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WEEKLY MARKET ROUND-UP – 05/08/20

Are remote workers more immune to unemployment in a recession?

Microsoft eyes bid for US TikTok business

Technology giant Microsoft has confirmed it is continuing discussions to purchase the US operations of social media app TikTok from Chinese firm ByteDance, with a deadline of 15 September, following reassurances from the US government.

President Trump reportedly said on Friday (31 Jul) that TikTok would be banned in the US over national security concerns, amid rising tensions between the US and China, suggesting an end to a potential deal between Microsoft and ByteDance.

But on Monday (3 Aug) Microsoft said that following a call between its chief executive and Mr Trump, it “fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury.”

The video sharing app is believed to have around 500m active users, with around 80m in the US alone, and a sale would provide Microsoft with a strong foothold in the social media space against rivals such as Facebook and YouTube.

Insurers hit by coronavirus cancellations

Hiscox, one of the Lloyds of London insurers, saw its share price hit a two month low on Monday (3 Aug) as it revealed it had set aside $232m for claims linked to the coronavirus crisis, up from the previous estimate of $175m.

In its half year results, the insurer reported a pre-tax loss of $138.9m compared with a $168m profit the previous year. It has now set aside $232m for coronavirus claims in the first half of the year, which includes $150m in previously announced claims from event cancellation and abandonment, media and entertainment and other segments including travel.

Other Lloyds of London insurers have also been hit, with Beazley recording a pre-tax loss for the first half of $13.8m, and expected coronavirus losses of $170m. Lancashire Holdings, also recorded a pre-tax loss of $23m and has set aside $42m for coronavirus related losses, although all three companies noted that the uncertainty of the pandemic means the final figures may differ from the estimates in what could be the “largest insured loss in history.”