Airbnb plans public share sale despite pandemic

Lodging website Airbnb has filed papers in the US to become a publicly listed company in what is one of the most-anticipated launches of the year.

Since its founding as home-sharing site in 2008, the San Francisco tech firm has grown into a global juggernaut.

Its rise has challenged traditional hotel rivals and cities coping with an influx of tourists to new areas.

And while the pandemic hurt the firm’s already loss-making business, Airbnb said its model remains resilient.

The company reportedly hopes to raise about $3bn (£2.27bn) by selling shares in the listing, which could value the firm at more than $30bn.

“We believe that the lines between travel and living are blurring, and the global pandemic has accelerated the ability to live anywhere,” the company said in its Securities and Exchange Commission filing for its initial public offering (IPO). “Our platform has proven adaptable to serve these new ways of traveling.”

More than 4 million hosts list properties on the platform, 86% of which are located outside of the US. Last year, roughly 54 million people reserved stays through the company, which takes a cut of each booking.

But travel was hit hard by the pandemic, prompting the company to slash staff numbers by 25% and raise $2bn in emergency loans from investors to make it through the crisis.

The firm said bookings have since recovered somewhat, as people looked to escape locked down cities with long-term rentals. But they remain down about 20% in recent months compared to last year.

In 2019, the firm booked losses of more than $674m – a figure it has already surpassed in the first nine months of this year.

The firm, which brought in revenue of $4.8bn last year, also warned potential investors that revenue growth had slowed, a trend likely to continue.

Between 2018 and 2019, the firm’s revenue grew more than 30%. But it fell more than 30% year-on-year in the first nine months of 2020, to $2.5bn from $3.7bn a year earlier.

Separately, shares of electric car maker Tesla jumped 9% in extended trade on Monday after S&P Dow Jones Indices said that the company would join the S&P 500 index. It will join on 21 December.

Boris Johnson called Scottish devolution disaster

Downing Street has not denied reports that Boris Johnson called devolution in Scotland a “disaster”.

The Sun newspaper also said the prime minister had described it as predecessor Tony Blair’s “biggest mistake” in a meeting with Tory MPs.

The SNP has criticised Mr Johnson’s reported comments.

But government sources suggested the prime minister had been making “more of a reference” to the SNP’s running of Scotland than devolution in general.

Mr Johnson was in a Zoom meeting with Tory MPs representing dozens of seats in northern England when he is said to have made remarks.

He reportedly said that “devolution has been a disaster north of the border”.

Mr Blair’s Labour government brought in devolution for Scotland in 1999, including the setting up of a parliament in Edinburgh.

It has been suggested by some taking part in the MPs’ Zoom meeting that Mr Johnson was answering a question that had been put to him about devolution in England.

A Downing Street source: “The PM has always supported devolution, but Tony Blair failed to foresee the rise of separatists in Scotland…”Devolution is great – but not when it’s used by separatists and nationalists to break up the UK.”

Elections for the Scottish Parliament take place next May.

Ms Sturgeon’s SNP says a second referendum on independence – following Scotland’s vote against it in 2014 – should happen if her party wins. But Mr Johnson has ruled this out.

In response to the Sun’s report, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Worth bookmarking these PM comments for the next time Tories say they’re not a threat to the powers of the Scottish Parliament – or, even more incredibly, that they support devolving more powers.”

She added that the “only way to protect and strengthen” the Scottish Parliament was through independence for Scotland.

But the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Douglas Ross, tweeted: “Devolution has not been a disaster. The SNP’s non-stop obsession with another referendum – above jobs, schools and everything else – has been a disaster.”

Covid-19: Liverpool mass-testing finds 700 cases with no symptoms

A mass Covid-19 testing trial in Liverpool has found 700 people unwittingly had the virus.

Public Health England director Dr Susan Hopkins said nearly 100,000 people had been tested over the last 10 days.

She stressed that these positive cases would have not been detected otherwise.

About 2,000 soldiers have been deployed in the city for the project, which was intended to run for an initial period of 10 to 14 days.

Devices which give results within an hour have been used to test people in the city since the scheme began on 6 November.

Liverpool had among the highest rates of deaths from coronavirus in October, when it became the first area in England to face the tightest restrictions before the second national lockdown.

Speaking at a Downing Street press briefing, Dr Hopkins said “we are looking to replicate this across the country”.

She said: “We are also running evaluations in schools and universities and are planning to test university students prior to going home at Christmas.”

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace visited a test centre at Exhibition Centre Liverpool on Monday and said the Army would assist with the programme for “as long as there is a need”.

Mr Wallace said: “The rollout’s been good, the soldiers have been welcomed, the public have come from all over the city.”

Trooper Dan House, 22, said up to 500 tests a day were being carried out at the site where he was based and people had given soldiers tubs of chocolates as a thank you.

He said: “It’s nice to know the work we’re doing is coming across to the British public and they’re happy we’re here.”

Covid-19: Wakefield medics cant see an end to patients

Staff at a West Yorkshire hospital have said they “can’t see an end” to the cycle of people being admitted with coronavirus.

Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield has more than 300 Covid-19 patients – twice as many as it saw during the peak of the first wave in April.

The NHS hospital expects to see a “dramatic increase” in intensive care patients in the next fortnight.

Medics have appealed for the public to keep following lockdown rules.

On 10 November, there were 2,221 patients in hospitals across Yorkshire and Lincolnshire with Covid-19, the highest total seen throughout the pandemic.

Wakefield had 510 cases of the virus per 100,000 people in the week of 5-11 November, a rate more than double the England average.

Neil Allan, clinical lead at the hospital’s intensive care unit, said: “We’re all struggling a little bit, we’re working a lot longer hours, working a lot of night shifts just to try to cover the service.

“There’s an ever-increasing number of patients coming through the hospital and within two weeks or so they end up filtering through to intensive care.”

He added: “At the moment we can’t really see an end to what’s happening.”

The number of high-dependency beds at the hospital has been doubled to treat people with breathing difficulties, with doctors aiming to keep as many people on non-invasive ventilation as possible.

Tracey Spacey, a critical care nurse, described the situation as “extremely challenging”.

“Staff are exhausted, we’ve had staff deployed from other areas to help us, and we’re extremely grateful,” she said.

“I have every confidence that the patients get the care they require, what I’m slightly less confident about is the resilience of the staff to get through this second wave and further on.”

Covid: England tier system may need strengthening – government adviser

England’s regional Covid tier system may need to be “strengthened” to get the country “through the winter”, a senior government adviser has said.

Dr Susan Hopkins, from Public Health England, said they needed to look at what “tiers there may be in the future” as they have had “different effects”.

A three-tier system was used in England to tackle the spread of coronavirus before the national lockdown began.

Matt Hancock said the government hoped to bring back the regional tiers.

It comes as the UK announced a further 21,363 daily Covid cases, as well as a further 213 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

England’s four-week nationwide lockdown is due to end on 2 December.

Speaking at the government’s evening coronavirus briefing, Dr Hopkins, who is also a member of the government’s scientific advisory group (Sage), said the “key” to knowing if the lockdown in England was working was “if cases fall” and they expect to know that “in the next week”.

“As long as we see cases decline we can make judgments… about opening up,” she said.

She added that, prior to the lockdown, “tier three plus” had led to a reduction in cases in the North West, and she said tier two “holds in some areas and not in others”, depending on “how well individuals are talking the advice in”.

However, she added: “We see very little effect from tier one and when we look at what tiers may be there in the future, we will have to think about strengthening them to get us through the winter months until the vaccine is available for everyone.”

The government is adamant that it wants England’s lockdown to end on 2 December.

But what replaces it is still very much a live discussion in the corridors of power.

There was always a question mark about how much infections would fall during the lockdown.

And clearly the impact has been undermined by the spike in cases last week when the daily number jumped by 10,000 to over 33,000 on Thursday.

That rise has been linked to a last bout of socialising before the lockdown came in.

The hope is cases will start falling this week.

But it will take much longer for that to filter through into fewer hospital cases – hence the suggestion that the regional tiers may need to be strengthened when lockdown ends.

One idea is to create a new tier four, which would see much tighter restrictions on hospitality opening.

But do not expect an announcement soon. Ministers will want to see exactly what happens to cases over the rest of the month.

Also speaking at the government’s coronavirus briefing, Mr Hancock, the health secretary, said it was too early to know the impact of the second lockdown in England, which began on 5 November.

“At the moment, most of the tests we’re getting back, and most of the positive cases, are from around the time the lockdown came in, so we are yet to see in the data – and it’s too early to expect to see in the data – the impact of the second lockdown,” he said.

“But we absolutely hope to be able to replace the national lockdown with a tiered system similar to what we had before.”

Heathrow workers plan four-day December strike

Heathrow workers plan a four-day strike in December in protest at wage cuts.

The airport says it will keep operating despite the walk-out by workers including firefighters and baggage handlers.

Heathrow warned in September it wants pay cuts of 15% to 20%, affecting about half of the 4,700 staff in engineering, air-side operations and security.

But the Unite union says the airport has enough cash to survive without demanding cuts.

Staff are being asked for cuts of as much as £8,000, Unite says.

The coronavirus crisis has cost Heathrow more than £1bn. Passenger numbers slumped 82% to 1.2 million in October at the UK’s largest airport.

“The airport is using the Covid-19 pandemic as a smokescreen to permanently cut workers’ pay,” said Unite regional coordinating officer Wayne King.

“Unite has put forward several alternative suggestions to reduce staffing costs on a temporary basis, all of which have been summarily rejected by management.”

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “It’s very disappointing that some of our union partners have decided to take strike action during the worst crisis to hit the aviation sector.

“We will now activate extensive contingency plans which will keep the airport open and operating safely throughout this period.”

Covid: England tier system may have to be strengthened

England’s regional Covid tier system may need to be “strengthened” to get the country “through the winter”, a senior government adviser has said.

Dr Susan Hopkins, from Public Health England, said they needed to look at what “tiers there may be in the future” as they have had “different effects”.

A three-tier system was used in England to tackle the spread of coronavirus before the national lockdown began.

Matt Hancock said the government hoped to bring back the regional tiers.

England’s four-week nationwide lockdown is due to end on 2 December.

Speaking at the government’s evening coronavirus briefing, Dr Hopkins said the “key” to knowing if the lockdown in England was working was “if cases fall” and they expect to know that “in the next week”.

“As long as we see cases decline we can make judgments… about opening up,” she said.

She added that, prior to the lockdown, “tier three plus” had led to a reduction in cases in the North West, but that tier one had had “very little effect”.

And she said tier two “holds in some areas and not in others”, depending on “how well individuals are talking the advice in”.

The government is adamant that it wants England’s lockdown to end on 2 December.

But what replaces it is still very much a live discussion in the corridors of power.

There was always a question mark about how much infections would fall during the lockdown.

And clearly the impact has been undermined by the spike in cases last week when the daily number jumped by 10,000 to over 33,000 on Thursday.

That rise has been linked to a last bout of socialising before the lockdown came in.

The hope is cases will start falling this week.

But it will take much longer for that to filter through into fewer hospital cases – hence the suggestion that the regional tiers may need to be strengthened when lockdown ends.

One idea is to create a new tier four, which would see much tighter restrictions on hospitality opening.

But do not expect an announcement soon. Ministers will want to see exactly what happens to cases over the rest of the month.

Plea to Boris Johnson as Covid ravages Hull

Council bosses in Hull are asking the prime minister to take urgent action over an “astonishing and terrifying” rise in the number of Covid cases.

Council leader Stephen Brady has written a personal letter to Boris Johnson asking him to intervene.

He said the city had one of the highest infection rates and the virus was “now ravaging our communities more than anywhere else in our country”.

The government has been approached for comment.

Hull currently has 770 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people, and in his letter Mr Brady said: “I am writing to express my grave concerns about the consequences of the current Covid-19 health emergency in Hull and the absence of central government support to assist us in overcoming it.

“As I am sure you are aware, our infection rate is now one of the highest in the country and… the infection rates in our city have increased at a, frankly, astonishing and terrifying rate over the last few weeks.

“We are not asking for special treatment. We are asking for the absolute minimum we need to get through this pandemic.”

Mr Brady is calling for a range of measures to be introduced including more freedom to put local restrictions in place, particularly with regard to schools, and additional support and resources for health.

He also wants discussions on the financial support needed for local businesses and about what will happen when the current restrictions end.

“We will not stand by and let Hull be forgotten,” he said in a statement.

“I am hopeful that the prime minister will take this letter seriously and will urgently speak to us about what the government will do.”

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