Europe

A petition to secure High Court protection for a chocolate food products company was prepared in secret from its board, the High Court was told, The Irish Times reported. Ina’s Kitchen Desserts is trading, no one is refusing to trade with it, and it also has a plentiful supply of finance to meet its requirements, said Bernard Dunleavy SC for the majority shareholder Starkane. Counsel said Starkane knew nothing of the petition for examinership brought by a director and 10 per cent shareholder Barry Broderick until it was moved.

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Airlines are on course to lose a total $157 billion this year and next, their main global body warned on Tuesday, further downgrading its industry outlook in response to a second wave of coronavirus infections and shutdowns afflicting major markets, Reuters reported. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which in June had forecast $100 billion in losses for the two-year period, said it now projects a $118.5 billion deficit this year alone, and a further $38.7 billion for 2021.

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German insurers are in the final stages of negotiating a six-month extension to a COVID-19 credit insurance backstop with the German government, Reuters reported. Insurers and the government struck a deal earlier this year for up to 30 billion euros ($35.64 billion) in guarantees for the commercial credit insurance industry for 2020, a move important for fostering the smooth flow of trade during the pandemic. With 2020 winding down, Joerg Asmussen, head of the GDV German insurance association, said an agreement for the extension could be reached “within days”.

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British real estate agent Countrywide has appointed former William Hill chief Philip Bowcock as its CEO to lead talks on a new rescue deal, as shareholders rejected an offer from private equity firm Alchemy Partners, Reuters reported. The London-based company, one of several agents hurt by a coronavirus-driven drop in property sales this year, also said on Tuesday that executive chairman Peter Long had stepped down from his role and retired as a director with immediate effect.

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France’s Credit Agricole offered to buy third-tier Italian lender Creval for 737 million euros ($875 million) on Monday, as a wave of consolidation sweeps Italy’s banking sector, Reuters reported. France’s No.2 bank had been considering expanding in Italy, its second biggest market, and both Creval and larger rival Banco BPM had been tipped as possible targets. Credit Agricole Italia will pay 10.5 euros per Creval share, a 21.4% premium on Friday’s closing price. Shares in Creval jumped 23.7% slightly surpassing the offer’s price. Credit Agricole closed up 3.9%. Banco BPM declined 3.7%.

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The trio of coronavirus vaccines racing toward approval may reach the masses too late to prevent another round of airline failures, Bloomberg News reported. With last week’s insolvency filing at Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA, some 42 airlines worldwide have failed or entered administration this year, according to research from consultant IBA Group. The tally may surpass 70 through March, as rising cases weigh on revenue and carriers struggle to secure fresh funding. “The fourth quarter and the first quarter of next year could be equally terrible,” IBA’s Stuart Hatcher said in an interview.

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Irish food group Greencore has announced a £90 million (€101 million) share placing to shore up its balance sheet after it reported an 81 per cent plunge in its annual profit due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Irish Times reported. The Dublin-headquartered company said the recent resurgence of Covid-19 cases across the UK, and the imposition of new restrictions, had “hampered the recovery in demand in food-to-go categories”.

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Eurozone business activity has hit a six-month low as fresh restrictions to limit the spread of coronavirus weigh on the services sector, fuelling the likelihood of a double-dip economic downturn, according to a widely watched survey, the Financial Times reported. Services activity across the single-currency bloc plunged into decline in November according to the IHS Markit flash purchasing managers’ index for the sector, which hit 41.3, down from 46.9 in the previous month and the lowest level since this spring’s lockdowns.

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Bearing the Burden of Coronavirus Debt

In 2010, as the global economy was beginning to recover from the financial crisis that had taken place just two years before, the UK placed itself in the vanguard of a shift towards austerity, the Financial Times reported in a commentary. The decade of weak growth and political instability that followed mean that few are keen to repeat the exercise after the coronavirus pandemic.

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French food company Danone will cut up 2,000 jobs, or 2 per cent of its global workforce, as part of a reorganisation aimed at giving more power to country managers and squeezing out efficiencies to cope with the pandemic, The Irish Times reported. The company employs about 350 people in the Republic. It said it does not yet know whether any Irish jobs will be affected. The maker of Evian bottled water and Activia yoghurts said the changes would save €1 billion by 2023, and promised that its recurring operating margin would return to pre-Covid levels of above 15 per cent by 2022.

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