Coronavirus latest: South Korea delays reopening schools as fears rise over new cluster

Corporate round-up: Heathrow, Dignity and Henkel

London Heathrow Airport, which on Monday reported a 97 per cent drop in passenger traffic in April, said 200,000 people passed through its terminals for the month, the same number that it would typically serve in a day. Many were on the 218 chartered repatriation flights. Until lockdowns are lifted demand will stay low, the UK’s busiest airport said. Cargo volumes, which helped bring supplies of personal protection equipment with 1,788 cargo only flights at Heathrow, were still 60 per cent lower.

“Aviation is the lifeblood of this country’s economy, and until we get Britain flying again, UK business will be stuck in third gear,” the chief executive John Holland-Kaye said.

The government needs to urgently lay out a roadmap for how they will reopen borders once the disease has been beaten, and to take an immediate lead in agreeing a Common International Standard for health in aviation that will allow passengers who don’t have the infection to travel freely.”

Dignity, the UK’s only listed provider of funeral related services, performed 20,000 funerals in the first 13 weeks of the year, a rise of about 1 per cent. The group said on Monday: “Should 2020 witness a large number of incremental deaths, beyond the 600,000 originally anticipated by the Office for National Statistics, then it is possible that 2021 and 2022 could experience a lower number of deaths than in 2019. The group will not speculate on the most likely outcome.” As a result of the crisis, the group scrapped limousine use while church services also stopped.

Since early March, shares in Dignity have more than halved, to trade currently at 247p, reflecting a price-to-earnings ratio of less than four times.

Since the end of the quarter, the UK has witnessed in excess of 20,000 deaths in a single week, the highest since the beginning of 2000.

Düsseldorf-based Henkel, maker of Persil washing powder and Loctite glue, reported a 0.8 per cent decline in group sales to €4.9bn. It reiterated what it said on April 7 when it removed the guildance it had given in its annual report, saying on Monday: “a reliable and realistic evaluation of the future business performance of Henkel is currently not possible”.

Even with the pandemic affecting all areas of life, chief executive Carsten Knobel said, “we achieved an overall robust sales performance in the first quarter”.

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