Just as the coronavirus outbreak has boxed in society, it's also squeezed high-flying tech companies reliant on people's freedom to move around and get together.
Since the beginning of March, for instance, Uber shares have lost a quarter of their value. Rival Lyft is down 28 percent. Over the same period, the S&P 500 has fallen just 10 percent, even with wild swings along the way. The picture is even less clear for other, still-private "unicorn" companies once valued at more than $1 billion, such as Airbnb and WeWork.
"What market pressure will mean for all companies is survival of the fittest," said Allen Adamson, co-founder of the marketing firm Metaforce and a business professor at New York University. "If you are going into this storm in a bad shape, it's not going to be pretty."
Just few weeks ago, Airbnb was poised to cash in on a soaring stock market with its highly anticipated public offering. But with the market now reeling and few people looking to anywhere but home, Airbnb is reportedly racking up millions of dollars in losses while fending off a backlash from hosts who rely on its service to survive.
Hosts were furious when the company told guests they could cancel their stays without penalties. Last week, Airbnb agreed to pay hosts $250 million to make up for some of the money lost to cancellations.
AirDNA, a data firm that helps property owners set rental rates, says the impact on U.S. Airbnb hosts has been mixed. In New York City, bookings dropped 66% in March, but in outer suburbs they were up as people fled the city. Bookings in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., jumped sixfold. Similarly, bookings in the city of Chicago fell 11% last month, but in St. Joseph, Michigan — a lakeside community within driving distance — they were up by a factor of four.
Cary Gillenwater, who has an attached guest suite in Amsterdam listed on Airbnb, said 20 guests have canceled reservations between March and June, costing him nearly $11,000. He had hoped for compensation from the company, but was told that only reservations canceled through Airbnb that specifically mentioned the coronavirus would qualify. Several of his would-be guests contacted him directly to cancel; he refunded their money, but may be out of luck when it comes to reimbursement. Airbnb didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
The company got a lifeline of sorts on Monday, when two private equity firms — Silver Lake and Sixth Street Partners — invested $1 billion in debt and equity in the company. The firms say the expect Airbnb to emerge from the crisis in a stronger position.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, however, that the company will pay interest of more than 10% on those loans and that it has made a "verbal commitment" to reduce fixed costs and to bring in supplemental management — terms that often mean layoffs and other cost-cutting. Airbnb didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the Journal report.
Uber, meanwhile, is trying to reassure jittery investors than its aggressive expansion plans for ride-hailing remain on track. Like its rival Lyft, it has seen ride demand hit a wall as states ratchet up stay-at-home orders. Both companies are trying to conserve cash so they can weather the pandemic's fallout, in part by emphasizing deliveries of food and other goods.
Even in its worst-case scenario -- an 80% decline in ridership through 2020 -- the company said it would end the year with $4 billion in cash. That would still mean burning through almost $7 billion this year, which could create problems for Uber's larger ambitions such as self-driving cars and air taxis.
Analysts, however, remain largely bullish. "We believe both Uber and Lyft will come out the other side still well placed to capture growth and opportunity," said Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives.
Drivers are another story. San Diegan Christopher Chandler, who's been driving for both companies for two years, said he's lost more than 80% of his income since riders all but vanished. "I'm going to have to make some hard choices about what bills I won't pay this month," said Chandler, who has switched to deliveries that don't come close to covering his former ride income.
Other lesser-known companies, however, have benefited from the pandemic. Zoom, the video conferencing provider, has seen its stock soar to new highs in recent weeks; shares have nearly quadrupled compared to their IPO price just 11 months ago.
Not so long ago, the meal-kit maker Blue Apron was threatened with delisting from the New York Stock Exchange after its shares fell below the exchange minimum of $1. Since the beginning of March, however, company shares have more than tripled after it reported a sharp increase in consumer demand fueled by stay-at-home orders.
CB Insights lists more than 450 startups worldwide valued at $1 billion or more. While it can be hard to paint these unicorns with a broad brush because of their variety of business models and leadership styles, co-founder and CEO Anand Sanwal said that what COVID-19 is doing to the economy will be "tough for any company to weather, startup or not."
Sanwal said he's already seeing a decline in early-stage seed investments that help launch new tech startups. But he said investors who have poured big sums into unicorn startups will likely try to do what they can to help keep them healthy, at the very least by grooming them for sale rather than standing by as they collapse.
"Investors are going to make some hard decisions about whether this is a temporary downturn, or a company that doesn't have a shot," he said.
The outbreak of the coronavirus has dealt a shock to the global economy with unprecedented speed. Following are developments on Monday related to the global economy, the work place and the spread of the virus.
AIRLINES: The founder and top shareholder of European carrier easyJet says the company has enough money only to get through August at best and wants to cancel a 4.5 billion-pound ($5.5 billion) contract with planemaker Airbus for what he calls 107 "useless aircraft."
In a long statement to the media, Stelios Haji-Ioannou says that terminating the contract is the only way for shareholders to retain any value in their holdings in the company. EasyJet, which flies predominantly in Europe, has grounded all 344 planes and like other airlines is struggling mightily with the global lockdowns on business and travel.
European companies are expected to get financial support from the government, though unlike the U.S. there has not been a coordinated regional plan to bail out airlines or planemakers.
In the U.S., Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines and JetBlue have said they applied Friday for their share of $25 billion in federal grants designed to cover airline payrolls for the next six months. None disclosed the amount they are seeking. The grant money was part of $2 trillion relief bill approved last week. Delta's CEO says his airline is burning more than $60 million cash per day, and United's president puts it at $100 million a day.
Singapore, meanwhile, said it will suspend its Changi Airport Terminal 2 for 18 months from May 1. The airlines in Terminal 2 will be reallocated across the remaining terminals.
Its Terminal 4 operations have also been scaled down considerably, and Changi Airport may consider suspending operations temporarily if the remaining airlines choose to suspend or adjust their flight schedules.
STIMULUS: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is preparing to announce a 108 trillion yen ($1 trillion) economic package to help the country weather the coronavirus crisis. Abe said Monday he plans to disclose details of the package as early as Tuesday.
Japan, the world's third-biggest economy, was already in a contraction late last year before the virus outbreak walloped business and travel. The government has been slow to roll out containment measures, on a piecemeal basis, and only recently announced it would postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by one year. But a surge in infections has prompted Abe and other leaders to discuss more stringent methods to contain the pandemic. Abe is expected to announce a state of emergency on Tuesday, at least for the hardest-hit big cities, such as Tokyo.
Japan's package amounts to about one-fifth of its economy and includes 6 trillion yen in ($55 billion) in cash benefits, loans to help protect jobs and extensions of deadlines for for taxes and social benefit payments.
Smartphone company Vivo has extended warranty of its smartphones until May 31, amid the coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak.
The warranties of smartphones were scheduled to expire on March 25.
Vivo will provide hotline service from 9am to 6pm while its service centers will remain closed, said a press release.
Hotline numbers are- 01318563993 and 01318563995.
Customers will be also able to contact Vivo by its facebook page, website and email.
Saudi Arabia sharply criticized Russia on Saturday over what it described as Moscow blaming the kingdom for the collapse in global energy prices, showing the tensions ahead of an emergency meeting of OPEC and other oil producers.
Oil prices sharply fell after the so-called OPEC+ group of countries including Russia failed to agree to production cuts in early March. A price war began soon after, with Saudi Arabia threatening to pump at a record-breaking pace to seize back market share even as the coronavirus pandemic saw demand sharply drop as airlines worldwide halted flights.
International benchmark Brent crude fell to around $24 a barrel, compared to prices of over $70 a year ago. Prices slightly have rebounded with President Donald Trump tweeting and talking about the need for a production cut, but rancor between Saudi Arabia and Russia could imperil a deal emerging from a planned teleconference Monday.
That anger could be seen early Saturday in two critical statements released by the kingdom's state-run Saudi Press Agency. The first came from Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan under the headline: " Statements Attributed to One of Russian President's Media Are Completely Devoid of Truth."
"Russia was the one that refused the agreement, while the kingdom and 22 other countries were trying to persuade Russia to make further cuts and extend the agreement," the prince said.
He also said an alleged Russian contention that "the kingdom was planning to get rid of shale oil producers" was false as well. U.S. shale producers have made America one of the world's top producers, but they've been hurt badly by the price collapse. Trump has met with concerned producers about that.
Prince Faisal did not identify the story, nor the outlet he was critiquing.
A second statement came from Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, one of King Salman's sons. The prince criticized Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak by name for suggesting Saudi Arabia wanted to cut out shale producers.
The prince "expressed his surprise at the attempts to bring Saudi Arabia into hostilities against the shale oil industry, which is completely false as our Russian friends recognize well," the statement said.
Saudi Arabia's statements likely seek to defuse any possible confrontation between the kingdom and Trump, who tweeted Thursday that Moscow and Riyadh "will be cutting back approximately 10 Million Barrels" without elaborating. Trump's tweets and public comments have affected oil prices in the past.
Trade in medical products which have now been described as critical and in severe shortage during the COVID-19 crisis totalled about US$ 597 billion in 2019, accounting for 1.7 percent of total world merchandise trade, according to a new report.
The ten largest supplying economies accounted for almost three-quarters of total world exports of the products while the ten largest buyers accounted for roughly two-thirds of world imports.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) Secretariat has released the new report on trade in medical products critical for the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Friday.
The report traces trade flows for products such as personal protective products, hospital and laboratory supplies, medicines and medical technology while providing information on their respective tariffs, according to WTO which deals with the global rules of trade between nations. Its main function is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible.
Commitments made under various WTO negotiations and agreements have helped slash import tariffs on these products and improve market access, with the average tariff on COVID-19 medical products standing at 4.8 percent, lower than the 7.6 percent average tariff for non-agricultural products in general.
The statistics show that 52 percent of 134 WTO members impose a tariff of 5 percent or lower on medical products.
Among them, four members do not levy any tariffs at all: Hong Kong, China; Iceland; Macao, China; and Singapore.
The report, however, also identifies markets where tariffs remain high. Tariffs on face masks, for example, can be as high as 55% in some countries.
Germany, the United States and Switzerland supply 35% of medical products;
China, Germany and the United States export 40% of personal protective products;
Imports and exports of medical products totalled about US$ 2 trillion, including intra-EU trade, which represented approximately 5% of total world merchandise trade in 2019;
Trade of products described as critical and in severe shortage in the COVID-19 crisis totalled about US$ 597 billion, or 1.7% of total world trade in 2019;
Tariffs on some products remain very high. For example, the average applied tariff for hand soap is 17% and some WTO members apply tariffs as high as 65%;
Protective supplies used in the fight against COVID-19 attract an average tariff of 11.5% and go as high as 27% in some countries;
The WTO has contributed to the liberalization of trade in medical products in three main ways:
The results of tariff negotiations scheduled at the inception of the WTO in 1995;
Conclusion of the plurilateral sectoral Agreement on Pharmaceutical Products (“Pharma Agreement”) in the Uruguay Round and its four subsequent reviews;
The Expansion of the Information Technology Agreement in 2015.
Those products include: computer tomography apparatus; disinfectants/ sterilization products; face masks; gloves; hand soap and sanitizer; patient monitors and pulse oximeters; protective spectacles and visors; sterilizers; syringes; thermometers; ultrasonic scanning apparatus; ventilators, oxygen mask; X-ray equipment; other medical devices.
They are frequently mentioned by countries, international organizations and in news reports as the goods in short supply.