Client Weekly Update – 6 April

Market Update

The European markets opened mixed today, with the UK’s FTSE 100 down by 0.2%, Germany’s DAX up by 0.1%, and France’s CAC 40 down by 0.3%. Investors are keeping a close eye on the ongoing COVID-19 situation and its impact on the region’s economic recovery. The Euro Stoxx 50 index, which tracks the performance of the 50 largest companies in the Eurozone, was up by 0.1%.

The U.S. stock futures are pointing to a higher open today, with Dow Jones futures up by 0.4%, S&P 500 futures up by 0.3%, and Nasdaq 100 futures up by 0.2%. This comes after a mixed trading session yesterday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing slightly higher, the S&P 500 closing slightly lower, and the Nasdaq Composite closing flat. Investors are awaiting the release of the Federal Reserve’s latest meeting minutes, which could provide clues on the central bank’s stance on interest rates.

Asian markets were mostly higher today, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 up by 0.8%, South Korea’s Kospi up by 0.5%, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng up by 0.6%. However, China’s Shanghai Composite index was down by 0.1%. Investors are optimistic about the global economic recovery, as well as the region’s improving COVID-19 situation. However, concerns remain over the ongoing geopolitical tensions and supply chain disruptions.

Watch, a pipe and slippers in retirement are a thing of the past.

At Advisa Wealth, we understand that people retiring now feel a lot differently about life and their future than their parents and grandparents did. Our world is changing so fast and unpredictably, and today’s retirees are very different to those in the past. There is freedom but there can be pressures just as immense as for those of us still in a career. Retirees now need more flexibility and choice, inspired by Pension Freedoms and their financial advisers who can assist with financial planning to help them to live the life they want to lead, take up fun pursuits, travel, perhaps even purchase a holiday home,  while also considering leaving an inheritance or helping the next generation with mortgage deposits. A pot of money properly managed and looked after should empower retirees to meet their aspirations in the best possible way.

Happy sentiments, but what are the concerns for those approaching retirement. A recent survey asked retirees to rank hopes and expectations for retirement and it was no surprise that ‘To retain financial security’ came out as the biggest priority while ‘retaining financial independence’ was almost as high. Don’t we all want to be free to do what we want, when we want? It’s our pot of hard-earned savings, after all.  Two-thirds of retirees were very keen to spend more time with family and friends – this time is priceless. Travelling abroad and leaving an inheritance were ranked next in importance, which again is quite logical.

What is also satisfying was confirmation that more people no longer retire in a single moment. While two-thirds said they did stop working on entering retirement, around 30% felt free to phase into it. It’s real freedom when you can opt to retire gradually, Many of us would like the flexibility to keep on working because we enjoy it, or because we want to build up a bigger pot owing to our personal or family circumstances. This is different from the past, when the date of pension pay-outs kicking off was set in stone. And after decades working in possibly the same organisation, people were often only too keen to bow out and get their life back at last. Those choosing to delay retirement and carry on working by choice include many who were simply not ready to stop contributing to the workforce. How many retirees are still involved in some way, either consulting, sitting on company boards, or simply happy to continue sharing their expertise and experience as appropriate.? The world needs this insight and we all benefit. We can all be heartened by the general good health and vitality of our generation, which means we can delay retirement if we choose and have the financial flexibility to do so.

The flipside to this is when we consider the flexibility of retirement, it’s vital to understand the potential impact of each of the options. We should know what’s likely to happen if we go down the path of A, B or C. With that in mind,  retired clients generally have a strong appetite to remain invested and preserve their retirement pot, via flexible decumulation. It’s a great thing that the flexibility presented by ‘Pension Freedoms’ doesn’t get bent out of shape by pots being drained too enthusiastically, too soon. Whatever reasons or personal circumstances sit behind our decision to retire, Advisa Wealth has an array of flexible options to hand so we can keep our clients on the right track. We can help you make the right decisions at each stage, based on clear information that can be considered together.

Camerons’ collapse having ‘ripple effect’ on economy

The collapse of a major building firm and its parent group is having a ‘ripple effect’ through the Island’s economy, the Housing Minister has said. Deputy David Warr warned of ‘collateral damage’ but also praised Andium Homes for taking on some affected sub-contractors. He added that he hoped the last of the ‘dominoes’ had fallen following the failure of Camerons as well as the subsequent insolvency of parent company the Garenne Construction Group. Camerons, one of Jersey’s biggest construction firms, cited spiralling material and labour costs, strains in the supply chain and problematic contracts as well as the impact of the pandemic and Brexit, as the reasons for folding. Following this collapse, directors determined that Garenne was unable to continue to trade given its financial position.  Accounts shared with businesses owed money by Camerons showed that it had £7.635m of liabilities but only £163,000 available to pay secured creditors, which include staff, Social Security and the Taxes Office – and no money to pay unsecured creditors such as sub-contractors.

Meanwhile, the Jersey Construction Council has said the outfall ‘may be stretching several organisations’ that work in the industry. Deputy Warr said: ‘There is so much collateral damage from it, not just the impact on the sub-contractors, but then the sub-contractors’ ability to pay for goods and services so it really does have a ripple effect through the whole economy.’ However, he noted that some of the affected sub-contractors had been ‘picked up’ by social housing provider Andium Homes to enable them to continue being paid ‘sensibly and promptly’. These included some who had already been working under Camerons on Andium’s Cyril Le Marquand Court redevelopment, which will now continue under replacement contracting partner ROK Construction. Andium chief executive Ian Gallichan said they were ‘delighted to have been able to ensure continuity of employment for former Camerons’ staff at our Ann Court Development’. He added: ‘We are also pleased that the final phases of the scheme which will see 85 more homes, a new public open space and a public and residents’ car park is on track to be completed within the next 12 months.’

Deputy Warr said: ‘Andium have a massive programme to come through so it is positive that we have a States-owned entity that has been able to help keep things moving.’ In a statement published to its members over the weekend, the Jersey Construction Council said it would shortly be issuing a guidance document with advice and support on operational matters as well as those relating to emotional wellbeing of employees. It also said it was planning a ‘drop-in support day’ event with representatives of different organisations from government, third and private sectors.

Teachers threaten industrial action after government pay talks fail

Industrial action by teachers – including the possibility of strikes – could affect the forthcoming summer term, after the government’s latest pay offer was rejected. Both main teaching unions, the NEU and the NASUWT, met members of the States Employment Board last week, but this failed to lead to improvements in a final offer received on Monday. The government was not prepared to increase its pay offer of 7.9%, a figure accepted by some government employees earlier this year but dubbed unacceptable by both teaching and nursing unions.

Adrian Moss, joint district and branch secretary for the NEU, said: ‘We are open to further genuine negotiations on the headline figure, however we have little choice but to start balloting our members for industrial action.’ Marina Mauger of the NASUWT said her union would also be balloting members after Easter. She said: ‘I am very, very frustrated with the SEB – we had a meeting and I thought they had listened with some sympathy, but clearly not, and I think their attitude is very short-sighted .’It is not yet clear whether union members would vote to go on strike, as in 2019, or resolve to take other action – which could include ceasing to supervise lunchtime activities or extra-curricular sessions scheduled before and after the school day.

Dutch link shows ‘confidence in Jersey as attractive destination’

The launch of an international flight route from Jersey to Amsterdam has demonstrated confidence in the Island ‘as an attractive destination’, according to the Economic Development Minister. Deputy Kirsten Morel said there was an opportunity to attract more visitors from mainland Europe, after the first flight on easyJet’s new service from Jersey to Amsterdam took off on Saturday 1 May. Announced last year, the airline’s new trial route to the Netherlands’ capital will operate up to twice a week throughout the summer and has been described by airport director Robin MacRae as a ‘major milestone’ for the Island’s connectivity. Deputy Morel said: ‘This inaugural flight to Amsterdam demonstrates confidence in Jersey as an attractive destination and we now need to maximise this opportunity to attract visitors from mainland Europe to discover the delights of Jersey. Direct flights to Schiphol Airport also provide more travel options for Islanders, and as we expand our network of European transport connections we can facilitate new opportunities for Islanders, visitors and businesses.’

Mr MacRae said the route represented direct access for Islanders to ‘another global travel hub’. ‘Our Island enjoys really good links with the UK, but the great opportunity is to expand connectivity into Europe and we have been working hard to achieve this. The Amsterdam route will not only strengthen connections for Islanders, it will also expand the opportunities for continental visitors wishing to visit our Island. Our five-year agreement with easyJet will also provide islanders with a daily early departure to Gatwick, offering more travel options and a growing network of European transport connections which will improve resilience, expand choice for consumers and facilitate new opportunities for business.’ He added: ‘We are confident of further growth in 2023 and anticipate that our passenger numbers will rise to above pre-pandemic levels in 2024, giving Islanders access to the rest of the world and bringing benefits for our business and tourism sectors.’

Ali Gayward, easyJet’s UK country manager, said the airline was ‘delighted’ to have launched its first flight on the new route. ‘We remain focused on offering great value and convenient connections for our customers and are pleased to have also reached a new milestone earlier this month by flying more than five million passengers to and from Jersey.’ Last week, Amsterdam launched a digital discouragement campaign warning rowdy British sex and drug tourists to ‘stay away’. The initiative forms part of efforts to clean up the city’s raunchy reputation as Europe’s most liberal party capital. Amsterdam welcomes about 20 million visitors annually – including one million British tourists – and has a population of 883,000.

Guernsey and Condor act quickly to secure ferry

Guernsey’s government has lent Condor £26 million to keep its plan to buy a new conventional ferry afloat, it has emerged. The ferry company was given the money to ‘prevent a potential emergency occurring’. The new boat, the ‘Condor Islander’, which is currently operating between the North and South islands of New Zealand under the name MV Straitsman, is due to enter service in the autumn. It was announced on 8 March that the roll on-roll off vessel would be used on the company’s routes between Guernsey, Jersey, the UK and France in a bid to improve connectivity. Now it has emerged that Guernsey had to convene its emergency committee – known as the Civil Contingencies Authority – on 23 and 27 March to keep the plan afloat and that they instructed the island’s Policy and Resources Committee to intervene to ‘prevent a potential emergency occurring’.

The States agreed for the loan to be repaid at a fixed rate of interest over ten years. The States of Guernsey and Condor said this week they were jointly investing £3m each in securing the 125m-long vessel – despite having previously stated that £5m would be coming from the taxpayer-backed Guernsey Investment Fund. Condor chief executive John Napton said the joint venture with Guernsey was ‘very good news for the Islands as it supports the three strands of the local economies – lifeline freight, connectivity for Islanders and inbound tourism – and is an important step in showing our long-term commitment to improving sea links’.He added: ‘In addition, through this agreement, the States will receive a financial return from us over the next decade, after which Islander will become fully co-owned by the joint venture.’

French strikes force Condor to cancel sailings ahead of Easter

Travel woes are expected to continue in the lead-up to the Easter weekend, as strikes in France have forced Condor to cancel further ferry services. Large parts of France have been brought to a standstill by industrial action and violent protests sparked by President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial pension reforms. Much of the country’s transport system remains paralysed, with major roads blocked and rail, ferry and air services all badly affected. A spokesperson for Condor Ferries said the firm had ‘no choice but to regrettably cancel today’s services to and from St Malo’. They added: ‘In order to accommodate passengers travelling to and from Jersey and Guernsey, we have automatically moved passengers to sailings today and on Friday. Thursday’s sailing was routed via Guernsey to St Malo. Affected passengers to St Malo were also offered sailings tomorrow. We regret any inconvenience but these are clearly circumstances outside our control.’

French unions, which include those representing port authority staff, announced a new wave of strikes to cause maximum disruption and confusion to those hoping to get away for the Easter weekend. Earlier this month, Condor issued a notice saying that the company was aware of ongoing strike action which ‘may continue to affect our sailings between the islands and St Malo’. The UK Foreign Office also urged those travelling to France to ‘monitor the media, check the latest advice with operators before travelling, avoid demonstrations and follow the advice of local authorities’. An Islander who remains in France has again urged travellers to fill their vehicles up with fuel before boarding the ferry, saying that blockades at petrol depots and refineries in northern France were causing shortages and queues.  Industrial strike action at Heathrow Airport is also affecting air services between Jersey and the UK, causing disruption to some of the estimated 50,000 passengers passing through Jersey Airport between now and Easter Monday. Any Islanders wishing to transfer, discuss other options or cancel their booking with Condor can visit the company’s website or call 0345 609 1026.

Former hotel at Bouley Bay bought by family for £6.4m million

The former Water’s Edge Hotel in Bouley Bay has been bought for £6.4 million by a family who will demolish it and build a stepped luxury home. The redevelopment of the hotel was approved by the Planning Committee last October and now, six months later, the unnamed family behind it has acquired the property. The family who will live in the three-storey home said that planning approval ‘heralds an exciting new era’ for Bouley Bay when their plans were passed. Plans to convert the Water’s Edge into a home with guest accommodation, a pool, tennis courts and extensive landscaped gardens were first put forward in June 2021. They include building a new dive centre, in the same place where it is now, and a new café/restaurant, which is intended as a replacement for the Black Dog pub.Past Environment Minister John Young referred the application to a public inquiry, but this was overturned by the Royal Court, which said it failed to meet the required legal test.

In parallel to the main application, the company behind the scheme also applied to build a temporary dive centre for the two to three years that the demolition and rebuild is expected to take. Its first attempt – to use the parking spaces by the bay’s bus stop – was rejected by the Planning Committee, a group of politicians who decide on more controversial applications, but a second attempt – building it on the German bunker which is now a viewing platform – was approved in February. Separately, there had been concern that the popular Mad Mary’s food kiosk would be forced to close but last October its owner, Mary Tunney, was offered a fresh six-year lease when her current tenure expires in September. As part of a legally binding agreement with Planning, the owners of the site have pledged that the redevelopment won’t affect any hill climb events and the cliff path to and from White Rock will remain open. The owners have also agreed to limit movements of construction traffic during the summer months.

Jersey registration sold for over £130,000 at auction

A two-digit registration plate has been sold for more than £130,000 at a local auction. Bidding for registration mark J75 – which was attached to a motorcycle – opened at £95,000 at the Glencoe weekly auction yesterday. It quickly rose to £132,000 by the time the gavel fell.

Advisa Wealth would like to extend our warmest best wishes at Easter to all of our clients and their families.