Coronavirus latest: India records first fatality as Australia cancels Formula 1 grand prix

Coronavirus latest: India records first fatality as Australia cancels Formula 1 grand prix

Thomas Hale 3/13/2020, 3:54:59 AM

Chinese bankers working from home turn to digital roadshows

Primrose Riordan reports from Hong Kong

Requirements for Chinese bankers to work from home have created opportunities for companies involved in digital debt and equity deals, at a time when many of the country’s firms are trying to refinance their debt.

Netroadshow, a company which facilitates digital IPO roadshows and bond deals says it has seen a rise in business from Beijing’s banks.

Will Akers, the Asia Pacific senior vice president at NetRoadshow, said the company has seen a 50 per cent rise in revenue in the region for the first two months of the year compared to last year.

“The Chinese banks pride themselves in face to face … relationship[s] they develop with their investors and for the longest time have done everything face to face,” Mr Akers said. “[The virus] is driving them toward us to find ways to keep the deal conversation moving.”

He said the increase in business was also because of debt deals for Chinese real estate firms. “We consistently see steady flow on the primary markets because of the need to refinance, a lot of companies have their debt coming due this year,” he added.

George Russell 3/13/2020, 3:31:07 AM

India announces first coronavirus fatality

Amy Kazmin reports from New Delhi

India has reported its first death of a coronavirus patient, a 76-year-old man with a history of asthma and hypertension.

India’s health ministry said that the man had been in Saudi Arabia for a month, before returning on February 29, and began to show symptoms of a cough and fever around March 6.

In the first hospital he visited in the southern city of Kalaburagi on March 9, he was identified as a suspected Covid-19 case, and promptly tested. But his family refused to wait for the test results.

Defying doctors’ advice and local government officials instructions to report to a special coronavirus isolation ward, the patient’s family took him hundreds of kilometres away to a bigger private hospital in the city of Hyderabad, health officials said.

A day later, the family tried to return to Kalaburagi, a city of 500,000 people also known as Gulbarga, but the patient died en route. He was later confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus.

India has had 74 confirmed Covid-19 cases so far, including 16 Italian tourists. Of the total known cases in India, three have fully recovered.

Thomas Hale 3/13/2020, 3:20:01 AM

Asian markets extend losses as Chinese stocks fall

China’s stock markets plummeted on Friday morning trading and US futures pointed to even deeper losses following the largest one-day rout on Wall Street since 1987.

China’s CSI 300 index of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed stocks dropped 4.6 per cent while the Hang Seng shed 6.7 per cent in the Hong Kong index’s biggest single-day fall since the financial crisis.

Earlier, Japan’s Topix had plunged over 9.2 per cent shortly after opening on Friday, dragging the benchmark down almost 30 per cent for the year. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was down 7.5 per cent.

Overnight US stocks fell almost 10 per cent after US President Donald Trump banned Europeans travelling to the US in an attempt to halt the spread of Covid-19. Markets in Europe suffered similarly steep falls.

Read the full story here from the FT’s Hudson Lockett and Leo Lewis

Alice Woodhouse 3/13/2020, 2:44:47 AM

South Korean stocks slump to lowest level since 2016

Edward White reports from Seoul

South Korean stocks plunged to a four-year low at the opening of trade in Seoul on Friday, following the worst day on Wall Street since the 1987 crash.

Equity trading was briefly halted and the Kospi 200 index dropped 8 per cent to its lowest level since 2016.

The South Korean government last month pledged an extra $10bn to boost an already record stimulus in response to the virus.

On Friday the Bank of Korea confirmed it was considering holding an emergency meeting.

The central bank last month held the country’s main lending rate at a record low of 1.25 per cent, bucking market expectations for an ease to help the economy survive amid slumping demand and export disruptions caused by the virus.

Tai Hui, a strategist with JPMorgan Asset Management, commenting on the broader sell-off, said that governments are not keeping pace with the nature of the coronavirus outbreak.

“While investors are looking for immediate remedies from governments and central banks, the virus spread has far outpaced the typical reaction time by governments in devising new policies to deal with a largely unprecedented economic and social event,” he said.

Thomas Hale 3/13/2020, 2:35:39 AM

Australian travel agency group to close 100 stores

Jamie Smyth reports from Sydney

Flight Centre, one of Australia’s biggest travel agencies, said on Friday it would close 100 stores nationwide and scrapped its earnings guidance issued less than two weeks ago due to the crisis.

“While people are still booking travel – in February, our [total transaction value] actually increased slightly globally compared to the same month last year – we are now seeing significant softening and expect this to continue into April at least,” said Graham Turner, Flight Centre chief executive.

George Russell 3/13/2020, 2:19:30 AM

Justin Trudeau’s wife tests positive for coronavirus

Hannah Murphy reports from San Francisco

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, the wife of Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, has tested positive for coronavirus.

Mr Trudeau will self-isolate for the next 14 days as a result, though he will not be tested, his office announced.

Ms Grégoire has “mild” symptoms but will remain in isolation, according to a statement shared on Twitter by his communications director Cameron Ahmad.

Mr Trudeau, who is exhibiting no symptoms, will not be tested, the statement said.

“The prime minister is in good health with no symptoms,” it read. “Also on the advice of doctors, he will not be tested at this stage since he has no symptoms. For the same reason, doctors say there is no risk to those who have been in contact with him recently.”

Thomas Hale 3/13/2020, 1:59:20 AM

Thai airline and airport bosses resign after virus outbreak

John Reed reports from Bangkok

The bosses of Thai Airways International and Bangkok’s main airport, both hit hard by the coronavirus, have resigned.

Thailand’s ailing national airline announced Sumeth Damrongchaitham’s resignation late on Thursday in a letter to the Stock Exchange of Thailand that gave no reason for his departure.

Separately, Sutheerawat Suwannawat, director of Suvarnabhumi airport, Thailand’s biggest by passenger numbers, stepped down.

Thai Airways reported a Bt12.2bn ($385m) loss in 2019, wider than the Bt11.6bn loss it reported in 2018. Mr Sumeth had been trying to turn around the chronically loss-making carrier since taking over in October 2018. Executives at the airline agreed last month to take salary cuts of 15-25 per cent for a six-month period in an effort to cut costs.

The Covid-19 outbreak has caused a collapse in arrivals at Suvarnabhumi and Thailand’s other main airports. Visitor numbers are down by about two-thirds on the same period in 2019.

Alice Woodhouse 3/13/2020, 1:51:29 AM

New coronavirus cases in South Korea fall to 3-week low

Edward White reports from Seoul

New confirmed coronavirus cases in South Korea fell to their lowest level in almost three weeks on Friday, in the latest signal that the country’s mass testing and social distancing programme has helped contain one of the world’s worst outbreaks.

Health officials reported 110 new cases, the lowest since 74 cases were reported on February 21, and down from a peak of 909 cases reported on February 29, according to data from the Korea Centers for Disease Control. The total number of cases number is now 7,979.

The latest numbers also marked the first time that the daily tally of cured patients outpaced new infections, the KCDC said.

Sixty seven people have died from the virus in the country, reflecting a mortality rate of below 1 per cent.

Alice Woodhouse 3/13/2020, 12:55:51 AM

Australia cancels Formula One Grand Prix

Jamie Smyth reports from Sydney

The first Formula One grand prix of the 2020 season in Melbourne has been called off following a positive test for coronavirus for a member of the McLaren racing team.

The decision marks a blow to race organisers and the sport’s owners, Liberty Media, which had considered allowing the race to go ahead without spectators but were eventually forced to cancel the race on advice from Australian health authorities.

The decision to cancel the race was made as thousands of spectators queued up to watch the opening day of practice in Melbourne and medical organisations stepped up their criticism of the government for not cancelling mass sporting events in Australia.

The delay in cancelling the event attracted strong criticism from Lewis Hamilton, the reigning world champion, who said he found it “shocking” that the race was being staged amid a coronavirus pandemic.

“I am really very, very surprised that we are here…It seems like the rest of the world is reacting … Formula One continues to go on – it’s definitely concerning for me,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.

When asked why F1 was continuing, Mr Hamilton said: “Cash is king.”

There is considerable uncertainty about the rest of the F1 season with doubts remaining over whether the Bahrain grand prix will go ahead on March 22, and with the Chinese grand prix on April 22 already postponed.

Alice Woodhouse 3/13/2020, 12:52:27 AM

Lindsey Graham to self-quarantine as he awaits test results

Katrina Manson reports from Washington

Lindsey Graham, Republican senator and Trump confidant, is putting himself into quarantine pending results of a coronavirus test.

“Senator Graham was at Mar-a-Lago last weekend. He has no recollection of direct contact with the president of Brazil, who is awaiting results of a coronavirus test, or his spokesman who tested positive”, his office said in a statement.

The senator is going into self-quarantine on the advice of his doctor, the statement said.

Alice Woodhouse 3/13/2020, 12:50:44 AM

Portugal orders school and university closures

Peter Wise reports from Lisbon

Portugal’s prime minister has ordered the closure of all the country’s schools, universities and other educational establishments from Monday until at least April 9, when the decision will be reviewed.

In a televised address to the nation on Thursday night, António Costa also said that no passengers would be allowed to leave cruise ships docking at Portuguese ports, except for residents of Portugal.

The government also decreed limitations on the number of people allowed to enter shopping malls and restaurants, as well as the closure of nightclubs.

A total of 78 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Portugal, health authorities said earlier on Thursday, an increase of 19 within 24 hours.

Portugal’s hoteliers association, the AHP, said the country’s hotels could lose up to 50 per cent of their revenues between March and June because of the pandemic.

Municipal authorities have already closed museums, monuments and other tourist attractions across the country and are considering barring access to several popular beaches near Lisbon.

Portugal is one of Europe’s most tourism-dependent economies with the industry accounting for close to 15 per cent of gross domestic product.

George Russell 3/13/2020, 12:43:44 AM

Asia stocks fall after Wall Street’s worst day in three decades

Alice Woodhouse reports from Hong Kong

Asia-Pacific equities tumbled on Friday after US stocks fell almost 10 per cent in their worst day since the 1987 crash.

The moves came after Donald Trump banned travellers from Europe earlier in the week and steps taken by central banks to limit the economic impact from coronavirus failed to soothe nerves.

Japan’s Topix was down 6.3 per cent in early trading while South Korea’s Kospi tumbled 6.4 per cent. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 shed 7 per cent.

The S&P 500 ended the day down 9.5 per cent, while London’s FTSE 100 shed 11 per cent. The former is now down 26.7 per cent from its high less than a month ago. S&P 500 futures were down 0.7 per cent on Friday morning in Asia.

The European Central Bank left interest rates on hold at its meeting on Thursday, in contrast to rate cuts by both the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England. The Fed promised to inject trillions of dollars into the short-term funding markets after the US government bond market came under severe strain.

“Markets were spooked by Trump’s Europe travel ban but still no sign of a meaningful fiscal package, and the ECB’s response also underwhelmed,” ANZ analysts said. “Growth expectations and earnings expectations are being revised down sharply and uncertainty over the duration of the slump is extending.”

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