Company news in brief

30 April 2020 | Business

SA Express faces liquidation

A South African court placed state-owned SA Express under "provisional liquidation" on Tuesday after the airline's administrators said rescue efforts weren't likely to succeed.

SA Express, which flies to domestic and regional destinations, entered a form of bankruptcy protection earlier this year after losing a court battle with a contractor, logistics firm Ziegler.

It later suspended all operations as the global Covid-19 pandemic caused demand for flights to plunge and governments to impose travel restrictions.

The ruling in the Johannesburg High Court means affected parties can still give reasons why the airline shouldn't be liquidated before a final order is made.

Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan said in a statement: "Government is reviewing its options in all airline assets."

SA Express is a separate business to much larger state airline South African Airways, which is also under bankruptcy protection and fighting for its survival. – Nampa/Reuters

Ford expects US$5 bn loss

Ford Motor Co said on Tuesday its second-quarter loss would more than double to over US$5 billion from US$2 billion in the first quarter due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but added it had enough money despite the crisis to last the rest of 2020.

"We believe the company's cash is sufficient to take us through the end of the year, even with no additional vehicle wholesales or financing actions," chief financial officer Tim Stone said in a statement.

But he called the current economic environment "too ambiguous" for the No. 2 US automaker to give a full-year 2020 earnings forecast.

Ford also moved to cut spending on projects, saying on Tuesday it was pushing back its commercial autonomous vehicle services by a year to 2022 and that it had decided not to develop a previously announced luxury electric Lincoln sport utility vehicle in partnership with electric vehicle maker Rivian.

Ford’s market value of US$20.6 billion is now less than the US$35 billion in cash it had on hand as of last Friday, an indication that investors expect the company to burn through significant amounts of cash before a recovery takes hold. – Nampa/Reuters

Pfizer sees 'negligible' hit from outbreak

Pfizer Inc on Tuesday said it expects its experimental coronavirus vaccine to move into expanded clinical trials by October that could allow for emergency use or accelerated approval, as it ramps up efforts to combat the pandemic.

Pfizer said most of its drugs are not administered at the physician's office, which would help it emerge from the pandemic with a "negligible" impact on its results. Millions of Americans have been avoiding visiting doctors or hospitals out of fear of becoming infected with the virus.

Pfizer, in partnership with Germany's BioNTech, is among many drugmakers racing to develop a vaccine for the highly contagious virus that has infected more than 3 million people worldwide.

The company said it expects to make safety data available by late May and move into expanded trials that could allow emergency use or accelerated approval starting in the fall, although experts have cautioned that a safe, effective vaccine may still be more than a year away.

Pfizer reported a nearly US$150 million boost to first-quarter revenue, helped by increased demand for some of its medicines, including pneumonia vaccine Prevnar, which some physicians are prescribing to help combat the effects of Covid-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. – Nampa/Reuters

Harley boosts cash reserves

Harley-Davidson Inc slashed its dividend and halted share buybacks on Tuesday to boost its cash reserves as global lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic hit motorcycle demand in the first quarter.

The company has US$1.47 billion in cash and is in talks with big US banks to get US$1.30 billion in loan to ride out the crisis, it said, adding it would focus on its core U.S. market to prop up sales.

To boost sales, the company also said it will "de-emphasise" on some unprofitable international regions.

The shift in strategy for the company that symbolised the counterculture movement of the 1960s comes as it struggles to woo the next generation of younger riders with its electric and more nimbler bikes in the United States.

Sales have been declining for the past five years in its largest market as its baby-boomer fan base ages. To make matters worse, the pandemic has further dented demand as Americans stay at home to curb the spread of Covid-19. – Nampa/Reuters

Barclays profit falls sharply

Barclays set aside 2.1 billion pounds (US$2.62 billion) to cover a likely spike in loan losses as thousands of its corporate and consumer borrowers battle to cope with the financial fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The British bank booked first-quarter pretax profits of 923 million pounds, down 38% from 1.5 billion pounds in the first quarter of 2019 and shy of the 1.27 billion pounds average of analysts' forecasts compiled by the bank.

Barclays said the impact of the coronavirus hit late in the first quarter and was likely to linger, striking a less positive tone than Standard Chartered which earlier yesterday reported a 12% dip in profit for the period.

The bank said the impairments number included a 405 million pound hit from single name wholesale loan charges, while 1.2 billion pounds was set aside for expected bad loans due to the poorer economic outlook and lower oil prices. – Nampa/Reuters

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