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Coronavirus curbs could force BA owner IAG to raise more cash

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coronavirus curbs could force ba owner iag to raise more cash

British Airways-owner IAG warned it could need to raise even more cash if there are prolonged, sweeping lockdowns after it posted a mammoth £5.6billion loss. 

The airlines group has already secured £2.5billion funding from shareholders and hundreds of millions of pounds from governments after the pandemic led to mass flight cancellations – which are still failing to recover. 

Suffering: IAG lost the equivalent of £900,000 an hour during the first nine months of the year

Suffering: IAG lost the equivalent of £900,000 an hour during the first nine months of the year

Suffering: IAG lost the equivalent of £900,000 an hour during the first nine months of the year

Yesterday IAG, which also owns Ireland’s Aer Lingus and Spain’s Iberia, admitted the Covid crisis could be even worse than its grimmest forecasts. 

If that was the case, the company would ‘likely need to secure additional funding’, it said. 

IAG lost the equivalent of £900,000 an hour during the first nine months of the year as it took a slew of one-off charges in addition to a revenue hit from fewer flights. Passenger numbers fell by 78.6 per cent between July and September, when many tried to squeeze in last-minute summer holidays. 

But IAG has warned that this winter it will only run about 30 per cent of the flights it operated last year. 

Chief executive Luis Gallego, who took over at the FTSE100-listed group last month, is overseeing a wide-ranging shake-up that includes shedding thousands of jobs – including up to 13,000 at BA. 

Yesterday Gallego said the company has already managed to slash costs by 54 per cent. 

This helped send shares up 5.9 per cent, or 5.36p, to 96.44p by the close. 

But Gallego pleaded with ministers to set up an airport coronavirus testing programme – warning that having ‘reliable and affordable’ tests would be the best way to help the business recover. 

He said ‘volatile government restrictions’, such as introducing last-minute quarantines on travellers returning from certain areas, was making it too difficult for passengers to book flights.     

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The exciting trends investors should think about backing now – and how to do it

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the exciting trends investors should think about backing now and how to do it

This is an introduction to a series of articles to be published in the following weeks and months that will investigate niche sectors and future-orientated themes as opportunities for investors – and the vehicles that allow access to them. 

Trying to predict the future is for some the very essence of investing.

Many thorough-minded investors will say it’s only a part, as they focus more on company fundamentals and economic realities in an effort to pick out the best stocks.

But others, for better or worse, invest on the basis of educated guesses about where the world and the economy is going. About which sectors and geographies will prosper and grow over the coming years.

Investing is intrinsically a future-looking game. And as the pace of technological and societal change gets ever more drastic, there’s lots of future-looking to be done.

Some of us are better than others at spotting trends that are here to stay: So is it best to leave it to the professional investors?

Some of us are better than others at spotting trends that are here to stay: So is it best to leave it to the professional investors?

Some of us are better than others at spotting trends that are here to stay: So is it best to leave it to the professional investors? 

The problem is, to paraphrase a famous saying, the future is another country – they do things differently there. Another canard dictates that you shouldn’t invest in what you don’t understand. 

Certainly, before leaping into specialist sectors it’s best to make sure you have a balanced portfoilio already that suits your risk outlook. Even for adventurous investors, speculative themes should not comprise the core of their portfolio. 

Jason Hollands, a director of wealth manager Tilney, says you may already have exposure to a particular theme without the need to invest in a niche fund.

‘For example, if you own a US tracker fund in your Isa or pension, over 27 per cent of this will be in technology stocks, so don’t feel you are missing out by known owning a technology-badged fund,’ he adds.

Exposure to specialist themes can ‘add spice to things’ but it tends to be risky and is best suited to adventurous investors.

‘Areas like robotics, artificial intelligence, renewable energy and biotechnology are exciting, but they are niche parts of the market and the greater the exposure you have to a particular – and narrow – theme, the more risk you are taking on,’ he says.

‘It is also the case that the investment industry is notoriously faddish. This can mean that investors get lured in by the hype or dazzled by past returns. You need to be confident that a particular theme is going to be relevant for the longer-term.’

He adds, however, that ‘sustainable investing is definitely here to stay’.

Adrian Lowcock, at Willis Owen, agrees that the landscape can rapidly change.

‘Investing in niche fields should be treated cautiously as it can be risky and it is not always clear where the leader will come from or which theme will be successful,’ he says. ‘For example clean energy has its fans, but it could be that an oil major with all their resources makes the best progress.’

James Norton at index funds provider Vanguard says that rather than trying to second guess which sectors are going to outperform, ‘you should instead focus on holding the broadest and most diversified portfolio possible’. 

‘The best chance of investment success comes via a portfolio that is diversified, balanced, and held for the long-term at a low cost.’  

'Here to stay': Renerable energiues are obviously a growth sector - but how do you invest??

'Here to stay': Renerable energiues are obviously a growth sector - but how do you invest??

‘Here to stay’: Renerable energiues are obviously a growth sector – but how do you invest?? 

Some DIY investors however, may decide that if you invest in everything, you end up with too many losers. If you think exciting growth sectors are just too good an opportunity to leave to the generalists, the decision then becomes how to include that bit of extra spice in the Isa.

Technological and innovative change is transforming not just the end-investment, but the medium or instrument we use to invest. The consideration of how to invest now takes up as much cogitation as what to invest in. 

While identifying growth areas and trends that are due to accelerate is not a sound basis to start ploughing cash into the shares of an individual firm, it is for many investors enough to back the sector. That’s where funds and investment trusts come in.  

But now we also have a bewildering array of vehicles and instruments to add to the mix, the most popular being passive funds like trackers and ETFs.

The choice of investment method you choose may depend on the sector that you are targeting. Can a tracker fund or ETF do what you want, or do you need a fund manager stock picking their way through investments that may not even feature on the stock market? 

Jason Hollands says that specialist sectors or themes, ‘naturally play to an active fund management approach, particularly in more nascent growth areas where companies tend to be at the smaller and younger end of the spectrum and are sometimes not included in market indices at all’.  

Going viral: Covid-19 has made the biotech sector a talking point - but how do investors avoid backing the losers?

Going viral: Covid-19 has made the biotech sector a talking point - but how do investors avoid backing the losers?

Going viral: Covid-19 has made the biotech sector a talking point – but how do investors avoid backing the losers?

‘These companies are less well researched and can also be less liquid and therefore spotting the winners and avoiding the landmines is key, which is the job of an active manager,’ he adds.

Those with faith in active managers and who are happy to pay the fees, will want a specialist fund that can do more than just ride a sectoral or geographical wave. They trust that it will add returns on top of their benchmark by identifying the better firms in the sector.

This has worked spectacularly for those who put money at any point before about May this year into the current poster boy for investment trusts, Scottish Mortgage.

There is also the hope that, as times change, the manager will adapt their thinking and restructure the vehicle to reflect them, so it won’t tank even if the mood turns against it. 

Tim Cockerill, investment director at Rowan Dartington says it’s worth bearing in mind that not all companies in a sector will be successful: ‘Often the fund manager will have experience of the sector, perhaps having worked in it, and so there is a level of understanding about the opportunity and risk that’s just not found in an ETF. ‘

But some investors just want a ‘pure play’ on a sector. Those with less faith in managers and less willingness to part with 1 per cent or more from their annual returns now have at their disposal a huge range of tracker funds and ETFs.

Are you sure you're making the right decision? Artifical intelligence has been in the public consciousness since HAL's appearance in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Butnow it's goiing mainstream, how do investors get on board.

Are you sure you're making the right decision? Artifical intelligence has been in the public consciousness since HAL's appearance in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Butnow it's goiing mainstream, how do investors get on board.

Are you sure you’re making the right decision? Artifical intelligence has been in the public consciousness since HAL’s appearance in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Butnow it’s goiing mainstream, how do investors get on board.

They can mirror every bit of the zeitgeist, every sector and sub-sector, from battery technology to cyber-security to ageing populations, by following an ever greater and more esoteric range of global indices. 

Being more agile and easily established these instruments tend get there first, offering exposure to themes before funds and investment trusts can.

Ben Seager-Scott at Tilney says that thematic investing using ETFs is considerably more viable now that a few years ago: ‘primarily because the index providers have become considerably more sophisticated in how these indices work’.

‘[They] are constructed with a much deeper view, analysing financial statements to identify firms that having key driving themes, and sometimes using expert advisory panels to determine whether a company fits the theme (which starts to blur the line between active and passive),’ he adds.

‘The result is the launch of products that are much purer plays on particular themes, and tend to capture a basket of companies rather than trying to pick winners within a theme (as active funds do) – arguably using an index approach is a better representation of a theme.’

Two other advantages of taking the passive approach are that they are usually considerably cheaper than active funds, and they can be much more targeted, allowing investors to be very specific in the themes they are looking to benefit from. 

Active funds tend to have a broader remit. With nascent sectors there just aren’t enough companies for the big investment house to get involved. 

Sam Slator says that if an active fund or investment trust doesn’t exist, ‘perhaps ask yourself why it doesn’t exist – are there simply not enough investment opportunities in that area to make it worthwhile?’ 

Ben Seager-Scott admits the possible pitfalls of small investors’ intellectual curiosity getting the better of them: ‘This can be a potential risk if investors get drawn into a so-called “narrative fallacy” that can forget the base investment case and investors should always be aware of risks such as the potential constraints on diversification, and the challenges of winner-takes-all markets.’

Christopher Gannatti, Head of Research at ETF provider WisdomTree, says that when building thematic ETFs, ‘there is no substitute to expert knowledge and judgement of these highly specific spaces’. 

‘Many providers turn to rules-based algorithms to build their indices by scanning through thousands of patent filings and pages of market data. But partnership with subject matter experts results in a more differentiated strategy than those using algorithm-based stock selection.’  

Even if the technicalities of the end-investment are beyond you (and lets face it, for most investors in the case of most funds this is true), you should know what index it tracks, and how the passive fund is structured.

Jason Hollands observes that when investing in index funds, ‘you will be exposed to the very largest stocks and where a theme is currently in fashion’.

‘This can result in you being heavily exposed to those companies whose valuations have already ballooned into very expensive territory,’ he adds. 

To pick through these issues I’m embarking on a series of articles about growth sectors, future technologies and niche themes that readers might want to back – and how they can do so, even if it is just a small part of their portfolio. 

The first and most obvious area of interest – subject as it is to fresh policy drives by both the UK and US administrations – is green (or clean, or renewable) energy and indusrial and technology sub-sectors with an environmental focus. 

The universe of investment products in this area has grown rapidly and it will be too much to cover in single piece: so I’ll be writing one on open-ended funds (to be published tomorrow), the second on investment trusts and the last on passives – tracker funds and ETFs. 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Northern regions battle to host new National Infrastructure Bank

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northern regions battle to host new national infrastructure bank

The race is on across the north of England as leaders compete for their regions to become the seat of two economic hubs.

Rishi Sunak yesterday unveiled plans to set up a National Infrastructure Bank that will be based in the North.

The move comes on top of the Chancellor’s proposal to build a Treasury output in the region. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday unveiled plans to set up a National Infrastructure Bank that will be based in the north

Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday unveiled plans to set up a National Infrastructure Bank that will be based in the north

Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday unveiled plans to set up a National Infrastructure Bank that will be based in the north

Northern leaders are now pushing the case for their areas to host the two hubs, with the North East and North West thought to be pushing particularly hard.

The infrastructure bank will fund projects that promise to help the UK reach its ‘net zero’ carbon targets by 2050 and its ‘levelling up’ agenda.

The plans were outlined as part of Sunak’s wider spending review, which laid out how the Government aims to repair the UK economy in the wake of the Covid crisis.

The bank will be up and running by next spring but Sunak did not say where it would be based or how much money it will have.

Conservative MP Jake Berry, former Northern Powerhouse minister and head of the Northern Research Group of MPs, said: ‘There’s likely going to be a lot of stiff competition from regions and leaders.

‘What’s important is that it’s being placed in the North, which shows a commitment by this Government to the region and the levelling up agenda – and a move away from Government jobs and departments focused almost entirely on London.

‘It is also good news when you consider the recent announcement that 22,000, well-paid civil service jobs will be moving out of London and the South East.’

The Chancellor has also promised to build a Treasury outpost in the North.

Designs for the ‘economic campus’ are thought to have been submitted for buildings in areas including Darlington and around Teesside, but a final location has not been confirmed. The plans are some of the firmest commitments yet that the Government will shift power out of London.

Pressing his case: Middlesbrough mayor  Andy Preston

Pressing his case: Middlesbrough mayor  Andy Preston

Pressing his case: Middlesbrough mayor  Andy Preston

Ministers have also promised to put £4billion towards a fund, which could back local projects in all regions.

While the competition to attract the bank and Treasury outpost will be fierce among MPs, mayors and councils, the race could also create friction if ministers opt to place them in major cities.

Ben Houchen, Conservative mayor for Tees Valley, which is a major hub for heavy industries, said: ‘It’s important that the Government takes the bold decision to base the bank outside of a northern city.

‘Having officials from the bank based outside one of our metropolitan centres will give them a new mindset and allow them to understand the whole country so much better and the different challenges our towns and villages face – which would not happen if the bank was set up in a city like Newcastle, Leeds or Manchester.’

Andy Preston, the independent mayor of Middlesbrough, said: ‘Levelling up is decades overdue so it is fantastic to finally see it being tackled. 

‘Middlesbrough has suffered more than anywhere from political neglect and incompetence. We deserve to host this new bank. 

‘The Government should invest in Middlesbrough now and I guarantee them a huge and positive return.’

Under Sunak’s plans, an additional £27billion will be spent next year on infrastructure such as roads, cycle paths, railway lines and power stations, in many areas tying in with the green strategy Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last week.

The push is part of plans to plough £100billion into areas such as schools, hospitals and banks in total next year, and £600billion over the next five years. 

The Government, in rebounding from Covid, wants the UK to ‘build back better’ by improving motorways, laying better internet cables and building more wind farms.

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Taxpayer faces £40bn bill as cost of emergency loan schemes soar

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taxpayer faces 40bn bill as cost of emergency loan schemes soar

The taxpayer could be saddled with a £40billion bill as thousands of loans handed out under emergency government schemes turn sour.

The Treasury watchdog confirmed that losses under the Bounce Back loan scheme, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and the larger CLBILS will be greater than feared.

In the worst-case scenario, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) thinks the taxpayer could end up covering £40billion that companies fail to repay.

Loans burden: Treasury watchdog the Office for Budget Responsibility  has confirmed that losses under emergency business loan schemes will be far greater than first feared

Loans burden: Treasury watchdog the Office for Budget Responsibility  has confirmed that losses under emergency business loan schemes will be far greater than first feared

Loans burden: Treasury watchdog the Office for Budget Responsibility  has confirmed that losses under emergency business loan schemes will be far greater than first feared

This is much worse than the £33.7billion of losses the watchdog predicted as possible in July. 

Even under the OBR’s more moderate base-case scenario, losses will hit £29.5billion – £12.6billion more than was predicted. 

It comes as banking industry bosses warn that billions of pounds of Government money is being lost to fraudsters.

Virgin Money chief executive David Duffy said yesterday that his bank had decided to only hand out Bounce Back loans to existing customers in order to reduce fraud.

He added: ‘There is an environment out there where we know there’s been a lot of fraud, and what we’ve been very happy to do is lend to those customers who we have a relationship with and know.’

The Bounce Back loans, aimed at businesses with turnover of up to £200,000, involve banks carrying out few checks but come with a 100 per cent government guarantee.

The scheme has so far lent £42.2billion to 1.4m small companies. 

The Treasury was warned multiple times about the risk of fraud, but pushed ahead because it worried businesses were going to the wall during lockdown and desperately needed the cash.

Part of the reason that losses under the three emergency loan schemes are now expected to be higher is because the British Business Bank (BBB), which is administering the schemes, expects more businesses to go bust. 

The government-backed BBB estimates that a staggering 5 per cent to 20 per cent of the large businesses who have borrowed under CLBILS could default on their debt.

Less surprisingly, it thinks 10 per cent to 25 per cent of smaller CBILS borrowers and 35 per cent to 60 per cent of Bounce Back borrowers will become unable to pay back their debt. 

The Government has agreed to cover 80 per cent of any losses which lenders suffer under the CBILS and CLBILS schemes and 100 per cent of losses under the Bounce Back scheme.

The other reason why losses are higher is because the schemes have been extended.

When Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a second lockdown for England at the start of this month, Chancellor Rishi Sunak pushed back the deadline for applications under the three loan programmes from the end of November to the end of January, to help businesses stay afloat.

The OBR now thinks total borrowing under the three schemes could hit £87billion by the time they close, up from the £65.5bn which had been lent on November 15.

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