Client Weekly Update – Friday 27 May

Covid Loan Scheme

Islanders who were overpaid by a scheme designed to protect jobs during the pandemic could have up to five years to pay back the money if they set up an instalment plan, the director general of Customer and Local Services has said.

Ian Burns has moved to reassure business owners who had been left worried after they claimed to have received letters asking for repayments to the Co-Funded Payroll Scheme to be made within 14 days. He said the time window is for business owners to set up an instalment plan for how they will pay the money back.

Mr Burns said: ‘When sole traders and business owners applied to the scheme, a lot of them listed their full turnover, rather than the amount of money which they would take out of the business for themselves – this is what has led to the overpayments.’ ‘We have been following a process by calling people up to let them know of the overpayments and then sending them a letter. The letter is to remind them to make an instalment plan.’

Around 270 self-employed people had received letters demanding repayments totalling up to £1.9 million that was paid out under the initiative.

When the scheme was first launched, the government website stated that for phase two of funding, which was focused more on self-traders and self-employed, ‘you should claim for the total gross average monthly income through one business at the end of the month that you are claiming for’.

Mr Burns added: ‘We want to reassure people that they do not have to pay the money back in 14 days. They can set up an instalment plan and have up to two years to pay it back. Depending on their individual case, they could have up to five years to pay it back.

However, in order to do this, businesses need to get in touch in order to set up a plan. We are not asking people to pay back all the money they were given, it is just the amount they were overpaid.’

Monkeypox; Doctors briefed

Doctors are being briefed and treatment measures are being put in place to deal with any cases of monkeypox diagnosed in Jersey, the director of public health has said. Although no instances of the infection have been picked up to date, the number of cases in the UK has risen sharply and prompted new advice from Professor Peter Bradley about measures being established to protect Islanders.

Professor Bradley said that Island GPs had been given specific advice about how to deal with monkeypox, including options for testing and vaccination, as well as treatment with antibiotics. Most cases of the infection could be treated in patients’ homes, he added but said that the General Hospital was ready if required to treat cases where necessary.

There was currently no legal requirement for those with concerns to isolate, Professor Bradley said, although he explained this position could change should the virus reach Jersey. He said isolation would be a sensible precaution for those with concerns prior to receiving advice from their GP or the Sexual Health Clinic.

He said: ‘Normally people can stay at home and the infection will not lead to major illness, but we are planning how hospital treatment would be provided for the rare cases where this is required.

Local boy presents Premiership Trophy

A day of sporting drama ended with a young Islander getting his hands on one of the most prestigious trophies in football… having thought it had slipped from his grasp a few minutes earlier.

The inspiring reaction of the 16-year-old since his sister took her own life earlier this year led to him being asked to present the Premier League trophy on the final day of the English season – but only if his beloved Manchester City could win it.

After his son had set out to raise funds for mental health charities in memory of his sister and collected in excess of £100,000, his father wrote to see if the club might acknowledge their visit to Sunday’s home game against Aston Villa.

The youngster’s father said: ‘I’d written to [Manchester] City the previous weekend to see if there might be something they could do by way of acknowledgement. I was thinking that perhaps they might be able to sort out a signed shirt, or something like that.’

A phone call last Tuesday left the family in a state of disbelief – signed merchandise was not mentioned, with the club having some rather more significant plans. ‘I couldn’t believe it, but they wanted my Son to present the trophy if things went right for City on the day,’ he added, having kept the invitation a secret until the pair of them arrived in Manchester, incredulous feedback was received once I revealed what they were going to be doing.

He said: ‘I was shocked when my Dad told me on Saturday afternoon that if we won on Sunday I would be presenting the trophy to our captain – I didn’t believe him at first.’

Manchester City, who the family have supported for generations, had plenty to do on Sunday to ensure the presentation would go ahead.  The family was able to send some hurried text messages to extended family and friends to make sure they tuned in to the presentation, which was screened live by Sky Sports.

The duo returned to Jersey still buzzing from what he described as ‘an incredible experience, one that I’ll never forget’. But he was also preparing himself for a slight change of tempo, as he was due to sit his GCSE exams this week.

About the Platinum Jubilee

On 6 February 2022, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II became the first British Monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years of service to the people of the United Kingdom, the Realms, and the Commonwealth.

To complement the national programme a number of on-island events are being organised, the programme has been designed not to conflict with live coverage which will be broadcast, including the Trooping the Colour in London, to best allow islanders to fully immerse themselves in the historic occasion.

It is hoped that subject to the approval of the Government of Jersey and the States Assembly, the island will also enjoy a two-day public holiday to commemorate the Queen’s 70 years of service.

The Bailiff of Jersey, Mr Timothy Le Cocq, said: “I am delighted with the programme of local events we have scheduled, to complement those organised by the Royal Household and I hope they will allow islanders and visitors to enjoy as many activities as possible, this should  be a memorable weekend for all who choose to take part.”

You can access the programme of events on Jersey

Mixed markets

While the FTSE 100 is even today, European markets are mixed. The CAC 40 is up 0.82% while the DAX gains 0.57%.

At the closing bell yesterday, the Dow Jones gained 516.91 points, or 1.6%, to 32637.19, off 11% from their January record. The S&P 500 advanced 79.11 points, or 2%, to 4057.84. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite climbed 305.91 points, or 2.7%, to 11740.65, helped by gains in shares of Apple, Microsoft, and Tesla.

Asian markets finished broadly higher today with shares in Hong Kong leading the region. The Hang Seng is up 2.72% while Japan’s Nikkei 225 is up 0.66% and China’s Shanghai Composite is up 0.23%.

£15bn aid to help UK households

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a £15 billion package to help with home energy prices, which will be financed in part by a contentious windfall tax on gas and oil companies.

On Thursday, he announced in the House of Commons that more than 8 million low-income households will get £650 to assist them to cope with rising energy costs. This help will cost £5 billion.

Sunak stated that the present cost of living situation is “very intolerable” and that the government will never allow people to go hungry.

Furthermore, he stated that 8 million senior households will get a one-time £300 payment, as well as a one-time £150 payment for persons receiving disability payments. This category will also receive £650 for people with the lowest income.

Support for low-income individuals would cost £9 billion, according to Sunak, and will cover a third of UK homes.

UK train operator FirstGroup considering £1.2bn takeover

FirstGroup, the UK’s largest railway operator, is weighing a £1.2 billion buyout bid from a US private equity firm, making it the latest UK transport company to be targeted for acquisition.

The Aberdeen-based bus and rail operator said it received a succession of unsolicited approaches from I Squared Capital and unanimously rejected all, with the exception of the most recent one, which it is examining.

The private equity fund is proposing 118p per share in cash plus a “contingent right to up to an additional 45.6p per share” dependent on the outcome of dividends to the company following the sale of its US transportation business and net profits from the Greyhound sale last year. FirstGroup has opted to exit the North American market and concentrate on the United Kingdom.

I Squared Capital is a global infrastructure business with offices in London, Hong Kong, Miami, Singapore, and Delhi that specialises in energy, utilities, communications, and transportation across the Americas, Europe, and Asia.

FirstGroup shares soared as much as 15% to 138p, reaching levels not seen since 2019, before closing 8.3% higher at 129p.

Twitter investors sue Elon Musk

Twitter investors have sued Elon Musk for delaying the disclosure of his investment in the company, as the Tesla CEO prepares a £35 billion takeover attempt.

According to the investors, Musk saved £124 million by neglecting to report that he had bought more than 5% of Twitter by 14 March.

Musk continued to acquire shares after that, eventually disclosing that he held 9.2% of the company in early April, according to the complaint, which was filed on Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco.

Musk’s ability to finance his acquisition of Twitter is in “serious jeopardy,” according to the investors, because he has pledged his shares as security to acquire the financing, he needs to buy the company.

On Thursday, Tesla’s stock was selling at roughly £555, down from over £800 in early April.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the timing of Musk’s ownership announcement has already prompted an inquiry by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Musk offered an extra £4.9 billion in equity funding to support his bid for Twitter on Wednesday, indicating that he is attempting to close the acquisition despite requiring Twitter to show proof that spam bots account for less than 5% of its users last week.