response by business, government and our other entities’

5)    Changes we cannot envision today – we all like and need some level of certainty- we have lost that for some time.

Summary:

Key Finding:

  • Companies: Are planning there exit from enforced lockdown across the globe.
  • Executives: Face meeting the challenges of the “new normal”, questions such as, do they have the right people in place to prosper in their marketplaces?
  • Companies are reassessing: Working practices, in the cessation of lockdown, new ways of producing products, servicing clients need to be quickly identified and actioned
  • No one: Anticipates 2020 to be as forecast, 2021 is the year companies aim for a return to growth.

We hope that you, your family, and work colleagues continue to stay healthy and safe, we at Taplow are here to support you and your company through this crisis and we look forward to speaking to you again soon.

 

 

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