HONG KONG/LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) – Corona Capital is a column updated throughout the day by Breakingviews columnists around the world with short, sharp pandemic-related insights.
– Rich list
– UK testing
WEALTH SICKNESS. The ultra-rich have been getting even richer. Total billionaire wealth reached $10.2 trillion at the end of July, according to a new report by Swiss bank UBS and PwC, which takes into account the effects of Covid-19. That’s 15% more than the previous peak in 2017, and 31 extra billionaires have been minted since then, bringing the total to 2,189. Technology and healthcare tycoons have benefitted more than their real estate peers.
Despite an uptick in philanthropy, the increased concentration of wealth deepens economic and social divides. Half a billion people are expected to be pushed into poverty by the economic fallout from the pandemic, Oxfam estimated in April, reversing a trend that had been steadily improving. There may yet be a vaccine for the virus, but it will take just as much political and financial initiative to cure the rampant inequality plaguing the world. (By Sharon Lam)
LUXURY SELLS. Chinese drivers are bailing out German carmakers. Pent-up demand for BMW’s slick roadsters saw third-quarter vehicle sales in China increase by 31% from a year earlier, boosting overall quarterly deliveries by nearly a tenth. Despite the pandemic, BMW vehicle sales in Asia are up 3% in the year to date, the $49 billion company said on Wednesday. That is largely thanks to wealthy Chinese consumers and contrasts with the steep declines reported for Europe and the Americas.
Stuttgart-based rival Daimler, which said on Tuesday that it planned to double sales of its Maybach limos partly due to Asian demand, can be similarly grateful. Sales in China of its Mercedes-Benz cars grew by nearly one-quarter in the three months to end-September compared with a year earlier. These bumps in sales move both German companies closer towards their goal of positive – albeit severely reduced – annual operating profit. They can thank deep-pocketed Chinese motorists. (By Christopher Thompson)
INSULT TO INJURY. Roche’s supply hitches are adding to Britain’s pandemic misery. The Swiss drug giant said on Wednesday that problems at a new warehouse had delayed the dispatch of much-needed tests. It’s bad timing. Britain reported 14,542 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, nearly 2,000 more than the previous day. And that followed a technical glitch which delayed the reporting of 15,000 positive results.
The UK is lagging international peers. Countries like South Korea have shown that an aggressive programme of tracking and tracing can be effective in controlling the spread of the disease. Without a vaccine, Britain’s National Health Service is relying on diagnostic tests made by companies like Roche to help keep the virus at bay. That would reduce the need for the government to impose new economically damaging restrictions on activity. The latest snafu may make this goal harder to achieve. (By Aimee Donnellan)
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