Press release

19 Mar 2020 London, GB

Covid-19 triggers profit warning hike

87% of all profit warnings issued by UK listed companies in the last three weeks cited coronavirus (Covid-19), according to latest analysis from EY (figures recorded up until 5 pm 18th March 2020).

Press contact

Claire Spoors

EY UK Media Relations Manager

Claire leads media relations for EY’s Transaction Advisory business in the UK. A part-time worker she champions flexible working and how it can help contribute to creating a more diverse workforce.

87% of all profit warnings issued by UK listed companies in the last three weeks cited coronavirus (Covid-19), according to latest analysis from EY (figures recorded up until 5pm 18th March 2020).

Since the start of 2020, 54 profit warnings – 25 in this week alone – have blamed the impact of the virus for a material downgrade to their profit expectations, reported EY, which has been tracking UK profit warnings for over twenty years.

Restructuring Partner, Taylor Dewar, commented: “Covid-19 is fundamentally affecting companies’ ability to operate and plan on a global level. As a result, we are recording profit warnings at a pace that far exceeds anything we’ve seen in more than two decades.

“What is noticeable is the shift in pressure since the start of the month – from Industrials to Consumer Discretionary – as the main driver behind profit warnings moves from supply chain disruption to the impact of ‘social isolation’.”

More than 40% (23) of the total number of Covid-19 related profit warnings issued in the UK in 2020 so far, have come from companies in the FTSE Travel & Leisure sector. Airlines, tour operators, pubs, hotels, restaurants and cinemas are amongst those most affected by travel and social restrictions, which have also had a knock-on effect on betting and gaming companies due to the cancellation of sporting events.

EY recorded an exceptionally high level of profit warnings in 2019 (313) – equal to 2008 levels at the height of the financial crisis. 2020 had opened in the same way, before the added pressure of Covid-19, which has created an unparalleled challenge for UK plc.

EY Restructuring Partner, Mona Bitar concluded: “Covid-19 has generated an exceptional list of challenges in supply, demand, operations, planning and liquidity, alongside high levels of uncertainty and an ongoing backdrop of existing volatility and weak demand.

“In this rapidly moving environment, companies should be focused on four actions: putting peoples’ safety first; focusing on business continuity; building and securing liquidity; and engaging stakeholders.”