Aston Martin furloughing some staff after coronavirus plant closures

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Aston Martin said on Monday it is furloughing some employees as it handles the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak which has closed its car factories.

The pandemic has shut both the luxury brand’s plants, just as it starts production of its first sport utility vehicle, the DBX, crucial to a turnaround after disappointing sales last year contributed to a plunge in its share price.

Employers in Britain can claim for 80% of wage costs for staff whom they place on temporary leave, up to 2,500 pounds a month per employee, as part of a government scheme designed to help businesses whose operations have been hit by the fallout.

“(We are) utilizing all government aid available,” the company said in a statement.

Aston confirmed its capital-raising plans on Monday that will see a consortium led by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll take a stake in the company.

It said it was also taking action to control operating costs and capital expenditure and is accessing additional funding facilities. Its directors said they remain confident that the firm has enough working capital for at least the next 12 months.

The firm’s production sites are currently not scheduled to reopen until April 20 and the central England-based firm said deliveries of its DBX were “still planned for summer 2020 dependent on production and supply chain returning as currently anticipated.”

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UK government orders 10,000 ventilators from Dyson for coronavirus patients

LONDON (Reuters) – The British government has ordered 10,000 medical ventilators designed at breakneck speed by vacuum cleaner-maker Dyson, billionaire founder James Dyson said in an email to staff on Wednesday, as the country tries to boost the number of ventilators available to treat coronavirus patients.

The government, in anticipation of cases peaking in Britain in coming weeks, had made an urgent appeal to manufacturers to supply the National Health Service and would also use devices from private hospitals and other sources.

“We have received an initial order of 10,000 units from the UK Government which we will supply on an open-book basis,” James Dyson said in an email to all staff seen by Reuters.

“We are also looking at ways of making it available internationally.”

Dyson said since receiving a call from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson 10 days ago, he had refocused resources at Dyson, and worked with TTP, The Technology Partnership, to design and build an entirely new ventilator, The CoVent.

It deployed its expertise in air movement, motors, power systems, manufacturing and supply chain gained from developing products like air purifiers and fans as well as cleaners to develop the ventilator from scratch.

Reuters had reported earlier that British industry expected the government to give the go-ahead for an emergency ventilator production plan on Wednesday.

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UK parliament closes for at least four weeks

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s parliament suspended sitting for at least four weeks from Wednesday as part of government efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Parliament was due to close anyway for a three-week Easter break from March 31, but the government asked lawmakers to start a week early, as fears grow that politicians and staff are being put at risk by continuing to work there.

It had already closed to visitors and reduced the number of lawmakers allowed in the House of Commons chamber to allow them to sit further apart in accordance with guidance on social distancing.

A sparsely populated debating chamber agreed without any dissent to a motion stating: “That this House, at its rising today, do adjourn until Tuesday 21 April 2020.”

Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle also said on Monday that any votes which took place would be adapted to avoid the usual process which can see hundreds of lawmakers crammed into a narrow room together as they are counted through.

Housing minister Robert Jenrick said that while most lawmakers wanted parliament to continue sitting to scrutinise the government, it was also important to protect the staff who work there.

“I am certain that parliament will return after the Easter holidays and I think it is really important, however deep and serious this crisis is, that parliament in some form continues to operate,” he told BBC TV.

The upper chamber, the House of Lords, earlier approved emergency legislation giving authorities sweeping powers to tackle the growing coronavirus outbreak.

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PRESS DIGEST- Financial Times – March 23

March 23 (Reuters) – The following are the top stories in the Financial Times. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.


UK warns of tougher measures on public movement

Flying taxi start-up raises $240 mln from existing investors led by Tencent

UK set to launch loans scheme for small businesses


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned UK will tighten restrictions if people fail to follow the “social distancing” rule of staying at least two metres from each other in public places.

German flying taxi start-up Lilium has raised $240 million from investors led by China’s Tencent Holdings to fund its next growth stage.

The British government will be launching its scheme to assist small businesses in accessing loans this week as some companies are struggling to survive as they have been hit hard by the coronavirus.

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