STOCK MARKET WATCHLIST: Will coronavirus take its toll on Ministers’ NatWest sale?
The Government could clearly do with some spare cash to help deal with the coronavirus crisis.
Luckily, there’s a Budget this week and Alison Rose, the new chief executive of the renamed NatWest Group, formerly Royal Bank of Scotland, will be watching more avidly than most.
That’s because speculation has been mounting that the Government might finally start selling off the rest of its 62.4 per cent stake in the bank, which it bailed out in the wake of the financial crisis.
The bank has steadied the ship and has started paying dividends once again. And the organisation has been rebranded by Rose.
Last month, chairman Sir Howard Davies said he expected the Government to press ahead with selling more of its shares with ‘enthusiasm and energy’.
But even if the Government agreed with him at the time, things are a little trickier now. Coronavirus has knocked the shares down by more than 30 per cent.
Many will be watching very closely on Wednesday to see whether Ministers still push the button on a sell-off despite the slump.
On Friday, Cineworld rushed to reassure investors about the impact coronavirus was having on visits to its cinemas.
The company said it had not seen any major drop-off in box office figures, which followed a downgrade from analysts who believe the delayed release of the new James Bond movie No Time To Die will be the first of many.
Cineworld also released its expected figures for 2019, ahead of the formal unveiling on Thursday.
But with companies in other sectors having lowered their financial forecasts due to the virus, investors will be more interested in scrutinising the guidance for 2020.
Away from the corona panic which is hammering markets, Tullow Oil is poised to unveil the results of its strategic review when it releases its annual results on Thursday.
The review was triggered after a series of setbacks for the oil firm which caused its shares to tank.
Rumours of a cut-price takeover by Total were quashed last month by the French company’s chief executive.
But word reaches me that a private equity firm is circling Tullow, which is valued at £330million.
Its identity is unclear at the moment, but perhaps it will be revealed on Thursday.
Talking of the Budget, housebuilders will be keeping an eye on any new measures after enjoying a leg-up in recent years from Help To Buy.
The scheme is due to end in March 2023, though builders will still have plenty of cash washing around.
A stamp duty cut had been touted as a possible tool to help new Chancellor Rishi Sunak to keep the housing market bubbling along.
But analysts now think the coronavirus outbreak might kill off those chances.
Scribblers at Credit Suisse said: ‘We assume the Government may now have less appetite for wholesale cuts to stamp duty.’