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Bentley will stop car production at its British factory from the end of Friday for four weeks over the coronavirus outbreak, one of the final automakers in Britain to announce such plans.

Parent company Volkswagen said on Tuesday it would be ceasing output at plants across Europe as the pandemic hits sales and disrupts supply chains, but Bentley’s northern English site in Crewe has continued operations so far.

The luxury brand, which makes around 11,000 vehicles each year and employs roughly 4,500 people, said the move was to protect the health of its workforce and due to accelerating constraints on activity and declining demand in some markets.

The factory should reopen on April 20, the firm’s boss Adrian Hallmark told Reuters, just as the firm had returned to profitability last year after a difficult 2018.

“We were all set up for a gangbusters 2020, the first two months of the year have been very strong … and then the coronavirus hits us,” he said.

“Any ideas of glory and big profits that we had have been tempered significantly but having said that, we really don’t know how it’s going to play out.”

The brand said it expected to see a reduction in sales in every market where the coronavirus is taking hold, and in China demand was down 50% against expectations last month but in March was returning to the expected level.

The British government has asked manufacturers if they could help with the design and production of ventilators.

“It’s been a very high level question… and the question was: we’ve got 1,000 engineers – could we dedicate a number of them with requisite skills and experience to be able to help to do some of the development work and industrial engineering…?” said Hallmark.

He likened the effort to the use of Bentley’s factory to Britain’s World War Two effort by building engines for its fighter planes.

“I like to remember that in just two years, the Spitfire engine… went from 1,500 to 2,700 horsepower,” he said.

“When needs must, we can perform and I’m sure the same would be true for ventilators … if we were given the right brief and opportunity to do so.”

A glut of unsold, high quality Nigerian crude continues to build up with weak global demand caused by coronavirus and surplus supplies by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Russia and other OPEC nations.

Nigeria, which produces some of the easiest-to-refine crude that typically commands a premium, has 30 or more unsold April-loading cargoes, traders say, equal to 30 million barrels or 30 percent of daily world demand.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) last week put the number as high as 50.

Globally, the oil market has lost around half its value this month as the coronavirus has led to a collapse its demand.

At the same time, supply is growing as major producers are pumping flat out to gain market share after Moscow refused to back deeper production cuts at a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its OPEC+ allies.

Demand has dropped as nations take unprecedented measures to limit the spread of the virus, cutting fuel demand. A lack of options for storage, as well as rising freight costs have also deterred buyers.

“It’s a very large overhang,” said a trader of Nigerian crude, who asked not to be named.

“It can be the best price and margin in the world, but there is no storage for crude and product as demand collapses and shipping cost is going through the roof.”

One trader expected differentials to go lower. Nigeria’s largest crude stream, Qua Iboe, valued at a premium of $3.00 a barrel to benchmark dated Brent in December, was offered at dated Brent minus 70 cents this week, two traders said.

That would be the lowest in many years. Qua Iboe BFO-QUA was last valued at parity with dated Brent in 2005, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

The May loading programmes for Nigerian crude will emerge in the coming days and add another 50 cargoes or 50 million barrels to the already ample supplies.

Given the overhang, traders predict Nigeria will cut its official selling prices (OSPs) for April crude, which are expected imminently.

There is no sign of companies in Nigeria, Angola or the North Sea restraining production because of lower demand – if anything, they are maximising output to try to raise cash, trade sources say.

“At $30 a barrel they just want money,” one said.

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday approved a N1.5 trillion cut from this year’s budget, Finance, Budget and National Planning Minister Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, told reporters after the FEC meeting.
 
She described the budget cut as one of the measures approved by the federal government to stabilise the economy.
 
Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari constituted a committee to assess the impact of the outbreak of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as well as the crash of crude oil price, on the Nigerian economy and propose measures to sustain the economy.
 
However, the Minister of Finance said her committee had briefed the FEC on the measures it had come up with, adding that the presentation was approved.
 
She said the measures were arrived at, considering the current economic realities, adding that government would be working on a worst scenario oil benchmark of $30 per barrel at 2.18 million barrels per day.
 
Some of the measures, according to her, include: a cut down on the size of the federally funded upstream projects by N457 billion; reduction of projected revenue from excise duty; cut down on capital expenditure by 20per cent; a reduction of recurrent expenditure by 25 per cent; a ban on recruitment except for essential services and the review of social investment programme among others.
 
Some other measures approved were the reduction of projected revenue from privatisation by 50 per cent and the suspension of recruitment exercise in the civil service.
 
The minister said: “I’m pleased to report that just yesterday His Excellency has approved a number of measures for us to implement. These measures include the introduction of PMS price modulation mechanism. The reason being that at the low crude oil price of $30 to $32 per barrel, there’s no under – recovery.
 
“The under-recovery is right now zero, in fact, we are at an over-recovery stage, meaning the PMS price will be reduced to reflect the reduced price of the crude oil in the international market.
 
“Mr. President also approved that we should cut down on the size of the federally funded upstream projects of the petroleum sector. The reason being we want to be able to get more revenue, by less reduction from NNPC.
 
“The reduction of the crude oil price from the $57 per barrel that we budgeted to $30 means that we are going to get so much less revenue, almost 45 per cent less than we planned and because of that we have to amend a lot of projections in the budget as well as in EMTEF to reflect our current realities.
 
“The President also agreed that we should do a scenario to reflect what the actual position will be with a $30 crude oil price, that is we were to anticipate what will be the worst case scenario and we’ve worked on that scenario and this scenario necessitates that quite a number of expenditures needed to be cut down, even as we review how we can enhance revenues that are not directly affected by the crude oil price decline.
 
“So, we are looking at enhancing production to make sure that at the minimum the 2.18 million barrels that is in the budget as production volume is realised and NNPC has directives to that effect. We also need to adjust Customs revenue, which has been budgeted for at N1.5 trillion, but we are adjusting it downwards because we anticipate that trade volumes will reduce and once trade volumes reduce, Customs revenue will be significantly impacted as a result.
 
“We also have approvals to reduce the projected revenue from privatisation proceeds by as much as 50 per cent because, again, with the slowdown in economic activities, we are anticipating that the sale of independent power plants might not be fully realized as planned for in the budget.
 
“On the expenditure side, the President has approved that we should cut down the capital expenditure budgeted by 20 per cent across ministries, departments and agencies and also a 25 per cent cut of all government owned enterprises and these include the ones that are in the national budget: the ones that we included in the 2020 Budget, but also the ones that we didn’t include in the 2020 Budget. All of these MDAs will have their recurrent expenditure and capital expenditure cut down by 25 per cent.
The Federal Government of Nigeria is restricting entry into the country for travellers from the following countries; China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, Norway, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Switzerland. These are all countries with over 1,000 cases domestically. 
 
The Federal Government is temporarily suspending all visas issued to nationals from these countries. Nigerians arriving from these countries will be subjected to supervised isolation for 14 days.
 
The Federal Government of Nigeria is also advising all Nigerians to avoid travel to these countries.
 
 These restrictions will come into effect from Fri 20 March 2020 for 4 weeks subject to review.
 
#PTFCOVID19 .
An Indian contractor staff with Dangote Industries Limited has been quarantined for Coronavirus at the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba area of Lagos, Southwest Nigeria.
 
Management of the Dangote Industries Limited in a statement on Tuesday said its attention had been drawn to a flash report of a suspected case of personnel currently being kept in isolation at the Mainland hospital, Yaba, Lagos.
 
The Company said “We will like to state that an Indian national who is a staff of Onshore Construction Company-a mechanical, electrical and instrumentation contracting firm that specialises in fertiliser construction reported at the Site clinic complaining of high temperature and fever.
 
“His complaint triggered our Protocols which necessitated further screening and isolation immediately. Mr. Akhil Kunyil, of the Health and Safety Environment of the Onshore Company reported the development to the management following which local authorities were contacted. The patient was immediately conveyed to the Lagos Mainland Hospital Center, where he is currently being isolated and undergoing tests.”
 
It stated that “As an organisation, we have taken the following stringent proactive measures across our entire group since mid- January 2020, which are; development of a comprehensive risk identification, control priotization and escalation plan; identification and retention of a competent team of medical consultants and travel ban for all employees to/from high risk countries as per World Health Organisation (WHO) publications of country exposures.
 
The statement said that other measures implemented were “travel tracking of all employees and contractors staff arriving/leaving Nigeria and obligations for completion of medical checks to validate health status; implementation of use of Thermal cameras across our various sites as well as infrared thermometers checking in smaller office locations; identification and creation where applicable of holding, isolation and quarantine areas; implementation of use of sanitizers across all locations: sites and offices and multiple and continuous awareness campaigns on preventative measures to be taken both electronic and physical announcements.”
 
It added that the above measures were continually updated as the situation globally evolved and “we will continue to do so. The welfare of our employees and the nation as a whole remains our utmost priority.”
Delta Airlines on Tuesday announced its plans to reduce its flight operations’ capacity by 15 per cent following the spread of Coronavirus to the country.
 
The airline’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr Ed Bastian, stated this in a statement he issued in Lagos.
 
Bastain said that since the World Health Organisation’s declaration of the virus as a pandemic, it had led to a decline in demands across all entities.
 
He said that the airline was taking the decisive action to also protect its financial position.
 
The airline’s boss explained that the reduction was to align capacity with the expected passengers’ demands.
 
“To align capacity with expected demand, Delta Airlines is reducing system capacity by 15 points.
 
“It is also planning to reduce its international capacity by between 20 per and 25 per cent, and reduce its domestic capacity by between 10 per cent and 15 per cent.
 
“In addition to the significant efforts underway to protect the health and safety of our customers and employees, we are announcing additional steps to address the financial impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.
 
“In the weeks since COVID-19 emerged; Delta Airlines has risen to the challenge, taking every possible action to take care of and protect its customers during a stressful time.
 
“Top priority is protecting the health and safety of our customers and employees,” he said.
 
Bastian said that the airline, due to the outbreak of the virus, had made the difficult, but necessary decision to immediately reduce its capacity.
 
According to him, the airline is also implementing cost reductions and cash flow initiatives across the organisation.
 
Bastian added that over the past 10 years, he had transformed Delta Airlines by strengthening its balance sheets, diversifying its revenue streams and enhancing operational and financial flexibilities.
 
He said that the environment was fluid and trends were changing quickly, but it was well-positioned to manage the challenges.
 
The airline CEO said that the management was taking actions to ensure that Delta Airlines continues to maintain its leadership position and strong financial foundation.
 
He said that the company would continue to make adjustments to planned capacity as demanding trends change.
Apple Inc was on Monday slammed with a fine of €1.1 billion Euros (1.2 billion dollars) by French authorities, for making anti-competitive agreements with two firms in its distribution network.
 
The authorities said Apple had abused the economic dependence of its premium resellers. The products involved iPads but not iPhones.
 
Reports have it that the ruling is in response to a complaint by an Apple trader, eBizcuss, in 2012.
 
“The two firms, Tech Data and Ingram Micro, were hit respectively with fines of 76.1 million Euros and 62.9 million Euros,’’ the French competition authority announced.
 
Apple did not react immediately to the announcement but had previously rejected the accusations.
Amazon.com Inc said it would hire 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers in the United States to deal with a surge in online orders, as many consumers have turned to the web to meet their needs during the coronavirus outbreak.
 
With shoppers clearing out shelves in fear of quarantines or product shortages, retailers are racing to keep food and hygienic items in stock and have employees on hand for in-store work or delivery.
 
Like Amazon, U.S. supermarket chains Albertsons, Kroger and Raley’s have sought new hires to staff busy sections and fulfil online orders. They are turning to people in the restaurant, travel and entertainment businesses who are suddenly looking for work because of the coronavirus.
 
“We want those people to know we welcome them on our teams until things return to normal and their past employer is able to bring them back,” Amazon said in a blog post.
 
Major shipper United Parcel Service Inc (UPS.N) said its trucking and air deliveries were still on despite growing government restrictions on commercial activities. It said Monday it was meeting demand with its existing workforce.
 
The coronavirus, which has led to more than 7,100 deaths globally and prompted mass lockdowns of people, has also led to items being out of stock on Amazon and some deliveries taking longer than usual.
 
Amazon’s headcount fluctuates seasonally, recently peaking for the holiday quarter at 798,000 full and part-time workers. It was not immediately clear how many people Amazon would employ after it hires 100,000 more.
 
To draw new employees, Amazon said it would add $2 to its minimum $15 per hour to U.S. workers’ wages through April. The extra pay for hourly employees in North America and Europe is expected to cost more than $350 million, Amazon said.
 
Meanwhile, other retailers facing long queues are making pitches for talent, too.
 
It was not clear if there would be any impact on delivery operations from new government restrictions. In the San Francisco Bay Area on Monday, officials said people must stay at home except for some essential purposes, such as work for “businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to residences.”
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