Perma-swamped? Courier companies struggling under a mountain of online purchases since the start of the Level 3 lockdown will be concerning retailers whose reputations are ultimately tied to the prompt delivery of orders. While the current backlog can be blamed on the lockdown, what if this is now the new normal and we see online orders continue to grow at the current rate? Will wait times for deliveries continue to grow longer over time as online purchasing ramps up post lockdown?

All hands on deck: NZ Post apologised yesterday for delays that are now up to a week long. NZ Post Chief Marketing Officer Bryan Dobson said the company was processing parcels 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, had opened temporary processing sites, brought on hundreds of extra vans and people, and even resorted to using volunteers from other parts of the business. And all this in an age when Amazon in the U.S. can offer same day delivery on many purchases 364 days of the year – Christmas Day excepted.

Here, take it: Plans by the Government to auction the new 5G spectrum have been ditched in favour of direct allocation to existing incumbents Spark and 2 Degrees along with British newcomer Dense Air. The covid-19 pandemic has been blamed for the change of plan which has resulted in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment saying it would instead offer direct allocations: 60 megahertz each to Spark and 2degrees and 40 MHz to Dense Air.

Faster speeds: Vodafone New Zealand already had enough 3.5GHz spectrum to launch its commercial 5G network last year, giving it a head start over its rivals. Dense Air is a relative newcomer to New Zealand, acquiring spectrum in 2018. The London-based company is a mobile wholesaler, selling access to its network to retail providers.

(Photo: Philippa Wood)

Not beating it: Wesfarmers-owned Bunnings New Zealand has announced plans to close seven provincial stores across the country, affecting 145 jobs. Stores in Ashburton, Hornby and Rangiora in the South Island and Hastings, Cambridge and Te Awamutu are all likely to close at the end of next month. Its Putaruru branch will close at the end of this week.

Blame Covid: Bunnings cited the Covid-19 effect on consumer demand, but also said lease arrangements, store performance and suitability of the locations were factors. The retailer has 46 other stores nationwide and still plans to open new stores in Westgate and Queenstown. The company said some affected staff may be offered roles in other branches.

Risky bet: Racing Minister Winston Peters announced a $72.5 million-dollar support package for the troubled sector. In what some might describe as a “passion project” Peters said the industry had been hit by the perfect storm of covid-19 while in a weak financial state and in the midst of a reform programme.

Quote du Jour: “There is a genuine risk of insolvency and the industry losing the future gains of its reforms.”

A helping hand: The package included a relief grant for the Racing Industry Transition Agency and funds to build two new all-weather racetracks. It is estimated the industry employs 15,000 full time workers and has an economic value of $1.6 billion.

Turning Japanese: Hamilton-based WEL and neighbouring Waipa Networks agreed to sell UFF Holdings to Japanese institutional investor First State Investments for $854 million. While the sale is still subject to Overseas Investment Office and government change of control clearance, the deal will net both WEL and Waipa Networks a sizeable gain, which hasn’t been disclosed. The sale terms include $200 million of WEL’s share of the proceeds being deferred for 18 months.

Big player: The purchase by First State, which is ultimately owned by Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corporation (MUTB), will give it a significant regional broadband footprint across the central North Island. Formed to participate in the Crown-led UFB roll-out, UFF provides broadband to a potential market of more than 237,000 homes and businesses in Hamilton, Tauranga, Whanganui, New Plymouth, Tokoroa, Hawera, Cambridge and Te Awamutu. First State, which also owns gas and LPG distributor First Gas, said UFF would remain headquartered in Hamilton.

Defiant: Tesla founder & CEO Elon Musk has carried out his threat to reopen production at its Fremont plant near San Francisco, despite county lockdown orders, saying he is willing to be arrested. The escalation of the conflict follows a weekend Twitter tirade in which Mr Musk said he is suing Alameda County, where the electric carmaker employs more than 10,000 people, and threatened to relocate operations to Texas or Nevada. Musk said he will be on the line with everyone else adding that “…if anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”

We’ll call the shots: The outspoken Tesla founder has grown increasingly agitated since the Fremont plant stopped production on March 23 because of coronavirus even resorting to calling the rules “fascist” during a recent earnings call. In an 18-page complaint filed on Saturday, Tesla alleged that Alameda County officials, not Tesla, was the one out of step with California’s Covid-19 regulations following a relaxation for manufacturers.

Does not compute: The New York Times has attempted to explain why the world’s biggest stockmarket continues to push higher despite an unemployment rate that is likely to top 20 percent in the coming weeks. Pointing out that the five largest companies in the benchmark S&P 500 index – Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Alphabet (which owns Google) and Facebook – are up roughly 10 percent this year, the other 495 companies that make up the index are actually down 13 percent.

FAANGs now a fifth of S&P 500: Between them, the big five most highly valued firms – Microsoft, Amazon and Apple are each with more than $1 trillion – now account for one-fifth of the market value of the index, the highest concentration in nearly 30 years.

Quote du jour: As one analyst pointed out “it’s very easy to get confused by looking at the stock market doing so well [despite the economic climate] but its being driven by a relatively small subset of companies which aren’t really affected by this virus and in the case of Amazon actually benefit from it.”

Andrew Patterson is Newsroom's Markets Editor and has worked for decades as a financial journalist, radio presenter and editor with Australia's ABC, Radio Live and NBR.

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