Tough crackdowns on travellers entering the UK squeezed airline stocks yesterday.
In a bid to halt the spread of new and possibly more dangerous Covid variants, UK residents returning from 33 ‘red list’ countries will have to stump up £1,750 to quarantine in a Government-sanctioned hotel for ten days.
In a further move, people travelling back to the UK will also have to pay for three coronavirus tests, potentially costing another £360.
Covid crackdown: UK residents returning from 33 ‘red list’ countries will have to stump up £1,750 to quarantine in a Government-sanctioned hotel for ten days
Needless to say, the rules will almost certainly put paid to non-essential travel for at least the next few weeks.
Airline and other travel businesses had been desperately hoping that the rollout of vaccines might prompt a trickle of holidaymakers to go abroad this spring, building up to a better summer.
But it was a bruising day for the likes of Easyjet (down 4.5 per cent, or 37.2p, to 788p), British Airways-owner IAG (down 3.3 per cent, or 5.3p, to 153.9p), Ryanair (down 3 per cent, or 50 cents, to €15.20), Jet2 (down 3.7 per cent, or 54p, to 1390p) and Tui (which fell 4 per cent, or 13.3p, to 318p).
Stock Watch – Emmerson
Fertiliser miner Emmerson reached a major milestone after Morocco gave it permission to start digging its huge potash project.
Equipped with the licence, it is on track to start developing the site this year.
It has had a lot of interest from agriculture groups on both sides of the Atlantic.
Emmerson hopes the mine will produce 800,000 tons of potash a year, adding another 1 per cent to Morocco’s national tax revenue.
Shares surged 12.8 per cent, or 0.88p, to 7.78p.
In addition to the expensive quarantine requirements, the stakes have also been raised by plans to fine anyone found not to be complying with the ten-day quarantine up to £10,000 – or even face a decade in prison.
Beleaguered cruise operator Carnival, plunged by 3.8 per cent, or 51.5p, to 1317.5p.
The Government has not yet said which hotels will be used for the quarantines. But Premier Inn-owner Whitbread closed almost flat – down 0.03 per cent, or 1p, to 3200p – while Holiday Inn-owner Intercontinental Hotels Group slid 0.9 per cent, or 45p, to 4981p.
The wider market managed to shrug off the travel share losses, with the FTSE 100 eking out a 0.1 per cent gain, up 8.03 points, to 6531.56.
The FTSE 250 also climbed, by 0.1 per cent, adding 26.39 points to close at 21112.94.
A jump in housebuilder shares helped keep the indexes in the black after Bellway said that it had built a record number of homes and posted first-half turnover of £1.7billion.
Mid-cap Bellway rose 3 per cent, or 90p, to 3120p, while on the Footsie Taylor Wimpey advanced 2.6 per cent, or 4.15p, to 165.9p and Berkeley by 2 per cent, or 86p, to 4392p.
The FTSE 250’s top riser, however, was software reseller Micro Focus. Shares shot 6.6 per cent higher, up 32.3p, to 524p despite tumbling to a £2.15billion loss from a £1.1billion profit the year before.
Micro Focus specialises in wringing profit out of old computer systems it acquires by selling software and maintenance services to banks and retailers which use them.
After a difficult few months, investors piled in after it reinstated a final dividend – of 15.5p per share – as it made ‘solid progress’ in its three-year turnaround plan.
There was muted demand for security giant G4S after it said business had been buoyant in the final months of 2020, pinning down contracts with a value of £5.5billion.
G4S is a bid target for US rival Allied Universal and Canada’s Garda World. The board has backed a 245p a share offer from Allied having snubbed Garda.
But there is chatter that Garda could be mulling another bid, which is why some in the City believe G4S’s shares are above the asking price.
They closed up 0.2 per cent, or 0.4p, to 261p before Allied Universal said the offer had been extended again to 1pm on March 6.
It has so far shored up support from investors representing 0.9 per cent of the company’s shares.
And, finally, medicinal cannabis company MGC Pharmaceuticals had a rollicking first day on the stock market, rising from a starting price of 2p to 2.4p, a 19 per cent rise.
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