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British Airways owner, IAG, has threatened it could go out of business because of the coronavirus crisis as its shares have plummeted more than 60 per cent in the past month, now standing at 195p at the time of writing.
Grounded flights and travel bans have hit the airline industry hard – the International Air Transport Association has estimated that the virus will hit airlines globally to the effect of £113 bn this year.
IAG said it expects the number of flights in the first three months of the year to fall by 7.5 per cent but it anticipates this reduction will accelerate by 75 per cent in April and May. It has delayed the retirement of Chief Executive Willie Walsh who was due to step down in June and it has announced cost cutting actions which include grounding surplus aircraft, deferring capital spending and freezing recruitment.
The outlook for BA itself was particularly bleak with its Chief Executive, Alex Cruz, telling the media that ‘it was in a battle for survival.’
So, is IAG looking at a crash landing or could it take off again once the current crisis ends?
Many are heartened by the fact that the firm has been hugely profitable in the past, and with cash equivalents and interest-bearing deposits worth 7.35 bn EUR plus operating profits of 2.89bn EUR, it still seems in a reasonably strong financial position. Hargreaves Lansdowne described this as putting it in a ‘stronger position than some of its peers’ although it cautioned that ‘the short-term earnings hit’ could be very ugly.’
One company that seems to be defying the current crisis is speciality chemicals company Elementis, which soared a staggering 177 per cent this week.
The firm has suspended its dividend as a precautionary measure, but it says it has been largely unaffected by coronavirus with all sites operating at normal levels. The chemical firm has an impressive level of liquidity, with over $300m immediately available.
With share prices now standing at 40.96p at the time of writing, is Elementis a good bet for long-term resilience?
Analysts seem positive about the stock – when it slumped earlier in the month the general consensus was that it was a cheap buy with a price-to-earnings ratio of just seven. How much growth potential it has after this latest spike though remains to be seen?
Catwalk classic Burberry is another casualty of coronavirus as store closures and sales slumps take their toll.
Its shares were down 3.5 per cent, to 1,138.50p at the time of writing, and the brand announced this week that sales would probably decline around 30 per cent in the fourth quarter. More than 60 per cent of its stores in EMEIA and around 85 per cent in the Americas are currently closed and the brand says comparable retail store sales in the final weeks of the year could be down as much as 70 to 80 per cent.
So, where now for Burberry – is it destined for the sale rail?
The high-end brand was just starting to turn a corner – Chief Exec, Marco Gobbetti had put some serious work into enhancing the brand and revamping digital channels and stores. The new designs from Chief Creative Officer, Riccardo Tisco, were a hit and Burberry’s balance sheet looks strong with cash and borrowing facilities available. The group’s growth in Asia has been particularly impressive too, and there are flickers of hope in that respect as Chinese stores start to reopen. At the moment, analysts are still forecasting a 4.2 per cent prospective yield over the next year but whether or not that is sustainable could depend on how long the coronavirus crisis drags on for.
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