Europe

German minerals firm K+S is preparing a potential application for state aid as the company grapples with a high debt load and the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, people close to the matter said, Reuters reported. The potash and salt company has no liquidity issues but wants to secure several hundreds of millions of euros in state-backed loans should financing via the capital markets remain difficult in the wake of the pandemic, the people said. No final decision on whether the company will actually apply for a bailout has been taken, one of the people added. K+S declined to comment.

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Norway’s central bank cut interest rates to a record low of zero but said it was unlikely to go negative as the rich Scandinavian country faces up to the twin shocks of coronavirus and an oil price collapse, the Financial Times reported. Norges Bank said on Thursday that the 0.25 percentage point cut would not prevent Covid-19 from having “a substantial impact on the Norwegian economy but can help dampen the downturn”, including by stopping high unemployment becoming entrenched.

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The Bank of England has forecast that the coronavirus crisis will push the UK economy into its deepest recession in 300 years, with output plunging almost 30 per cent in the first half of the year, but it decided not to launch a new stimulus, the Financial Times reported. In its monetary policy report, the central bank presented rough and ready predictions for the economy, suggesting that output would slip 3 per cent in the first quarter followed by a further 25 per cent fall in the second.

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The number of corporate insolvencies in Britain fell a third in April compared to the year before even as the COVID-19 pandemic hammered the economy, figures compiled by KPMG showed on Friday, as government support packages kept firms afloat, Reuters reported. The spread of the novel coronavirus - and lockdown measures introduced to contain it - has ravaged the British economy, with Britons told to stay indoors and many non-essential businesses told to close. The Bank of England said on Thursday it could cause the biggest economic slump in over 300 years.

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A slew of Britain’s mid-sized banks on Wednesday reported steady deposits and demand in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, but warned it was too early to assess the long-term damage of the outbreak to their businesses, Reuters reported. The lockdown in late March to contain the spread of the new coronavirus has brought the economy to a near halt, prompting bigger banks last week to set aside provisions for loan losses in case businesses and consumers struggle to pay them back.

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Italy’s UniCredit posted its biggest quarterly loss in three years on Wednesday and cut its profit outlook for 2021 as the coronavirus pandemic threw its strategic overhaul off course, Reuters reported. Chief Executive Jean Pierre Mustier told analysts there was too much uncertainty to provide profit guidance this year and it would be late 2020 or early next year before he could update them on a turnaround plan he had unveiled in December. “It is too early to quantify the shape and pace of any recovery and hence to give any updated guidance on the full year ...

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HSBC Holdings Plc, already on the hook for $600 million in loans to fallen Singapore oil giant Hin Leong, has taken steps to oust the management at another energy firm, claiming it used the same cargo to secure financing from multiple banks, Bloomberg News reported. Europe’s biggest lender filed an application to Singapore’s High Court on May 4 to put ZenRock Commodities Trading Pte Ltd. under so-called judicial management, a form of debt restructuring in which a third party runs the company, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

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German factories saw demand collapse in March, when measures to contain the coronavirus brought the economy to a sudden halt, Bloomberg News reported. Orders fell 15.6% from the previous month, the most since data collection started in 1991 and more than economists predicted. While all sectors were affected, investment goods plunged heavily. The Economy Ministry warned of big declines in production due to the virus. The report comes as forecasters struggle to put a number on the economic damage caused by the pandemic.

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BNP Paribas warned coronavirus could knock a fifth off its 2020 profits as it revealed a €184m blow to its equities trading division after complex derivatives products suffered in volatile markets, the Financial Times reported. The French bank said on Tuesday its net income could fall 15 per cent to 20 per cent this year, with Covid-19 prompting a “drastic revisit of the 2020 macroeconomic scenario”. The lender also earmarked an additional half a billion euros to cover potential loan losses.

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Deutsche Lufthansa AG Chief Executive Officer Carsten Spohr said the airline is in “intense” talks with Airbus SE and Boeing Co. about postponing plane deliveries as he set out plans for surviving the coronavirus storm, Bloomberg News reported. Facing shareholders at the German company’s annual general meeting -- held online because of the pandemic -- executives said they couldn’t answer questions about negotiations for a government bailout, but that it’s in noone’s best interests to see a collapse. “The future of Lufthansa is being decided in these days,” Spohr told the meeting.

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