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Coronavirus updates

In light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the number one priority is the health and safety of the country. The BVCA has taken its own measures to protect its staff, and we are committed to supporting our members and their portfolio companies.

The BVCA response to the COVID-19 outbreak: Statement of Best Practice.

The BVCA sent out surveys to members to gain feedback on the impact Coronavirus is having on their firms and portfolio companies. We have used the information from the surveys to provide written evidence to HM Treasury on its financial packages and feedback to other Government departments on what the BVCA believes will help to support businesses through this period.

The BVCA is hosting webinars for our members about how the UK private equity and venture capital industry is responding to the outbreak, and how the BVCA is supporting its members and their portfolio companies during this time.

We have compiled official government guidance, as well as updates from other trade associations, to provide information for portfolio companies in the following areas:

  • Financial support from Government
  • Guidance for employers
  • Supply chains, payments and cybersecurity
  • Travel and insurance matters
  • FCA advice for regulated firms/businesses

The BVCA will continue to monitor the situation and provide members with relevant information.

Summary

  • The Government advised that people should stay at home other than for very limited purposes including: shopping for basic necessities; one form of exercise per day; any medical needs; and travelling to and from work for key workers. This will be reviewed on 6 April.
  • Funding schemes including the Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme and the Coronavirus Corporate Financing Facility are now running to support businesses, provided by the British Business Bank and the Bank of England, respectively.
  • A new Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Scheme has been announced for firms with turnover between £45-500m with more details to follow later in April.
  • On 28 March, the Government announced that the wrongful trading law will be suspended to protect directors during the outbreak.
  • The FCA has published expectations and guidance for firms in response to coronavirus.
  • Special Coronavirus IPEV Valuation Guidelines have been published to support firms filing valuation for March 2020.

Financial support

In response to the global outbreak of COVID-19, the Chancellor has introduced a number of initiatives to help businesses access financial support to cover business interruption due to Coronavirus. The measures to date are as follows:

  • A Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to ensure UK employers are able to access support to continue to pay their employees’ salaries. HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to £2500 per individual per month. This is a grant and the first grants will be paid within weeks; it should be running before the end of April and the pay will be backdated to 1 March 2020. The scheme will run for a maximum of 3 months and employees cannot work during that period.

  • A Self-Employment Income Support Scheme to support self-employed people who have lost income due to Coronavirus. The scheme allows people to claim a taxable grant of 80% of average trading profits up to £2500 per month. This is available to those who rely on self-employment as their main source of income, have trading profits of less than £50,000 and have submitted returns data to HMRC for the tax year 2018-19. Individuals do not need to contact HMRC and will be invited to apply if eligible.

  • Deference of Value Added Tax (VAT) payment for 3 months for all UK businesses. There will be no payments between now and the end of June and businesses will have until April 2021 to pay this.

  • A Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility, run by the Bank of England and overseen by HM Treasury has been introduced. This will provide funding to larger businesses that are experiencing severe disruption to cashflows by purchasing commercial paper issued by firms making a “material contribution to the UK economy.

  • A Term Funding Scheme offering four-year funding of at least 10% of participants’ stock of real economy lending at interest rates at, or very close to, Bank Rate. Additional funding will be available for banks that increase lending, especially to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

  • On 3 April, the Chancellor announced a new Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) to support businesses with turnover of between £45m - £500m. The scheme provides government guarantee of 80% to make loans of up to £25m. Loans backed by a guarantee under CLBILS will be offered at commercial rates of interest and further details of the scheme will be announced later this month.

  • The British Business Bank is delivering a temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). The scheme will support up to £5m through existing lenders, guarantee up to 80% of losses with no fees, and be interest free for the first 12 months. The scheme will temporarily replace the Enterprise Finance Guarantee. This scheme is available to SMEs who have were under the de minimus state aid rules and the British Business Bank has published FAQs on eligibility criteria and implementation. The FCA has provided guidance to lenders for this scheme.

  • Legislation to allow SMEs to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for paid absence due to COVID-19, for up to 14 days. The Government will work with eligible employers in the coming months to set-up a repayment mechanism for SSP, as existing systems cannot process this. The eligibility and requirements are as follows:

    Employers with fewer than 250 employees (as of 28 February 2020).
    Employers should keep a record of employee absence, but employees will not need a note from their GP.
    Employees will be able to claim retrospectively from 13 March 2020.

  • Increasing the Business Rate Retail discount in England to 100% for the year 2020/21 for all retail, leisure and hospitality businesses. In addition, there will up to a £25,000 grant provided to retail, leisure and hospitality with rateable value of £15,000-£51,000. Devolved Administrations (Scotland, Wales & N.Ireland) will receive at least £3.5bn in additional funding to support business in these areas. Businesses are advised to contact their local council for more information on eligibility or provisions.

  • A £10,000 cash grant for small businesses provided by local authorities. Small businesses that pay little or no business rates and are eligible for small business rate relief (SBBR) or rural rate relief will be contacted by their local authority - they do not need to apply. The funding will be provided to local authorities in early April. Guidance for local authorities on the scheme will be provided shortly.

  • HMRC Time to Pay helpline service for eligible businesses and self-employed individuals to receive support with tax liabilities. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

 
 

General guidance for employers

The UK government has published guidance for employers, explaining how to tackle the following:

  • How to prevent the spread of coronavirus
  • What to do if an employee is suspected of carrying coronavirus
  • Advice for individuals who have travelled to particular areas
  • How staff should respond if they come into contact with someone that has contracted coronavirus.

On 23 March, the Government advised that people should avoid all unnecessary social contact and should stay at home other than for very limited purposes including: shopping for basic necessities; one form of exercise per day; any medical needs; and travelling to and from work for key workers. It has also advised all non-essential businesses to close and where people, companies are to consider their staff’s ability to work from home. The Government has advised that people will be dispersed and incur fines for failure to adhere to the new measures and the police and other relevant authorities will be monitoring the situation. This is will in place for a minimum of 3 weeks.

The Government has also published guidance specific to sectors that might see greater adverse impacts and may need to have greater precautions, such as healthcare, education and transport sectors. See the links below for sector specific guidance.

The Federation of Small Businesses has published guidance for small businesses to assist employers in understanding their obligations and help to manage staff and other business responsibilities. This publication addresses concerns around lay-offs, contract variations and, statutory sick pay.

On 28 March, the Government announced that it was suspending the wrongful trading law within insolvency rules to protect directors of companies who pay staff and suppliers despite insolvency risks. The changes are temporary for businesses undergoing a restructuring process, in this time they will not be put into administration and will continue be able to access raw materials.

Invest Europe has published information for its members on the policy measures being taken across markets in Europe.


 
 

Auditing and Valuations

The International Private Equity and Venture Capital Valuation Guidelines (IPEV) has published further guidance for firms regarding valuations in light of the Coronavirus.

The BVCA has been speaking to audit firms about the impact on audit opinions:

  • Many portfolio companies with secured lending require an audit within 120 days of the year end otherwise it is a covenant breach.
  • For December year ends, directors and auditors are being put in a difficult position as there is no central economic base case on which to build the going concern analysis that is required when preparing financial statements and auditing them.
  • The FCA has given listed companies a two month extension and a similar position is required for private companies.

The Financial Reporting Council published guidance on audit issues arising from the Coronavirus pandemic. Audits should continue to comply fully with required standards. In current circumstances, additional time may be required to complete audits and it is important that this is taken, even at the risk of delaying company reporting. The FRC is considering additional guidance that may be necessary to support delivering audits in the next few months.

The ICAWE has published insight and further information on Coronavirus and its potential impact on audits and auditors.


Supply chain, payment and cybersecurity concerns

Supply chain

According to the CBI, supply chain disruption has been significant, particularly manufacturing and logistics firms across different sectors. It had been mainly in China but production within Europe is now being directly hit. Some firms are utilising existing stockpiles and some firms have been able to source replacement components from elsewhere, but have had to consider cashflow, timing and margins of projects.


Payments

The Small Business Commissioners Office will continue to support businesses with invoice, payment and supply chain issues.


Cybersecurity

As a result of the Coronavirus, there is an increased risk of fraudulent activity. The charity anti-fraud Take Five has published advice to help increase awareness and inform businesses of the steps they can take to protect themselves during the outbreak.


Travel and Insurance concerns

Travel

On 23 March, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised all British people currently abroad to return to the UK now, if commercial flights are still available, as international travel is becoming limited. People are also advised to stay in their primary residence and avoid second homes or campsites.

The Government has advised that all non-essential international travel should be restricted for 30 days. This applies on a global scale. Any country or area may restrict travel without notice. The advice for specific countries is still available and can be accessed via the below link.

The Government has advised if changes or cancellation of travel is needed to:

  1. Contact your airline, travel company, cruise line or other transport and accommodation providers;
  2. Get in touch with your insurance provider; and
  3. Continue to follow the NHS coronavirus guidance.

Insurance

On 17 March, the Chancellor announced that all measures put in place by the Government will qualify businesses to claim on their insurance. The Association of British Insurers has published a Q&A on Coronavirus, providing guidance on concerns around business insurance. The document also covers: travel insurance; trade credit insurance; pensions and investments; and income protection.


FCA advice for regulated firms

The FCA has published detailed information setting out its expectations for firms during the Coronavirus outbreak and how it intends to operate as the situation develops. It has stated that it expects firms to be taking reasonable steps to ensure they are prepared to meet the challenges presented by Coronavirus for business continuity. The FCA is also expecting firms to support customers and small businesses during this period, ensure that they remain transparent. The FCA have also published guidance of specific aspects of regulation such as SM&CR responsibilities, regulatory changes and insurance products. Firms are encouraged to ensure they are managing their financial resilience and liquidity, and to report to the FCA if firms believe they will face difficulties. In terms of how the FCA will operate, it has announced that it has extended the closing date for responses to all open consultation papers until 1 October 2020 and is rescheduling most other planned work.



Last updated: 6 April 2020

Further information

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT THE BVCA

 +44 (0)20 7492 0400

 policy@bvca.co.uk