Virtual certainty? Bankers ask if success of remote roadshows will last

HONG KONG/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Who needs expensive lunches at glitzy hotels and fancy restaurants to court investors for bond deals or the sale of new shares on the stock exchange?

In a world governed by quarantine and social distancing rules, even lead managers on multi-billion dollar deals have had to curtail travel and drop the personal touch in favour of video conferences and phone calls to woo potential investors.

Warner Music Group is one of more than a dozen companies that launched an initial public offering (IPO) in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and saw their shares soar on the first day trading.

“The wear from a virtual roadshow is much less than the wear and tear on the old normal roadshow. I was pleasantly surprised,” Warner Music Group chief executive Stephen Cooper said in an interview following this company’s IPO this week.

Some investors were also happy with the switch, because they saved time travelling to meetings with companies and their IPO advisers.

“When you meet face-to-face, you have to get everyone together into the lift, some people need to get their Starbucks… that one hour turns into one-and-a-half hours,” said Khiem Do, head of Greater China investments at Barings in Hong Kong.

All over the world, companies and their advisers have given up on the traditional multi-city investor roadshow – lasting up to two weeks – in favour of virtual sessions e investors that only last a few days.

So far the change has worked. U.S. IPOs excluding those of special purpose acquisition companies have yielded average gains of 35%, according to data firm IPOScoop. The S&P 500 Index has risen only around 6.6% in that period.

“In New York City you would normally do six or seven one-on-one meetings plus a group event. Boston is about the same. Now you can do at least nine in a day with no travel time,” said Taylor Wright, co-head of U.S. equity capital markets at Barclays Plc.

However, Wright and other bankers interviewed by Reuters questioned whether virtual roadshows will completely replace physical gatherings when the pandemic subsides. They said that many companies behind the IPOs of the last few weeks had warmed up investors in person before the pandemic, and younger companies may not be able to court investors only virtually.

For example, coffee producer JDE Peet’s raised 2.25 billion euros ($2.50 billion) in Amsterdam last week, in Europe’s biggest IPO of the year with a virtual roadshow that lasted just three days. It only managed to do so because the company and its advisers had already met in person with many potential investors, bankers on the deal said. [nL8N2DE0L9]

JDE Peet’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside business hours.

“If roadshows cannot carry on, I feel some investors won’t be willing to invest as happily,” said Zhenro Properties chief financial officer Kenny Chan, speaking in mid-May as the company raised $200 million via online roadshows in Asia’s first junk-rated bond for almost two months.

Many bankers and executives said they missed the social interaction, as well as the ability to ask questions quietly after in-person meetings.

Moreover, many of the IPOs that were successful in the last few weeks, including business intelligence platform ZoomInfo Technologies Inc and insurance policy comparison website SelectQuote Inc, were of well-established companies. Some IPO advisers cautioned that some startups and young less-known companies will struggle to pique investors’ interest without wooing them in person.

“Gathering in a hotel ballroom and listening to a roadshow presentation is just a different dynamic and vibrancy,” said Jocelyn Arel, a partner at law firm Goodwin Procter’s corporate and technology companies group

“I think it’s harder for startups, as they’re still trying to network remotely through video.”

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Turkey to impose coronavirus curfews in 15 cities: Live updates

Weekend lockdown will be in effect in major Turkish cities including Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir.

  • Iran marked its highest daily jump since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak with 3,574 coronavirus cases. The figures marked the third consecutive day that the country recorded more than 3,000 daily new infections.
  • Turkey is set to impose a weekend curfew in 15 cities to curb the spread of the virus. 
  • The coronavirus death tolls in Brazil and Mexico have soared to new daily records, with 1,349 and 1,092 confirmed fatalities, even as the countries begin to ease lockdown restrictions. Brazil now has more than 32,000 deaths, while Mexico has over 11,000.
  • Around 6.6 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 389,000 people have died, including some 108,000 in the US. More than 2.8 million people have recovered from the disease.

Here are the latest updates:

June 5, Friday

01:22 GMT – Brazil’s death toll surges to third-highest in world  

Brazil’s death toll from the new coronavirus has overtaken Italy’s to become the third-highest in the world, according to official figures.  

The South American country of 210 million people reported a new record of 1,473 deaths in 24 hours, bringing its overall toll to 34,021, from 614,941 infections, the health ministry said.  

Italy has confirmed 33,689 deaths from 234,013 infections.

01:07 GMT – Fiji says all COVID-19 patients recovered

Frank Bainimarama, the prime minister of Fiji, said all coronavirus patients in the Pacific island nation have now recovered.

“And even with our testing numbers climbing by the day, it’s now been 45 days since we recorded our last case. With no deaths, our recovery rate is 100%” he wrote in a tweet.

00:42 GMT – Patients with high blood pressure ‘twice as likely to die’

Patients with high blood pressure admitted to hospital with coronavirus infections are twice as likely to die as those without the condition, according to a new study.

For in-patients with the virus who had stopped taking medication for high blood pressure, the risk of dying doubled again, they reported in the European Heart Journal.

“It is important that patients with high blood pressure realise that they are at increased risk of dying from COVID-19,” said senior author Fei Li, a cardiologist at Xijing Hospital in Xian, China.

The study also found that widely used drugs to control high blood pressure may help protect against severe COVID-19, allaying concerns that they could make the illness caused by the coronavirus worse.

00:15 GMT – Turkey to impose weekend curfew in 15 cities

Turkey will impose a two-day weekend curfew in 15 cities as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the interior ministry said.

In a statement, the ministry said the lockdown will be in effect in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, Balikesir, Bursa, Eskisehir, Gaziantep, Kayseri, Kocaeli, Konya, Manisa, Sakarya, Samsun, Van and Zonguldak.

Markets, grocery stores and butcheries can operate during the lockdown, it added.

00:07 GMT – Argentina extends lockdown in Buenos Aires

Argentina extended until June 28 a mandatory lockdown in capital Buenos Aires and other areas with high cases of coronavirus, President Alberto Fernandez announced, after the country surpassed 20,000 confirmed cases earlier in the day.

Argentina’s lockdown, which was due to expire on June 7, has been in place since March 20, though officials relaxed restrictions in some areas of the country.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives.

You can find all the updates from yesterday, June 4, here.

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Mexico reports record toll of coronavirus deaths, new infections

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican health authorities reported 1,092 novel coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, the country’s highest toll in one day so far, with total infections surging past 100,000 as the Latin American country emerges as a major center of the pandemic.

The number of deaths was more than twice the previous record, and daily infections were also at an all-time high of 3,912, although Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said some cases occurred several days earlier.

Lopez-Gatell attributed the sharp jump in the death toll to the results of a new mortality committee dedicated to better identifying which deaths in the country were caused by the virus.

“Over the past 20 or 25 days, we have had various cases that were slowly passed on to the registry, for various reasons,” he said. “A technical commission has specifically been carrying out complementary methods.”

The additions bring the total number of known cases to 101,238 and deaths to 11,729. Health authorities have previously said the real number is higher.

Mexico had planned to start reopening the country after measures designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Instead, deaths and new infections have scaled new peaks this week, dampening expectations for major changes.

Latin America’s second-largest economy is at an earlier stage of the pandemic curve than the neighboring United States.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s government has been under U.S. pressure to reopen major sectors of the economy to reactivate supply chains underpinning billions of dollars of business.

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Big in China and tiny in the U.S., Fast Retailing seen weathering pandemic

TOKYO/BEIJING (Reuters) – The coronavirus pandemic is shredding the global apparel industry, stripping hundreds of billions of dollars from sales and thrusting big names like J.Crew into bankruptcy protection.

While no major fashion firms have been spared, Japan’s Fast Retailing (9983.T), owner of the Uniqlo brand and not far behind the world’s No. 2 H&M (HMb.ST) in sales, looks well placed to cope with the crisis better than rivals.

That’s thanks to legions of faithful Chinese fans like 25-year-old IT worker Niu Ran, whose wardrobe is crammed with Uniqlo basics like shirts and socks and was looking for more in a post-lockdown shopping trip.

“I like Uniqlo because it’s very easy to match and the quality is not bad,” he said, waiting in line to try on pants at a Uniqlo store in Wangfujing, Beijing’s prime shopping district.

“It satisfies all my needs, so I don’t need to spend time elsewhere.”

Led by Tadashi Yanai, Japan’s richest man, Fast Retailing has expanded aggressively in China with 750 Uniqlo stores, roughly the same number in its home market.

Mainland China has all but contained domestic transmission of the coronavirus with lockdowns lifted in most areas since March and the world’s no. 2 economy is widely expected to emerge from pandemic-induced pain faster than other countries.

In other parts of Asia too, key markets such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have been more successful than the West in curbing the virus.

In contrast, rivals mostly focused on the U.S. market like Gap Inc (GPS.N) or far more dependent on Europe like Zara-owner and industry leader Inditex (ITX.MC) and H&M, are expected to face a longer downturn.

“Asia is going to be much faster to bounce back in terms of willingness to spend, which will favour operators with a big presence in Asia,” said Honor Strachan, retail analyst at research firm GlobalData.

“In the mature western markets across Europe, the U.S. and Canada, we expect the recovery to be long and drawn out,” she said.

GlobalData predicts the global apparel market will lose $297 billion in revenue this year due to the pandemic, with the United States accounting for 42% of that lost spending.

Of Uniqlo’s 2,260 stores globally, just 51 are in the United States. Its inability to make strides in the world’s biggest clothing market has long been seen as an Achilles heel, but for the time being it may prove a blessing.

Asia, however, accounts for three-quarters of Uniqlo’s annual revenue and Greater China alone represents 20%.

While Strachan notes H&M and Inditex are some of the most resilient players in the market, Asia & Oceania make up just 15% of H&M’s annual revenue while at Zara, its “Asia and the rest of the world” category accounts for 23% of sales.

THE BASICS ADVANTAGE

Uniqlo’s long shelf-life items like Oxford shirts for work, chinos and underwear as well as its reputation for value for money are likely to resonate with consumers grappling with lost income or less job security more than the trend-based clothing of Zara and H&M, according to analysts.

“The quality is good and designs are classic,” said Jiang Xin, an internet company employee in Beijing, one of many Chinese shoppers interviewed by Reuters who said they felt Uniqlo quality was a cut above comparably priced brands.

Although Fast Retailing warned in April operating profit could slide 44% in the year to end-August, analysts expect a quick recovery assuming key markets are not hit by a large second wave of infections. With a large proportion of items no-frills basics, it is hoping to limit discounts.

“We will be looking to gradually sell off the excess stock to normalise inventory over the next 18 months,” CFO Takeshi Okazaki said on a call with analysts in April.

Fast Retailing declined to comment further on its business outlook for this article.

Rapid growth has brought Fast Retailing almost neck and neck with H&M. Last year the Japanese firm was more profitable with net income of around $1.5 billion compared to the Swedish chain’s $1.4 billion, though its $21 billion in revenue was some $3 billion less.

And while it still has a way to go before it matches Inditex’s annual sales of $31 billion, Yanai’s long-held goal of making Fast Retailing the world’s biggest retailer has looked less far-fetched in recent years.

But for that to happen, Uniqlo will have gain market share in the United States, analysts say, adding that it may have to offer more stylish items to get there.

“They still need to find a way to compete in the U.S.,” said Jefferies analyst Michael Allen. “The current crisis doesn’t change the equation for that.”

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Outdoor seating only: Parisian cafes eke out space along sidewalks

PARIS (Reuters) – The Cafe de Flore in Paris, once a favourite drinking hole of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, spread its tables along the pavement, in front of the neighbouring book store, and reopened on Tuesday for the first time in 11 weeks.

Locals could once again enjoy a morning espresso, albeit only at tables spaced a metre apart, as the government allowed cafes and restaurants to open outdoor terraces, lifted travel curbs within France and permitted sunbathing on beaches.

“We’re back at home,” said one regular, Rachel, at the cafe in the French capital’s chic Left Bank neighbourhood. “Morning time is coffee time. We’re rediscovering old habits.”

Across Paris, cafe owners encroached on sidewalks to maximise the number of tables they could set. Each had to submit their new configuration to the local authorities online and in the days ahead their new layout will be inspected.

Those without little or no outdoor seating have been less fortunate.

Across the boutique-lined Boulevard Saint-Germain from the Cafe de Flore, the Brasserie Lipp, which kept serving through World War Two but was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, remained closed.

Even under a bright blue sky, business started slowly. Servers wore masks and said they were still finding their way under the new conditions. Some cafes replaced menus with chalkboards, others asked patrons to scan a barcode to bring up the menu on their smartphone.

At the Le Bourbon brasserie, staff set out about a dozen tables in a small square behind the National Assembly. Manager Jean-Pierre Viala said they were at the mercy of the weather gods, with rain forecast later in the week.

“It’s hard to predict how much food to buy in when you’re dependent on the weather,” he said.

Finance Minister Bruno le Maire on Tuesday promised a solidarity fund to help cafes and restaurants would run until the end of 2020. Many depend on the tourists who in normal times swarm through Paris, the world’s most visited city.

“We desperately need borders to re-open,” said Arnaud Lacroix, whose coffee and ice-cream bar is located opposite the fire-ravaged Notre-Dame of Paris cathedral.

In the past two years, his business has been hammered by anti-government “yellow vest” protests, the cathedral blaze and now the virus.

“We can’t hold out much longer,” he said.

(This story has been refiled to correct spelling in headline)

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UK COVID-19 death toll rises to nearly 50,000, Reuters tally shows

LONDON (Reuters) – The United Kingdom’s COVID-19 death toll neared 50,000 on Tuesday, confirming its place as one of the worst hit countries in the world just as Prime Minister Boris Johnson tries to ease the stringent novel coronavirus outbreak.

The toll now stands at 49,646, including death certificate data for England and Wales released on Tuesday up to May 22, previously published figures for Scotland and Northern Ireland, and recent hospital deaths in England.

Such a large death toll has prompted criticism of Johnson, who opposition parties say was too slow to impose a lockdown, too slow to protect the elderly in nursing homes and too slow to build a test and trace system.

Johnson’s government says that while it may have made some mistakes it is grappling with the biggest public health crisis since the 1918 influenza outbreak and that it has ensured the health service was not overwhelmed.

Still, the grim death toll surpasses even some projections by the government’s own scientific advisers.

In March, Britain’s chief scientific adviser said keeping deaths below 20,000 would be a “good outcome”. In April, Reuters reported the government’s worst-case scenario was 50,000 deaths.

Related Coverage

  • UK records almost 62,000 excess deaths during pandemic: ONS official
  • 'Often mistrusted': UK stats watchdog criticises COVID-19 test data

Unlike the daily death toll published by the government, Tuesday’s death certificate figures include suspected cases and confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Epidemiologists say excess mortality – deaths from all causes that exceed the five-year average for the time of year – is the best way of gauging deaths from a disease outbreak because it is internationally comparable.

Some 62,000 more people than usual have died in the United Kingdom during this year’s coronavirus pandemic, according to the latest available data, an expert from the Office for National Statistics said on Tuesday.

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UN needs $2.4bn to stem Yemen coronavirus 'tragedy': Live updates

Delegates at pledging conference scheduled for Tuesday expected to hear of unfolding ‘tragedy’ in war-torn country.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur. 

  • Millions of people are at risk from a “tragedy” fuelled by the coronavirus in Yemen, an international UN-backed pledging conference is expected to hear on Tuesday. 

  • Health authorities in Spain have reported no new deaths from the coronavirus in the last 24 hours for the first time in nearly three months. 

  • More than 6.25 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 375,000 people have died, including more than 105,000 in the US. At least 2.69 million have recovered from the disease.

Here are the latest updates:

Tuesday, June 2

02:45 GMT – Wuhan doctor dies after four months with coronavirus

Wuhan Central Hospital doctor Hu Weifeng, who was diagnosed with coronavirus four months ago, has died, state media reported on Tuesday.

Dr Hu, whose face became darker during his treatment as a result of liver problems, was previously reported to have recovered. The Global Times said he had been treated with Polymyxin B, an antibiotic usually used for meningitis and sepsis.

23:15 GMT (Monday) – Brazil reports thousands of new cases, 623 deaths 

Brazil’s Health Ministry has reported some 11,598 new cases of coronavirus and 623 deaths over the past 24 hours.

Brazil has the second-highest number of cases in the world (526,447) after the United States. Nearly 30,000 people have died from the disease. 

23:00 GMT (Monday) – Met Opera to remain closed until the end of the year

New York’s Metropolitan Opera will reopen only for its traditional New Year’s Eve performance, cutting short its 2020/2021 season because of the coronavirus.

“Social distancing and grand opera simply don’t go together,” general manager Peter Gelb said in a video message.

The 137-year-old company, one of the world’s leading opera houses, had planned to start its season in September. 

Read all the updates from yesterday (June 1) here.

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U.S. companies issue shares at fastest rate ever, selling the rally

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. public companies sold more than $60 billion in shares in May, the biggest monthly haul ever, as they capitalized on a stock market rally fueled by hopes that the COVID-19 pandemic is subsiding.

The benchmark S&P 500 Index .SPX has risen around 40% off of recent lows, hit in late-March at the height of market panic during the coronavirus outbreak, and is now roughly 10% shy of all-time highs hit in February.

The whipsawing markets stunted companies’ ability to issue new shares and raise cash, with just $4.8 billion sold in March, the lowest monthly total since December 2018, Refinitiv data showed.

The market has rocketed back with $22.3 billion sold in April and $65.3 billion in May, the highest on record.

(GRAPHIC – U.S. public companies sell the rally: here)

The likes of Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N) and cruise operator Carnival Corp (CCL.N) have issued new stock to raise money. Major shareholders in companies such as BlackRock Inc (BLK.N) and U.S. drugmaker Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc (REGN.O) have cashed out their stock, with the market rebound far from certain to last.

“We’re talking to a lot of companies around the fact that the market is here, you don’t know what lies in the economy to come,” said Ryan Parrish, head of Americas equity capital markets syndicate at Bank of America (BAC.N). “If you even remotely have a need you should get it done now.”

The share sales echo a similar trend in U.S. debt markets, where companies have raised more than $1 trillion so far in 2020.

As in debt markets, the balance of companies selling new shares has shifted from those facing an imminent cash crunch to those stocking up on rainy day funds.

“There are a whole host of companies that have been hugely impacted by COVID-19 and have had to recapitalize,” said Santosh Sreenivasan, head of equity-linked capital markets for the Americas at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

“Issuers that have seen their stock prices recover are now also taking the perspective that they don’t want to miss this window in case this rebound is short-lived,” Sreenivasan said.

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Britain reopens markets and some schools as lockdown eases

LONDON (Reuters) – English schools reopen on Monday for the first time since they were shut 10 weeks ago because of the coronavirus pandemic, but many parents planned to keep children at home amid fears ministers were moving too fast.

The easing of strict measures will mean classes will restart for some younger children, up to six people can meet outside in England, outdoor markets can reopen, elite competitive sport can resume without spectators and more than 2 million of the most vulnerable will now be allowed to spend time outdoors.

But with Britain recording one of the highest death rates from COVID-19, many are worried that it is happening too soon, including a number of scientists who advise the government who have warned it could lead to a second spike in infections.

“The overall view from SAGE – the scientific advisory group on emergencies which advises the government – their overall view is that we must do this cautiously and that is precisely what we are doing,” business minister Alok Sharma told BBC TV.

“These are very cautious steps that we are taking,” he said, while adding it was a “very sensitive moment”.

Ministers have been wrestling with how to kickstart the economy, which has been devastated by the lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, while avoiding a possible second wave of infections which would cause further damage.

The government says the relaxation of rules on Monday represents only a limited easing but there has been concern that the country is still not ready for the changes, and that more people are beginning to ignore guidelines on social distancing.

A survey for the National Foundation for Educational Research found school leaders estimated 46% of parents would keep their children at home because of concerns, fears echoed by some health officials.

Britain has recorded more than 38,000 deaths from confirmed COVID-19 cases while the Office of National Statistics and other sources of data put the figure of fatalities from suspected and confirmed cases at 48,000.

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