United Kingdom

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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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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Satellite operator OneWeb said on Friday it has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with $1 billion in equity investment from a consortium of the UK Government and India’s Bharti Enterprises, the new owners of the UK-based company, Reuters reported. The investment puts OneWeb on track to compete with Elon Musk’s SpaceX in the race to use low-Earth orbit satellites to provide high-bandwidth and low-latency communication services.

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Cineworld is looking at a company voluntary arrangement, an insolvency process used to cut costs, as part of its talks with lenders to gain access to capital, the Financial Times reported, citing three sources close to the negotiations, Reuters reported. The world’s second-largest cinema chain is also considering slashing rents and permanently closing UK cinemas after lockdown restrictions and a lack of blockbuster films caused business to collapse, the FT reported. The company last month temporarily shut its U.S.

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One morning, after years of financial prudence and solid creditworthiness, you wake up and it’s all gone. You’re no longer worthy. You’re a risk. In fact, you’re sub-prime. That is the fate facing thousands of Britons who, often for no fault of their own, could begin 2021 as “subprime” borrowers if they have had more than six months’ of relief from COVID-19 debt woes, Reuters reported. This could have dire consequences for people who have historically struggled to access credit, especially those on low incomes.

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Petra Diamonds on Tuesday reported a 36% fall in revenue and a net loss of $223 million (168.7 million pounds) as the pandemic hit production, sales and prices, Reuters reported. Petra, which operates three diamond mines in South Africa and one in Tanzania, kept production guidance for 2021 on hold due to ongoing uncertainty, noting the risks to production if further COVID-19 restrictions are required. CEO Richard Duffy said Petra had “unprecedented challenges” to contend with in 2020.

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British fashion group Arcadia, which is controlled by retail businessman Philip Green, denied a report on Sunday it was about to go into administration but said it was taking “appropriate steps” to protect the business from the impact of the latest coronavirus lockdown, Reuters reported. Arcadia, which runs brands including Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins and Burton, employs about 15,000. “It is not true that administrators are about to be appointed,” said a spokesman for Arcadia.

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The UK economy expanded at its fastest pace on record in the third quarter, but output was still well below pre-pandemic levels and growth is threatened by the latest lockdown restrictions, the Financial Times reported. Britain’s gross domestic product increased 15.5 per cent in the three months to September compared with the previous three months, the quickest pace since records began in 1955, according to the Office for National Statistics. The rebound reflected the reopening of businesses, shops, restaurants and bars after the national lockdown.

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The trustees of British defined benefit - or final salary - pension schemes must be ready for possible employer distress or insolvency to protect their members as COVID-19 impacts the economy, the country’s pensions watchdog said on Thursday, Reuters reported. “Trustees are the first line of defence for savers,” Mike Birch, director of supervision at The Pensions Regulator said in a statement. “The faster they act, the more options and greater time they’ll have to protect members’ retirements.

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Britain's Informa Plc said on Wednesday it could become cash positive by January after completing its debt restructuring and refinancing, coupled with its cost cutting programme, as the group struggles with the coronavirus hit to the events industry, Reuters reported. The world’s largest exhibitions group had now cancelled a 750 million pound short-term credit facility and 1.1 billion pounds worth of U.S. Private Placement loan notes in the last move in a restructuring, refinancing and rescheduling of its debt that began earlier this year.

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