‘Eat out to help out,’ finance chief tells UK

The UK’s Casual Dining Group, owner of Bella Italia and other food franchises, is to cut more than 1,900 jobs and close 91 restaurants following the lockdown. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 05 July 2020

‘Eat out to help out,’ finance chief tells UK

  • Minister’s plea as England reopens hospitality sector after three-month lockdown

LONDON: Britain’s finance minister urged people on Saturday to “eat out to help out” as the UK attempts to claw its way back from a historic economic decline sparked by the coronavirus crisis.

The comments by Chancellor Rishi Sunak were published on the day England finally reopened its hospitality sector after more than three months of lockdown.

Britain’s shutdown has been one of Europe’s longest because of an official toll — 44,131 — that only trails those of the US and Brazil.

Sunak said the closures have been especially painful for Britain because consumption makes up about two-third of its gross domestic product. “That’s more than most of our peers,” he told The Times newspaper.

“So we have a situation like this, with social distancing we’re obviously going to be particularly impacted by that.”

Sunak said he “worried about a generation that is scarred by coronavirus” — especially younger people who see the hospitality sector as their way into the job market.

“For me this is really about social justice,” he said.

“People act responsibly, but ultimately if we eat out to help out we can protect those jobs. It’s not abstract.”

The true scale of Britain’s unemployment problem will only be revealed once the government starts winding down its jobs furlough scheme in August.

The state currently supports 80 percent of most people’s wages. But jobless claims still surged 126 percent to 2.8 million in the three months to May.

Sunak will make an economic statement to parliament next week that will be watched closely for signs of how much support the government intends to give businesses in the future.

The government is running up debts, but interests rates are low and borrowing costs remain at a historic low.

The Bank of England’s chief economist Andy Haldane created waves this week by predicting a “V-shaped” recovery that will see old levels of performance return soon.

However, Sunak was less certain of a rapid economic rebound.

“We all want Andy to be right,” he said.

“But we have got to be realistic as well. You can’t shut down your economy in the way that we have for this many months without there being hardship as a result.”


Aramco profits fall in tough quarter, but sees partial recovery from COVID-19 impact

Updated 09 August 2020

Aramco profits fall in tough quarter, but sees partial recovery from COVID-19 impact

  • Aramco see’s “partial recovery” from pandemic impact
  • Aramco president says company remains resilient

DUBAI: Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, reported a net income of $6.57bn for the second quarter of 2020, the period which witnessed the most volatile oil market conditions for many decades.

The result, announced to the Tadawul stock exchange in Riyadh where the shares are listed, compared with income of $24.7 bn last year.

Amin Nasser, president and chief executive, said: “Despite COVID-19 bringing the world to a standstill, Aramco kept going. We have proven our financial resilience and operational reliability, setting a record in our business operations, while at the same time taking steps to ensure the health and safety of our people.”

Aramco’s dividend - a big attraction for the investors who bought into the world’s biggest initial public offering last year - will remain as pledged, Nasser added. Cash flow in the quarter amounted to $6.106 bn.

““Strong headwinds from reduced demand and lower oil prices are reflected in our second quarter results. Yet we delivered solid earnings because of our low production costs, unique scale, agile workforce, and unrivalled financial and operational strength. This helped us deliver on our plan to maintain a second quarter dividend of $18.75 billion to be paid in the third quarter,” he said.

Aramco said the loss was “mainly reflecting the impact of lower crude oil prices and declining refining and chemicals margins, partly offset by a decrease in production royalties resulting from lower crude oil prices and a decrease in the royalty rate from 20 per cent to 15 per cent, lower income taxes and zakat as a result of lower earnings, and higher other income related to sales for gas products.”

Sales and revenue in the period - which saw oil prices collapse on “Black Monday” in April - fell 57 per cent to $32.861 bn from the comparable period last year. 

Nasser said he was cautiously optimistic that the world economy was slowly recovering from the depths of the pandemic lockdowns.

“We are seeing a partial recovery in the energy market as countries around the world take steps to ease restrictions and reboot their economies. Meanwhile, we continue to place people’s safety first and have adapted to the new normal, implementing wide-ranging precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19 wherever we operate.

“We are determined to emerge from the pandemic stronger and will continue making progress on our long-term strategic journey, through ongoing investments in our business – which has one of the lowest upstream carbon footprints in the world,” he added.

Aramco expects capital expenditure to be at the lower end of the $25bn to $30bn range it has already indicated for this year.