Restaurant woes, insurance ‘villains’ and Covid loan restructuring

Business Today: the best news, analysis and comment from The Irish Times business desk

Lockdown loans:  Covid-19 loan  payment breaks can now be stretched from three to six months. Photograph: EPA

Lockdown loans: Covid-19 loan payment breaks can now be stretched from three to six months. Photograph: EPA


The Central Bank will ask banks to seek long-term restructuring solutions for those borrowers taking extended Covid-19 loan payment breaks who will still be under financial stress at the end of the period, writes Joe Brennan today. Such payment breaks can now be stretched from three to six months.

The development comes amid increasing evidence of the economic nosedive that continues to develop. ECB president Christine Lagarde said on Thursday that the euro zone economy was in an “unprecedented decline”, while the latest AIB Purchasing Managers’ Index confirms that Irish manufacturing fell at a near record rate in April. Eoin Burke-Kennedy reports.

Naomi O’Leary brings a flavour of how the crisis is being addressed at European level in an interview with Mário Centeno, the man in charge of brokering a rescue agreement between the 19 finance ministers of the euro zone. ”There is a lot at stake,” says Mr Centeno, pointing to potentially disastrous destruction ahead.

Underlining the grim domestic picture, Dominic Coyle reports that another 64,600 workers have started getting paid by the State this week through the temporary wage subsidy put in place to limit job losses during the Covid-19 pandemic. The figure marks an increase of more than 20,000 on the numbers who signed up last week.

Separately, Dominic and Ciarán Hancock bring details of substantial pay cuts at large accountancy firms, KPMG and PwC.

The tourism industry, one of the most pressed at the moment, has called for a suite of support measures to be included in the next programme for government, including €1.5 billion in grant aid and low-cost loans and a State-funded “staycation voucher” for citizens to redeem against a holiday at home later this year. Mark Paul has the details.

In rare non-Covid news, Dominic writes that snacks industry veteran Brian O’Sullivan is stepping down as chief executive of fast-growing group, Fulfil Nutrition. The surprise move is an amicable one.

In our Business Agenda section, Mark Paul surveys a sector that has been at the frontline of economic inactivity of late: restaurants. He finds a stark picture of shellshocked business-owners who wonder how and when their operations might open their doors again. Will social distancing measures be too expensive for some restaurants to bear?

And on those costs, Mark warns in his Caveat column that the insurance industry is in danger of becoming the villain of the Covid downturn, just as bankers were the baddies of the financial crash.

One of the clear business winners during Covid-19 lockdown has been social app TikTok, which has transcended its youth appeal to become a marketing powerhouse. Dave Winterlich explains why.

In our Work section, Olive Keogh looks at what managers should be doing to ensure their staff prosper during this prolonged period of remote work. Continuity is key, she finds, with remote workers needing structure, consistency and leadership.

This comes as a new study undertaken by PwC shows over 60 per cent of Irish companies are looking at ways to make remote working a permanent option for their employees.

John FitzGerald has his climate-change hat on today, emphasising that accelerated action will be needed as soon as the Covid-19 crisis has passed. The longer we delay, the more costly it will be to get to a zero-emissions position by 2050, he writes.

Johnny McMorrough of Boutique Wines started his family business with two wines out of the boot of a second-hand Renault Clio, and is now offering a country-wide delivery service. He tells Ruth O’Connor in this week’s Inside Track that his company’s motto is: ‘We may be small but we try harder’.

Our Wild Goose today is Skibbereen native Kate Hoare, who left Cork after her Leaving Cert to study at the Sorbonne in Paris, eventually ending up in her current role with Wells Fargo in San Francisco. She tells Barbara McCarthy about the 22 interviews she sat as she sought to secure the role.

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