The number of Australian businesses registering interest in the JobKeeper scheme doubled overnight to over 400,000, as the COVID-19 emergency continues to dominate headlines globally. So, here are the insights we have collected over the past 24 hours to share with you.

International news

  • Harvard Business Review offers practical advice on what business leaders should say and do when an employee tests positive to COVID-19, including expressing sympathy and acting quickly. Read the full article. (Subscriber access)
  • Deal making has been upended around the world as takeover deals and IPOs are put on hold to ensure companies have enough cash to stay afloat and pay employees, according to the Wall Street Journal. The value of announced mergers globally for the first quarter of 2020 is down 33% from the first quarter of 2019 to a seven-year low. In the US, that figure is down more than 50%. View the deal volumes charts tracking since 1995 here. (Subscriber access)
  • On a lighter note, while quarantined musicians in Italy play and sing from their balconies to boost morale, quarantined Brits are clearing the streets with their off-tune recorder playing in a video compiled by comedian and musician, Rainer Hersch, urging people to stay home… and practice! Watch the video here.

Australian company news 

  • Professional services companies taking various cost-cutting strategies
    • Over the past week we have seen many announcements from companies on cost cutting initiatives ranging from Board and executive pay cuts, forced annual leave, and staff reductions. Professional services firm Deloitte is enforcing a one-week shutdown, among other measures, “to maintain the health of [the] firm”. Read excerpts of the email to staff in The AFR here. (Subscriber access)
    • Grant Thornton is bringing in reduced hours and pay cuts with the CEO offering insights from the 1980s recession: “During the last downturn, organisations that cut staff destroyed their moral fabric and the trust of their people, while others chose to unite, share the pain and retain jobs for as long as they could.” Read The AFR article here. (Subscriber access)
  • Even with increased demand, some companies are looking to reduce costs 
    • While subscriber numbers are up, reduced advertising has forced Nine Entertainment to suspend newspaper sections and magazines including Domain and BOSS “to secure the future of our business”. Read more in The Australian. (Subscriber access)
    • Senior Australia Post executives are also taking pay cuts as the pandemic impacts their letters, international and passports business, despite seeing growth in their parcels business as more people shop online. Read The Australian article here. (Subscriber access)

Australian markets 

  • ASX update to listing rules and gives practical guidance on disclosure obligations including uplift in 15% placement capacity to 25%
    • As questions regarding continuous disclosure obligations during a crisis arise, the ASX has published an update on earnings guidance, capital raisings, dividend payments, and temporary emergency raising relief. The ASX notes that “It is important at the outset to state that a listed entity’s continuous disclosure obligations do not extend to predicting the unpredictable. … Nor does ASX expect listed entities to make forward-looking statements to the market unless they have a clear and reasonable basis for doing so.” Read the new guidelines here.
  • Spotlight on boards’ as COVID-19 exposes lack of stress-testing and inadequate scenario-planning
    • The current pandemic is highlighting weaknesses in boardroom stress-testing and scenario analysis, according to the former chief risk officer at Bank of Queensland, Peter Deans, who says “80 per cent of Australia’s listed companies have never done scenario planning and therefore have never conducted effective risk management strategies”. . More in today’s Chanticleer column. (Subscriber access)
  • Debit and credit card transaction analysis shows spending up
    • ANZ and CBA transaction analysis tracks Australians spending habits during March with some interesting findings: attention has turned from toilet paper and consumer staples to alcohol and DIY projects reflecting consumer sentiment in each progressive phase of the coronavirus lockdown. ANZ commented: ‘It’s gone from how can we survive in lockdown to how can we keep ourselves entertained’. Read more in The Australian here. (Subscriber access)

Our daily briefing is not meant to be a summary of media coverage but rather, insights that may be helpful in understanding how organisations are communicating with stakeholders in a time of crisis – and what comes next. Sign up via email