Company news in brief

19 May 2020 | Business

Panasonic’s ops profit drops

Japan's Panasonic Corp, a top supplier of battery cells to Tesla Inc, reported a 28.6% drop in annual operating profit and did not issue an earnings forecast for the current year due to uncertainty about the impact of the coronavirus.

Panasonic joined a number of Japanese electronics companies that have refrained from providing forecasts, including Sony Corp and Canon Inc, as the virus outbreak hits electronics demand globally.

Operating profit for the year ended in March came in at 293.75 billion yen (US$2.74 billion), in line with an average estimate of 295.3 billion yen profit drawn from 17 analysts polled by Refinitiv.

Analysts have forecast an average 225.46 billion yen profit for the current financial year. – Nampa/Reuters

Diageo explores delisting Indian arm

Diageo Plc, the world's largest spirits maker, is exploring options to delist its Indian arm, United Spirits Ltd, by buying out minority shareholders, CNBC TV-18 reported yesterday.

Diageo, the maker of Johnnie Walker whiskey and Tanqueray Gin, currently owns an about 56% stake in United Spirits after slowly building it up over several years.

The company has started talks with investment bankers and consultants on a delisting offer, the CNBC TV-18 report said, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Diageo India said it would not comment on market rumours and speculation.

Diageo's move comes nearly a week after miner Vedanta Resources Ltd said it was delisting its Indian unit Vedanta Ltd, as it seeks to accelerate the simplification of its corporate structure amid the coronavirus pandemic. – Nampa/Reuters

SoftBank reports US$8.9 bn net loss

Struggling Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group yesterday reported an US$8.9 billion annual net loss, as the coronavirus pandemic compounded woes caused by its investment in troubled start-up WeWork.

The telecoms and investment giant had previously forecast a net loss of US$8.4 billion for the year that ended in March, warning it was being hit by the "deteriorating market environment."

In a press release, the Japanese firm said its investment businesses - particularly its huge SoftBank Vision Fund - had been "adversely affected" by the global health crisis.

It reported an operating loss of 1.36 trillion yen (US$12.6 billion) and warned that "if the pandemic continues, the company expects that uncertainty in its investment businesses will remain over the next fiscal year".

The results are the latest blow for the firm's flamboyant chief Masayoshi Son, who has transformed what began as a telecoms company into an investment and tech behemoth with stakes in some of Silicon Valley's hottest start-ups through its US$100-billion Vision Fund. – Nampa/AFP

Ryanair reports year profit up

Ryanair cut its annual passenger traffic target by another 20% and warned it will look at pulling out of some airports across Europe as it booked a 13% rise in annual profit after tax yesterday.

The Irish low-cost carrier, Europe's largest, said it expects to fly "somewhere under" 80 million passengers in the coming year, down from a target of 100 million given last week and from an original target of 154 million.

CEO Michael O'Leary admitted it was essentially guesswork at this stage.

Ryanair reported a profit before tax of 1 billion euro (US$1.08 billion) for the year to March 31.

O'Leary said the airline would first look at loss-making bases in the UK, Germany and Spain for closure, but may then look at Italy, Belgium and central and eastern Europe if necessary. – Nampa/Reuters

Apple reopening 25 more US stores

Apple Inc will this week reopen more than 25 of its branded stores in the United States, a company spokesman said on Sunday, continuing a gradual process that has unlocked doors at nearly a fifth of its worldwide retail outlets.

The iPhone maker in March shut all its stores outside of Greater China in response to the spread of the coronavirus. It has 510 stores worldwide and 271 in the United States. Last week, it reopened its first five stores in the United States. – Nampa/Reuters

Intu says on course to default

British mall operator Intu Properties Plc warned yesterday it would likely breach its debt commitments at the end of June due to falling rental payments and will seek standstill agreements with creditors to ride out the coronavirus crisis.

The owner of Manchester's Trafford Centre and Lakeside in Essex, which secured debt waivers until June 26 earlier this month, said the standstill agreements would seek to allow it to halt testing and repayments of debt facilities until no later than December 2021.

HSBC cuts global growth forecasts, again

Europe's biggest bank, HSBC has cut already bleak global growth forecasts even further, as lockdown restrictions extended through April and tentative economic re-openings drag on a return to business, trade and spending.

The bank lowered its 2020 global gross domestic product forecast to a contraction of 4.8%, according to a note from chief economist Janet Henry dated May 12 and published on Friday.

It had forecast a 3.3% contraction for the year in early April.

HSBC has downgraded its 2020 forecasts for the developed world from a contraction of 5.9% to a contraction of 7.1% and for emerging economies from 0.5% growth to a 1.7% contraction. It forecasts full year US GDP at -7.0% and China's at 1.7% growth. – Nampa/Reuters

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