Weekly Client Update – 27th October 2023

Market update

FTSE 100: The FTSE 100 index opened down 4.91 points, 0.1%, at 7,349.66 this morning. The FTSE 250 was up 17.35 points, 0.1%, at 16,800.44, and the AIM All-Share was up 3.50 points, 0.5%, at 673.34. ​​The FTSE 100 tries to remain above this week’s low at 7,323 but continues to be under immediate pressure whilst trading below Wednesday’s 7,430 high.

European markets: In European equities on Thursday, the CAC 40 in Paris ended down 0.4%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt ended down 1.0%. At the beginning of the week, European stocks closed higher, with all major bourses in the green following a rough patch that saw the Stoxx 600 index fall 3.4% last week. France’s CAC 40 was up 0.63% and Germany’s DAX gained 0.54% as the U.K.’s FTSE 100 rose 0.2%.

US markets: Nasdaq 100 futures climbed 0.8%. Futures tied to the S&P 500 advanced 0.6%, while Dow Jones Industrial Average futures advanced 115 points, or 0.3%. The Dow and S&P 500 are down 1% and 2%, respectively, for the week. The Nasdaq has fallen 3% in that time.

Asian markets: Asian markets are sharply higher today with shares in Hong Kong leading the region. The Hang Seng is up 1.71% while Japan’s Nikkei 225 is up 1.21% and China’s Shanghai Composite is up 1.00%. Earlier in the week, Japan’s Nikkei 225 rebounded as well and climbed 0.2% to end at 31,062.35, and the Topix closed marginally up at 2,240.73 as the October purchasing managers index flash reading saw its first contraction since December 2022. South Korea’s Kospi closed 1.12% up at 2,383.51, ending a three-day losing streak, while the Kosdaq surged 2.77% to 784.86.

Emerging markets: Global hedge funds are increasingly interested in establishing themselves in India, drawn by the country’s expanding market, improving liquidity, and its potential as an alternative investment hub to China.

Worst of the inflationary pressures are behind us,’ says Jersey’s chief economist

We are over the worst of it, Jersey’s chief economist has said following the release of the latest inflation figures – despite the Island’s rate remaining significantly higher than in the UK and other Crown Dependencies.

High housing costs continue to drive inflation and the cost of living in the Island remains stubbornly high, according to the latest figures published by Statistics Jersey, which show that during the 12 months to September, the Retail Prices Index increased by 10.1% – a 0.8% drop from June’s rate of 10.9%.

But experts the Fiscal Policy Panel, an independent group of economists who advise the government, have predicted that the rate will continue to fall to an average of 5.4% next year. And the Island’s chief economic adviser, Tom Holvey, said that the drop meant “the worst of the inflationary pressures are behind us”.

Housing costs – including mortgage repayments, rents and rates – again made up the largest contribution to the 10.1% rate, with a 26.2% increase. However, the overall change was slightly lower over the 12 months to September, compared with the previous 12-month period.

Figures released last month showed that the average cost of a Jersey home during the spring was an eye-watering £666,000 – although this was down by £20,000 against the same period in 2022 in a sign that Jersey’s market could be cooling.

The Island’s overall inflation rate is higher than the UK’s (6.3%), and higher than other Crown Dependencies. Guernsey’s latest published RPI figure, for the 12-month period ending in June, was 7.3%, while the Isle of Man’s Consumer Price Index showed a 5.7% rise in September.

In Jersey, lower rates of increase for food which rose by 10%, down 5% – as well as household goods and travel were cited in the Statistics Jersey report as key factors in the slight easing of inflation. Fares and other travel were the most marked downward change – with an increase of 1.2% compared with 12.1% in the June calculations.

Meanwhile, the price of household goods increased by 6% compared with 9.9% previously. Mr Holvey explained that the rate’s fall to 10.1% was “in line with the Fiscal Policy Panel’s forecast”.

He added: “Whilst headline inflation in Jersey remains above that in the UK (RPI 10.1% compared with UK CPIH [the Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs] of 6.3%), much of this difference is due to methodologies, including the treatment of mortgage interest payments. A more like-for-like comparison is between Jersey’s RPI(X) [RPI excluding the cost of mortgage interest payments] and UK CPI. On these measures, inflation in Jersey was 5.4% compared to 6.7% in the UK.”

Mr Holvey added that the FPP predicted a further fall in the rate of inflation to 8.4% in the 12 months to December, and to 5.3% across 2024.

Jersey’s average life expectancy revealed

Islanders born today can expect to live on average two years longer than their counterparts in England. A report from Public Health shows that the average life expectancy in Jersey has increased over the past decade and now stands at 83.4 years – 84.9 years for women and 81.8 for men.

This puts the Island, along with Guernsey, ahead of the Isle of Man, England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Meanwhile, Islanders reaching the age of 65 today can expect to live on average for another 21.4 years.

Public Health director Professor Peter Bradley welcomed the latest life-expectancy report – which shows an increase in life expectancy over the past ten years of 2.8 and 1.3 years for men and women respectively – as “encouraging”.

He cautioned against drawing conclusions from an apparent slight drop in life expectancy between 2019-2021 and 2020-2022 which he said was “quite small and not enough to conclude a great deal from”.

Professor Bradley said: “As an Island, we have had a difficult few years. However, we are committed to supporting Islanders with their health and wellbeing which will help us all live longer, healthier lives. Life expectancy in Jersey is now slightly higher than it was a decade ago.

“Our recently published Public Health Strategy sets out how we will support Islanders to live longer, healthier lives, through innovation, joint working, and understanding the drivers of poor health locally.”

Jersey’s average life expectancy of 83.4 years was around one year higher than the South West, one of England’s best-performing regions, according to the latest available English data between 2018 and 2020.

When compared with Guernsey, women in Jersey were slightly worse off, with a life expectancy of 84.9 to Sarnians’ 85.3 years. But Jersey men were in a better position, with the local figure of 81.8 years half a year higher than Guernsey’s statistics.

Earlier this year a report showed more localised comparisons within the UK which suggested that the Island’s life-expectancy figures would sit 228th out of 650.Professor Bradley said it was difficult to make such comparisons because of the different age profile of specific areas and other local factors.

He added that Jersey was always consistently better than the UK notwithstanding the Island’s demographic profile. “It is generally the case that we have a higher life expectancy in Jersey,” he said.

Jersey’s Housing Minister: Something “fundamentally wrong” with decision process for major developments

There is something “fundamentally wrong” with the decision-making process surrounding major developments in the Island, according to the Housing Minister, who has expressed frustration that plans for a “significant” number of homes in town have been rejected.

Deputy David Warr raised concerns after Assistant Environment Minister Hilary Jeune this week rejected an appeal from developers Le Masurier, who had put forward a £120m plan to regenerate town with more than 200 homes and an “aparthotel”.

The scheme, Les Sablons, would have seen 2.5 acres of land between Broad Street and Commercial Street redeveloped. However, it was initially refused by the Planning Committee last December.

Le Masurier appealed against the decision and the plan was recommended for approval by an independent planning inspector but Deputy Jeune ultimately disagreed, concluding that the height of the scheme along Commercial Street would be significantly in excess of planning guidance, and its scale and mass would be “overbearing and oppressive”.

The scheme is among several major housing projects, including the Jersey Development Company’s proposal to build 139 homes at South Hill, which have failed to gain planning approval in recent years.

The JDC also saw its plans for a multi-million-pound redevelopment of the Waterfront, which would have included around 1,000 homes, thrown out by a panel of politicians comprising Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf, Deputy Jeune and Planning Committee chair Philip Le Sueur. Deputy Warr described Les Sablons’ potential offering of 238 homes as “significant” and expressed frustration that it had joined the growing list of rejected projects.

The Island Plan sets out a requirement to deliver 4,000 new homes over the plan period – to the end of 2025 – with 2,700 of these being non-subsidised open-market homes. A planning appeal this month heard that the government was failing to hit a target of 800 new homes a year.

Planning consultant John Nicholson presented the dire assessment of current-versus-predicted supply in support of an application to demolish the Hotel Savoy at Rouge Bouillon and replace it with 53 apartments. Deputy Warr said: “The big challenge is trying to align the strategic imperatives of government with the decisions that are being made.“

There are plenty of reports out there that state we need to deliver more homes, so we know the demand is there. What concerns me is, how is it possible that, on decision day, we find out that a scheme has fallen over?”

He added: “Where were the red flags during the process that would have helped us to get them over the line? There has got to be something fundamentally wrong with the decision-making process around how major schemes are delivered.”

St Brelade Constable Mike Jackson, who sits on the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel, said: “I feel it is a complete waste of resources to encourage a developer to do a major proposal and then pull the rug out at the last minute.”

He added that “there needs to be a framework and rules in place” but stressed that developers needed help “to get these schemes done”.

Fellow panel member St Mary Constable David Johnson also said that “policies are in place for a reason”. However, he noted that: “It costs [developers] a lot of money to get to this stage and one would hope there would have been conversations sounding out these issues beforehand.”

Jersey Reds creditors unlikely to get money from collapsed Championship club

The Championship champions ceased trading last month and liquidators Grant Thornton have been appointed. Reds reportedly had debts of more than £3m and assets of less than £150,000.

“It’s fair to say that at the moment there won’t be a distribution of any great significance, if at all, to creditors,” Alan Roberts – one of the liquidators said, “Looking at the assets available it doesn’t seem to be there’s going to be a material distribution to creditors.”

Jersey’s government are listed as one of the creditors and are owed more than £450,000 in unpaid taxes. “There are claims for GST (Goods and Services Tax), employee deductions for payroll, and importantly any other matters that government has funded that may be reclaimable or guaranteed under other creditor balances,” Roberts said.

“It’s not yet clear what the government debt is from our liquidator point of view.”

But the 70 former employees may get help with the firm assisting players, coaches and other staff with government benefits, on top of a benevolent fund that has been set up. “One of the categories of creditor is employees, who have a preferred status under the law, and it’s not just necessarily from the company assets that they have an ability to recover something,” Roberts added.

“Jersey operates an insolvency benefits scheme, administered by the government, and that gives employees certain entitlements to lost pay that they can claim under that scheme. That’s something that the joint liquidators are seeking to assist them with and they may therefore receive recompense that wouldn’t be available to other creditors.”

Hotel chains ‘keen to set up in Jersey’

The government is in discussions with international hotel chains which would like to set up in Jersey, according to the Economic Development Minister. Deputy Kirsten Morel said interest from potential investors demonstrated the strength of the Island’s visitor economy.

Addressing the Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel yesterday, he said: “[There] are really good indications that Jersey has a vibrant visitor economy and that international chains are really interested in investing. I think there’s value in bringing them to Jersey and we’re in conversations to do that at the moment.”

But he admitted that the “difficulty” these chains had was “finding actual sites”. Deputy Morel declined to comment on the merits of the decision by Environment Assistant Minister Hilary Jeune to refuse planning permission for the Broad Street Les Sablons development, which includes provision for a 103-room “aparthotel” to be run by Dublin-based Staycity Group.

Deputy he said the issue was that the Island’s tourist season remained concentrated on “July and August and, to some extent, December but ignores the other nine to ten months of the year”.

Ensuring that the remaining bed stock was used throughout the year would transform the industry, Deputy Morel said. During the Scrutiny hearing, Deputy Morel was repeatedly pressed by panel chair Moz Scott about what specific actions his department was taking to help secure economic growth, following publication of the Sustainable Economic Development Strategy earlier this month.

“The work we are doing now is all about identifying and undertaking those tangible actions,” Deputy Morel responded. “Each strategy that we have launched has actions which come out of them which are about economic growth. The sustainable economic strategy itself has the delivery framework which clearly points to tangible actions.

La Pulente’s food kiosk closes after ‘David and Goliath battle’

A food kiosk at La Pulente is shutting for the final time on Sunday, ending a long-running saga which involved planning disputes, accusations of personal vendettas and a Royal Court battle that left the Parish of St Brelade with a hefty legal bill.

Having traded on the road that leads down to the slipway for more than seven years, the Hideout will close at the end of this weekend. Writing on Facebook, owner Karl Sutton said: “It is with great sadness that we announce that The Hideout will be closing its shutters at La Pulente. We want to thank all our customers, suppliers and supporters in the parish and beyond for their enduring support and loyalty over the years.”

He added: “We have done everything we can to keep the business alive. We have considered another David and Goliath battle with our elected officials but do not want to do so at a cost to our parishioners. With the end of the line in relative sight and no solutions forthcoming from the parish, we have no option but to cease trading as of 29 October.”

The “battle” Mr Sutton refers to relates to, in essence, the fact that the former toilet block at the top of the access road was sold by the States in 2014.It has since been redeveloped as a café and restaurant. The Hideout, which started trading close to the toilet block in 2016, was told to move by the Parish of St Brelade, which owns the slip road, in 2020 because it would be in the way of the proposed redevelopment.

However, Mr Sutton successfully campaigned to remain open until the café was fully up and running, which took far longer than first estimated, and a compromise was reached whereby the Hideout kiosk moved further down the access road, where it has remained. The matter even reached the Royal Court, with Mr Sutton seeking a judicial review of a decision by St Brelade Constable Mike Jackson not to extend the kiosk’s permit.

The two sides reached a last-minute out-of-court settlement, which extended the Hideout’s permission, with St Brelade agreeing to pay Mr Sutton’s legal bill. With the former toilet block – now Nude Dunes – up and running, Mr Sutton wrote: “The Hideout took pleasure in opening all hours, all year round, public holidays, and even over Covid lockdowns for those who want quick, easy, affordable, dog-friendly, quick surf-check coffee and snack. Nude clearly has a fantastic offering, but we always felt there was a market for both audiences to be served on our slipway. It is a sad day when a well-established and much-loved business is forced to close.”

Environmental group proposes amendments to branchage law

Jersey’s 109-year-old branchage law should be amended to ensure that it has more “teeth” to protect animals and plants, an environmental group says. Amendments to the Loi sur la Voirie, which was introduced to legislate for the practice of branchage in 1914, have been put forward by Jersey in Transition in an open email to States Members.

The group is a key part of the proposed amendment is to insert a legal minimum length of 10cm for vegetation bordering roads after branchage work has been carried out. The group would also want vegetation on top of banques and verges to be left uncut if it did not overhang a road.

In the event that such vegetation did overhang, the same 10cm limit would apply. Under the proposals, a measuring stick with a 10cm coloured section at one end would be used to measure the residual height of vegetation. The group says says that while it considers the law to have served the Island well, it should be updated to incorporate guidelines that have been issued more recently in a bid to protect wildlife and encourage biodiversity.

Minister puts bridge between Jersey and France back on agenda

The feasibility of building a bridge or tunnel between Jersey and France will be examined as part of a new strategy outlining ways to improve the Island’s economy. Economic Development Minister Kirsten Morel has said that, if such a project is pursued, it would first need to be subject to a cost-benefit analysis as well as discussions with French officials to gauge interest and viability.

The concept of a road link between the Island and France – at a potential cost of more than £1 billion – was initially championed by former Jersey Chamber of Commerce president Peter Walsh more than a decade ago.Mr Walsh even went as far as to send his proposal to then-French president Nicholas Sarkozy, but the project ultimately never get off the ground.

However, the recently published Delivery Framework for Sustainable Economic Development, which forms part of the government’s Future Economy Programme, has said that a “fixed connection” could create new labour opportunities and “fundamentally reshape” the Island’s economy.

“Improving our links to neighbouring jurisdictions in our region can bring economic value from increased access to markets, greater competition, a larger talent pool, removing natural barriers to industry, and enhancing tourism. We mostly rely on transport links to the UK via sea and air, but in addition there are opportunities to explore the feasibility of improving our interconnectivity and transport links to France,” the document states.

“Enabling regular commuters and freight via sea, air or a fixed connection with France may create new economic and labour opportunities and increase our overall resilience to external factors. While a permanent link with France is often discussed, it has not been exhaustively tested. Such a connection would fundamentally reshape Jersey’s economy and significantly impact our Island life. Therefore, testing the feasibility will include analysis and discussion of the balancing factors, for everyone to review before any commitment is made,” it added.

Deputy Morel said: “For me there is no question that Jersey needs more connectivity with France.”

He explained that this would first involve looking at improving the existing air and sea links, but acknowledged that a bridge or tunnel could also be an option – noting that it could enable French workers to commute to Jersey.

He cited the Faroe Islands as an example of where such infrastructure had been developed in a cost-effective manner. “It is a very complex and large project but I do think it is something we need to look it,” he said. However, Deputy Morel stressed that the concept could be quickly shelved if it was “proven to be unfeasible early on”.