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The Covid-19 pandemic is continuing to cause major disruption to the UK’s economy and businesses. Our aim during this time is to support our clients and contacts by sharing relevant updates, together with our insights into how the real estate industry will be impacted.

Follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn for regular updates and please get in touch if you would like to discuss anything with our team. We’re here to support you on any PR, business strategy or corporate communications needs you may have.

Best wishes,

Andrew Teacher and the Blackstock Consulting Team

 


WEEKEND BRIEFING FRIDAY, JUNE 5th, 2020

UK Government Response Updates

A household survey conducted by the Office of National Statistics has suggested that the number of new coronavirus cases daily has fallen to around 5,600. Last week the figure stood at 8,000 new cases estimated a day.

Financial Markets

Today’s new US jobs report defied all expectations, with unemployment falling to 13.3 percent from 14.7 percent. The number of people on payroll increased by 2.5 million as people started to be rehired or return to work after pandemic-induced layoffs.

Economists had expected the unemployment rate, which stood at 14.7 percent in April, to rise further, and perhaps even inch up towards 20 percent. Not one economist surveyed by Bloomberg predicted a fall in unemployment, or an increase in the number of people on payroll. Economics is an inexact science.

Stocks were buoyant after the news broke, with the S&P 500 jumping 2 percent on opening. US treasury bonds also boasted their highest yields since March.

As of 16:00, the FTSE 100 was up by over 2 percent, with the index on track to see more than five percent growth across the entire week. However, as usual there is a gulf between the stock markets and the real economy. Brits are holding onto their cash and not spending.

Household spending was down 18.5 percent this week compared to the same week in 2019.

According to the latest flash survey, taken between 20 May and 26 May by GfK, the market research company, consumer confidence has deteriorated, dropping two points to a level of minus 36 — the lowest it has been since the pandemic started.

And your regular reminder that the UK is still on course for a no-deal by the end of the year. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said on Friday that there had been “no significant progress” in Brexit negotiations. Boris Johnson is set to meet EU Commission President Ursusla von der Leyen later this month to attempt to break the deadlock.

Housing Market

UK house prices fell by 0.2 percent in May, according to the Halifax house price index. The fall was lower than the 0.6 percent seen in April, and the 1.7 percent recorded by rival Nationwide.

Russell Galley, managing director at Halifax, said: “We expect market activity to increase progressively as restrictions are eased further. However, the extent of downward pressure on market confidence and prices over the coming months will depend on how quickly the economy is able to recover.”

The Telegraph has called on the government to cut stamp duty across the board in order to get the housing market moving again.

Home air filtration is becoming the latest trend for luxury property, as the richest homeowners look to escape the increasingly polluted air of the inner cities, and filter any airborne viruses out.

Retail

US clothing retailer Gap has reported a quarterly loss of $932 million after closing the majority of its stores and Victoria Secret has fallen into administration, putting 800 jobs at risk.

Revolution Bars is preparing to tap investors for £15 million to slash debt, with an open offer at 20p per new ordinary share.

Many retailers have survived the storm by diversifying their offering and adapting to the change, from pubs setting up grocery sales to clothing brands producing PPE for frontline workers. In France, winemakers have adapted by turning their unused stock into hand gel. Government agency, FranceAgriMer, said that 33 distilleries have been authorised to collect 2 million hectolitres of unsold wine to transform it into ethanol or hydro-alcoholic gel.

The pace of shoppers shifting online has continued to accelerate during lockdown with like-for-like online sales jumping by 129.5 percent in May according to accountancy firm BDO. That’s the biggest spike in internet shoppers since records began.

Offices

Flexible serviced office provider Workspace received around 70 percent of rent payments due in the first quarter, despite the impacts of coronavirus.

New research from Bidwells has revealed that the Oxford-Cambridge Arc will need up to 20 million sq ft of new office and lab space to accommodate the next 20 years of economic growth. The region currently has 76 million sq ft of lab and office space.

Bidwells also predicts that the arc would represent almost 11 percent of UK GVA by 2050, up from 6 percent today, equivalent to £100 billion a year.

“There is huge potential to be captured in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc,” said Sue Foxley, director at Bidwells. “Leveraged private investment will be essential for the growth of the region and its economy, but a strategic approach from government is needed to give investors the confidence to invest locally.”

Planning

Following the controversy over housing and communities secretary Robert Jenrick’s Westferry Printworks site approval in East London, planning lawyers and local authority bodies told Planning that changes are needed around ministerial decision-making.

“If there is something nasty lurking in the disclosures [the emails requested by the claimants in the court case], then the department will need to have a complete overhaul of the decision-making process. They could ask ministers to declare all lobbying. It could be something that is added to the list of things referred to in decision letters,” said Nicola Gooch, a planning partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell.

Even a deadly virus cannot hold the British urge to become a NIMBY back. Following the government’s decision to hold meetings virtually during the pandemic (and keep everyone safe), furious residents in Milton Keynes have demanded their right to show their feelings over contentious issues by attending council meetings.

“Meetings held virtually in no way make up for the democratic deficit incurred by the unfortunate situation we currently find ourselves,” said a submission to a recent meeting of the council’s development control committee.

Logistics

Data from Savills has revealed that Amazon accounts for almost a quarter of the total industrial take-up in the UK so far this year.

British Airways is considering legal action over what it called “irrational and disproportionate” quarantine rules due to be implemented next week to try to control the spread of Covid-19. Airlines and travel firms have said quarantine measures on incoming travellers would destroy any chances of their industry having an early recovery.

The Financial Times has published the third part of its ‘Coronavirus and Logistics’ series, examining how the Covid-19 crisis is testing supply chains and re-engineering the distribution of goods.

In the car-making industry, Jaguar Land Rover has borrowed 5 billion yuan (£560 million) from five Chinese banks and Bentley has confirmed plans to cut up to 1,000 jobs in the UK. 

Construction

Taylor Wimpey has reported a 40 percent fall in sales so far in 2020 compared to last year. However, the housebuilder has returned all of its staff from furlough, and reported that demand is surging, with a 32 percent increase in web traffic compared to the same period in 2019.

The government’s reserve charge VAT plan has been delayed by a further five months, with it now set to come into force in March.

Blackstock’s Snap Analysis: Zoom Overtakes REITs

Video chat app worth more than top listed real estate firms combined

Pressure on property values driven largely by the crisis in retail has driven down asset values. Zoom, one of the unlikely star-performers of the stock market in recent months, has recently been worth more than the combined valuation of the 25 major REITS.

Zoom, worth $62 billion on 3 June, was then valued nearly $3 billion higher than those property companies.

Most sane people would question whether Zoom could be worth anywhere near that. Like plastic bags, it’s more of a necessary evil than anything else right now, what with its unrelenting ability to freeze just as you scratch your noise or yawn midway through that crucial client meeting. Indeed Zoom’s value today was already down, at around $56 billion.

Confidence in real estate will return, as evidenced by the fact that companies focused on warehousing are generally performing well. Demand for logistics space has increased during the pandemic.

Segro, which celebrates its centenary this year, has seen its share price increase from its nadir of 659 pence on 1 April to nearly 893 pence today.

And, as some of the massive recent investments made into Shaftesbury and British Land would suggest, there is value to be had elsewhere in property

However, we’re unlikely to see the longer term trajectory unfold until the next quarter rent day is passed and until the full fallout on unemployment reveals its face. Will there always be demand for Covent Garden? Yes, absolutely.

As ever, the winners from this new cycle will be those who are prepared to get creative. Do come and speak to Blackstock Consulting if your current advisors are just pulling you through the motions and sending you a big retainer invoice for doing very little.

REITMarket cap (£ million)
Safestore1,479
Primary Health Properties1,861
Big Yellow1,803
Londonmetric Property1,986
SEGRO9,687
Unite3,375
LXI638
TRITAX Big Box2,465
GCP Student Living635
Derwent London3,502
Helical468
Great Portland Estates1,714
St. Modwen796
Workspace1,396
Shaftesbury2,002
CLS846
Harworth305
Capital & Counties1,521
Land Securities4,846
British Land4,059
RDI299
Town Centre Securities62
Newriver242
Hammerson875
INTU134
REITS Aggregate market cap converted (£m)46,996
REITS Aggregate market cap converted ($m)58,792
Zoom Video Conferencing market cap ($ m) 3 June61,660

Source: Refinitiv data, AJ Bell

Further Reading

If you’re thinking of escaping the city and moving to a world of countryside walks, village cricket, and remote working, the Times has everything you need to know about moving to the Cotswolds.

The Royal Opera House has announced a series of shows, it’s first since the lockdown began. A range of live opera and ballet will be streamed on Facebook and Youtube from the 13th of June.

If you’ve always dreamed of being as funny and entertaining as your favorite daily news roundup email, the Financial Times has the complete guide of how to be funny online.

And finally, Piers Morgan has had a tremendously funny row with Rudy Giuliani on Good Morning Britain. While once both men dreamed of being the hand of the king to President Trump, Morgan has now turned his back on the former reality TV star and real estate mogul. Giuliani, ironically for a man who made his name breaking the bonds of Omerta among hundreds of American mafiosi, is sticking by the President. We won’t spoil it for you. Just watch it.

Charity Appeals

See Me Now – Do Some Good, a portal set up by professionals from SAY Consulting, deverellsmith, and Greystar to pool real estate support during the COVID-19 crisis, is dedicating this month to support Pride.

It has launched a new initiative with akt, a charity which supports LGBTQ+ young people aged 16-25 in the UK who are facing or experiencing homelessness or living in a hostile environment.

Since the start of the pandemic, akt has seen a spike in cases due to young people being confined to a space and inadvertently, or forcibly, being outed to families and guardians who disapprove of an individual’s sexuality: this has left a significant number of young people helpless and with nowhere to go, with families threatening and enacting verbal and physical violence.

Do Some Good wants to mobilise the property sector to help. They have three goals: fundraising for resources and supplies, raising awareness for the visibility of LGBTQ+ professionals in property, and providing safe housing to those in need.

You can donate to the campaign here, and please do get in touch if you can support in any other way.

Stonewall Housing – Founded in 1983, Stonewall Housing was the first nonprofit to receive funding from the UK government specifically to provide LGBT+ specialist housing support. Since then, they have helped tens of thousands of LGBT+ people to find safe and secure homes. Their six supported housing schemes, all in London, provide safe space for those who are made homeless specifically because of their sexual or gender identity.

Unfortunately, government funding is not enough to cover the incredible need for the essential services they provide. Each year they are required to raise £164,000 to keep their programs running, and Pride is the time of year when they receive the most interest and financial support from a range of individual and corporate donors who want to show their support for the LGBT+ community. So the cancellation of Pride events, while very necessary due to Covid-19, represents a huge blow to their fundraising needs.

You can make a donation to their GoFundMe campaign. Its target is £11,500, which will go towards filling the critical fundraising gap from the cancellation of London Pride events.

If there are other charities, you would like to see featured in this newsletter. Please do get in touch at analysis@blackstock.co.uk.