Reuters
Reuters

NEW YORK/LONDON/MILAN/MELBOURNE (Reuters Breakingviews) – Corona Capital is a column updated throughout the day by Breakingviews columnists around the world with short, sharp pandemic-related insights.

LATEST

– Macy’s and Klarna

– UK companies and debt

TAKEAWAY. The Great Depression popularized layaway plans, where shoppers paid for items in installments and then took them home when paid in full. The pandemic is universalizing the reverse – and Macy’s wants in. The $2 billion retailer is joining the likes of Silver Lake and Snoop Dogg and investing in Klarna, the Swedish payments group, and under a five-year partnership, customers can pay in four interest-free installments after purchase.

Nearly a century may separate the two financing inventions, but the consumer impetus is the same. Consumers’ wallets are shrinking, and they are looking to spread out payments. Likewise, retailers are desperate for sales, and buy-now-pay-later plans do that in exchange for giving away a cut. So far, everyone is happy, especially Klarna, which was valued at nearly $11 billion in a September funding round.

But unlike layaway plans, which forced customers to be thrifty by forgoing consumption until the item was paid for, these plans encourage immediate gratification. A harder recession, or regulation to protect consumers, may bite them. (By Robert Cyran)

DEBT PANDEMIC. Britain’s small and medium-sized firms are drowning in debt just as Prime Minister Boris Johnson tightens coronavirus restrictions. Data from UK Finance, a bank trade association, showed https://www.ukfinance.org.uk/data-and-research/data/business-finance/business-finance-review?utm_source=Website&utm_medium=bit.ly&utm_campaign=Business%20Finance%20Review%20Q2%202020 on Tuesday that SMEs borrowed 40 billion pounds from the seven largest lenders in the first half of 2020. That’s almost double the 24 billion pounds they borrowed in the whole of 2019. Government-backed schemes, like Bounce Back Loans, helped.

Given cash-strapped SMEs have already maxed out on credit as their first line of defence, new lockdowns may do more

Reuters
Reuters

NEW YORK/MILAN/HONG KONG/LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) – Corona Capital is a column updated throughout the day by Breakingviews columnists around the world with short, sharp pandemic-related insights.

LATEST

– NYC’s new cases

DON’T FORGET ABOUT IT. New York City’s positive Covid-19 test rate hit 3.25% on Tuesday, said Mayor Bill de Blasio, the highest since June. The Big Apple was an early hotspot, and its four largest counties have racked up over 223,000 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. But it had made a dramatic turnaround – with weeks of daily rates mostly between one and two percent. And limited indoor dining is just starting on Wednesday – giving the city’s economy a jolt it desperately needs.

The setback doesn’t have to be catastrophic. Around a quarter of new cases in the past two weeks are confined to only nine zip codes, which contain less than 8% of the city’s population, according to the New York Times. The main culprit seems to be populations violating mask rules, not reopening measures like outdoor dining. So the mayor doesn’t need to reverse course; he just needs to make sure New Yorkers cover up. (By Anna Szymanski)

BITE SIZE. The pandemic has thrown confectionary giant Ferrero a tasty treat. The maker of Nutella chocolate spread and Kinder eggs may swallow UK-based Fox’s Biscuits, says Sky News. Though the family owned Italian group won’t comment, a deal would fit its strategy of diversifying from chocolate confectionary into packaged sweets. Ferrero, which earned 11.4 billion euros in revenue last year, could easily afford the reported price tag of 250 million to 300 million pounds.

For Fox’s owner, a sale may also make sense. The maker of Crunch Creams and Viennese has done well while Britons snacked at home during lockdown. But it’s a

NEW YORK/LONDON/HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) – Corona Capital is a daily column updated throughout the day by Breakingviews columnists around the world with short, sharp pandemic-related insights.

An Uber sticker is seen on driver Margaret Bordelon’s car in Lafayette, Louisiana, U.S. February 16, 2020. Picture taken February 16, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare

LATEST

– Amazon

– Uber

SUBORDINATE PRIME. Amazon.com is pressing ahead with its manufactured “Prime Day” for Oct. 13 and 14. The shopping event devised to lure consumers with deals during a lull in the calendar was postponed in July because of the pandemic.

The question that raises is why Amazon even bothers with the extravaganza, given the extent to which Jeff Bezos’ outfit has wiped the floor with rivals during the coronavirus pandemic. A survey from Bank of America published on Monday found broadly that nearly one-third of respondents are doing 60% of their shopping online versus 9% pre-Covid. Six out of 10 surveyed plan to spend more online in the future.

Besides, Amazon has Prime members locked up “at the highest level” Bank of America has seen, with almost 80% of respondents “unlikely” or “very unlikely” to cancel their membership. When every day is Prime day, why make it a holiday? (By Jennifer Saba)

RIDE OUT THE STORM. Uber Technologies has received a timely boost in London, where a judge deemed it “fit and proper” to continue operating its services. The verdict follows a decision last November by Transport for London to suspend Uber’s license over safety concerns. It’s a rare bit of good news for Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi, who in August reported a 67% year-on-year decline in quarterly revenue because of the pandemic.

There are reasons to be cautious. Uber will have to renew its license after 18 months and has