Düsseldorf Many shops are closed, schools and restaurants are closed, and there is no end in sight to the restrictions. Germany has been in a so-called hard lockdown since December 16, 2020 in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Nevertheless, the number of new infections has only decreased slightly since the beginning of the year. Has the lockdown failed? And if so, why?
The answer to the questions is all the more urgent because mutations of the virus are likely to be on the rise in Germany. These can often infect people much more effectively.
This makes people’s precautionary measures against Corona even more important. Data from the University of Erfurt provide valuable information for this. Psychologist Cornelia Betsch and her team question thousands of people every week about their behavior in times of Corona.
Düsseldorf In the political debate about tightening the lockdown, the industry is urgently warning against the closure of production facilities. The systems could not be “switched off and on at will like a light bulb”, says Markus Jerger from the BVMW SME Association. A total lockdown would mean the end for many companies, especially in the manufacturing sector, and cause massive economic damage.
The association “The Family Entrepreneurs” made a similar statement on Tuesday. Its President Reinhold von Eben-Worlée said of the demands for a complete shutdown of the industry: “That borders on Harakiri: After all, we ensure the supply of the population with our materials and products.”
On Tuesday, at the next summit, the federal and state governments will discuss further steps to contain the corona pandemic. Politicians have already brought the closure of industrial plants into play as a possible consequence of the persistently high number of infections.
However, it is becoming apparent that the Prime Ministers are divided on this issue. For Lower Saxony’s head of state, Stefan Weil (SPD), a shutdown of the industry is not an option: “You have to realize that a complete economic standstill is associated with enormous damage,” said the SPD politician on Monday.
Top jobs of the day
Find the best jobs now and be notified by email.
This is not just about the economic impact on the companies themselves. The chemical industry, for example, predicts supply problems for the entire economy and for the health system if it had to close its factory gates.
Experts recall the experiences from the first lockdown in spring 2020. According to an investigation by the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, the effects were long-lasting. Numerous companies suffered production collapses or were affected by delivery problems from suppliers.
“Working from home is simply not possible”
The study shows that production got off to a slow start after the first lockdown. As quickly as a production facility can be stopped, it is just as challenging to restart it. This is especially true for the deeply networked chemical plants, but also for car production.
Industrial companies also refer to their safety and hygiene concepts. We work in permanent shifts, the teams are strictly separated from one another. In industries such as chemicals and pharmaceuticals, the safety standards are so high that the risk of contracting the virus while in operation is lower than in front of the factory gates, said Michael Vassiliadis, head of the mining, chemical and energy union, on Monday.
Vassiliadis also rejects calls for companies to work from home: In many industrial sectors, working from home is simply not possible. The administrations of the chemical and pharmaceutical companies already work mostly in the home office, as surveys among the companies show.
Germany’s largest chemical company, BASF, does not consider it necessary to work from home. “Our experience over the past few months has shown that employees are very responsible for the current distance and hygiene regulations at the site and work from home whenever possible,” says the DAX company.
More: Tougher lockdown is approaching: Politicians could still turn these adjusting screws
London The French IT service provider Atos is reaching for its US rival DXC Technology. Both companies confirmed an offer on Thursday after the Reuters news agency reported on it. Two people familiar with the plans said Atos had approached DXC with a more than ten billion dollar takeover bid.
The French emphasized that they were interested in a “friendly transaction”, DXC spoke of an “uncoordinated”, non-binding offer that would be examined. Atos, whose largest shareholder is Siemens’ pension fund with a good eleven percent, wants to strengthen its presence in the American market with the takeover and hopes for synergies, as the insiders said.
Atos promised to remain “economically disciplined” with the possible takeover. The shareholders reacted nevertheless skeptically: The shares collapsed in Paris by almost 13 percent. In contrast, DXC shot up by more than eight percent in New York. The company is worth nearly $ 7 billion on the stock market.
DXC emerged in 2017 from the spin-off of the corporate customer business from Hewlett Packard Enterprise, but has since struggled with dwindling sales and rising debt. “DXC is too small to survive on its own in a world with low margins,” said one of the insiders.
Top jobs of the day
Find the best jobs now and be notified by email.
Last year, sales fell to $ 19.6 (2019: 20.75) billion while debt grew to $ 9.9 billion. It was only on Wednesday that CEO Mike Salvino announced the sale of Fixnetix – a service provider for securities trading – to Options Technology. The medical technology business had sold DXC for five billion dollars to the financial investor Veritas.
Atos, on the other hand, is committed to external growth. The largest takeover in the company’s history was the takeover of the US company Syntel for $ 3.4 billion in 2018. One of Atos’s roots is the former SIS IT division of Siemens, which the Munich-based company sold to the French in 2011. Siemens extended its IT partnership with Atos by five years in September and is paying Atos a total of three billion euros during this time.
More: IT service provider Atos wants to become more profitable in Germany.
Berlin Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) has urgently appealed to employers to allow home offices wherever possible. “This is not just any appeal, but a very clear message from the federal and state governments to the economy,” said the SPD politician in an interview with the Handelsblatt.
Many companies acted responsibly. But there are also those who arbitrarily refused to work on the move. “That is irresponsible,” said Heil.
The request to work from home if possible is also directed at the employees – even if he understands that many would like to see their colleagues again. But it is a question of responsibility, and the employees are also deceived.
Düsseldorf “Turn around, then you can see how nicely the blouse falls over your bottom,” Simona Libner asks her colleague. Over a glass of Prosecco, they discuss in the boutique which belt goes best with it and what quality the pants are made of.
What at first glance looks like everyday shopping in times far from Corona is actually a revolution in German retail. Because Libner, who runs three fashion boutiques in the Rhineland, is the first owner of a medium-sized retail company to organize a sales event as a video live stream on Instagram.
Libner makes sales while showing off her products on camera. Around 70 customers have hooked up, are discussing via the chat and can buy the items shown in parallel via a link in the web shop.
But while some traders whine and call for government help, others are looking for new ways. And the digital channels offer interesting opportunities to reach customers directly despite the lockdown.
“Digitization shows which retailer is really an entrepreneur and is open to new things,” says Werner Reinartz, Director of the Institute for Retail Research at the University of Cologne. It encourages retailers to embrace new business models and to try something out, especially in times of crisis. “All steps towards digital processes help to secure your own future,” he emphasizes.
With the pandemic as a catalyst, a development in retail that has been emerging for years will intensify this year: business closures, bankruptcies and takeovers will fundamentally change the face of the industry. Previous market leaders will lose importance in many product categories.
The development is shaped by new competitors. Social networks such as Instagram, Facebook or WhatsApp are increasingly being expanded into shopping platforms. Manufacturers sell directly to customers via web shops and marketplaces and thus become competitors for retailers. At the same time, Kaufland is taking over the real.de platform to test whether a classic large-area discounter can also make a breakthrough in online retail.
Karstadt Kaufhof’s situation remains fragile
“We will see a division in the industry into pioneers and those who have been left behind,” predicts retail expert Reinartz. Because, especially in times of crisis, companies that have laid the foundations in good time have an advantage. “The problem is that in times of need many retailers do not have the financial means to invest in new, digital solutions.”
The long-established company Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof is a good example of what a difficult year for the heavyweights in the industry is ahead. The department store operator only left the bankruptcy proceedings in October of last year after creditors had waived billions. With three new managing directors, the company bravely wanted to make a fresh start.
But the second lockdown in December showed relentlessly how fragile the situation is. Many of the foundations for survival in the new trading world are missing. The company went into insolvency proceedings with an online share of sales of less than five percent.
Even the closure of 42 department stores has not changed the fact that the business model is still geared towards traditional retail sales. The company is already talking about an “existential threat”.
“One of the biggest challenges for German retailers this year is to manage the structural change in the industry well,” explains retail researcher Reinartz. A number of companies that are now on the brink would have run into problems without the lockdown – just maybe a little later, he explains. “But the corona crisis has aggravated the development so that nobody can ignore it.”
The Germans changed their shopping behavior during the pandemic – and much of it will be sustainable and shape the development of the retail industry in 2021. This is particularly evident in the shift in sales to online trading.
Zalando and Otto benefit from the online boom
A survey by the market research institute Gruppe Nymphenburg has shown that many customers have come to appreciate e-commerce so much in lockdown times that they will increasingly want to shop online once the consequences of the pandemic have subsided.
Before the corona crisis, only 22 percent stated that the online shop is their preferred place of purchase, in November 2020 it was around 35 percent. And 26 percent said it will stay that way in the future. This development is particularly evident in clothing and shoes: 42 percent said they would prefer to buy online in the future too.
This is reflected in the figures from the online fashion retailer Zalando. In a year in which the fashion trade was generally affected by a reluctance to buy, the company increased sales by around 20 percent. For the full year 2020, the retailer expects an operating profit (EBIT) of between 375 and 425 million euros.
For 2021, Zalando can again imagine an acceleration, said CFO David Schröder. This is also shown by the company’s partner program, in which stationary retailers sell via the Zalando platform. Zalando wants to triple the number of these partners from 2000 to 6000 this year.
Business is also booming at the largest German online retailer otto.de. During the Christmas season, the number of orders rose by almost 60 percent. In the year as a whole, otto.de gained almost two million new customers – which suggests that this pace of growth is unlikely to weaken this year either.
Douglas and Ikea are experimenting with new technology
In order to be able to keep up with the growth rate of online users, the traditional retailers need a real boost in digitization. Because they cannot rely on their classic strengths. “The customer experience in the store, as we knew it so far, has suffered a lot – and will not return completely in this form, at least in the medium term,” warns retail expert Reinartz.
Nevertheless, there is still a great need for experience among customers, also in connection with shopping. “The retailers have to come up with creative solutions, possibly in connection with new technologies such as video streaming, live shopping or augmented reality,” says Reinartz.
So far, few companies have dared to venture into these niches. In this way, Ikea customers can project the new armchair into their real living room using augmented reality. At Sephora or L’Oréal, customers can try out virtual make-up using this technology. Douglas recently started hosting regular sales shows via video livestream. Such experiments will be seen more and more by customers in 2021.
“As a retailer, I primarily fight for people’s attention, that’s the currency of the 21st century,” says Frank Rehme, Managing Director of the Retail Competence Center, a joint initiative of the trade association and the federal government that aims to make retailers fit for the future.
The competence center also advised fashion retailer Libner on her first steps with the livestream sales shows. “The most important thing is to just get started,” advises Rehme. “At first, customers forgive mistakes.”
More: The record sales in the corona year shows how deeply divided the retail world is.
Frankfurt The new year is likely to bring investors in Germany a large selection of new shares on the price list. After the rather disappointing twelve months in the past, 2021 will be a good year for initial public offerings – IPOs for short – according to many investment bankers and consultants in this country.
Because the stock exchanges are at a record price at the start of the year and high valuations are possible as a result, there should be significant issues in the first quarter.
“After there were very few German IPOs in 2020 despite the strong stock markets, there are now some promising candidates in the queue,” says Thomas Thurner, who is responsible for IPOs at the investment bank Morgan Stanley.
He expects eight to ten IPOs in Germany in 2021. Marc-Olivier Regulla, Co-Head of Investment Banking for the German-speaking region at Bank of America, is also optimistic: “The volatility on the stock exchanges fell again after the US presidential election, which favors IPOs. The valuations are at record levels, which is why we are expecting a large number of new issues in the current year, ”he affirmed.
Düsseldorf The lockdown in Germany is extended. The new measures are tough, admitted Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday evening. However, the continued high number of infections, the tense situation in hospitals and intensive care units and new mutations of the coronavirus have induced the federal and state governments to tighten the restrictions further:
These are the most important decisions:
In regions with more than 200 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in one week, people are only allowed to move 15 kilometers away from their place of residence for “good reasons”.
Schools and daycare centers will remain closed and will only gradually open again at the beginning of February. Until then, students must attend classes from home. For parents of daycare children there is the option of emergency care.
As in spring 2020, people are only allowed to meet one other person who does not live in the household.
Berlin. For Markus Söder, things are going well in the corona crisis, primarily in the surveys, less in specific crisis management. On Wednesday, the Bavarian Prime Minister announced that he would reshuffle his cabinet: Söder withdraws Health Minister Melanie Huml and orders her to the State Chancellery.
Klaus Holetschek is to become the new minister. Söder had already put Huml at his side in August. Holetschek became its State Secretary and head of the Corona unit.
At the time, there were breakdowns in the widely advertised test centers for holiday returnees. Many people who tested positive received their results much too late. A disaster in the federal state most severely affected by the pandemic.
Söder expressed “continued confidence” in Huml and refused to resign twice.
Fear of further mishaps before the federal election
Söder did not want to give a specific reason why he is now separating from his minister. The evidence includes that the vaccination campaign in Bavaria had started slowly and that there were problems with the transport of the vaccine.
Huml should now be responsible for Europe and international matters within the state government – and strengthen the Corona crisis team, as Söder announced.
The CSU chairman already has something else in mind. He is interested in the best line-up, as he explained, and thus aims at the upcoming federal election campaign. It is still uncertain whether the Franconian will appear as CSU chairman or even as a candidate for chancellor. The 54-year-old has been flirting with the possibility for months.
At the same time, his party emphasizes its national claim. So this week the CSU members of the Bundestag meet again for their annual start to the year – Corona or not. They do not meet in a narrow monastery with a Bavarian snow idyll. But they meet in Berlin. The task is to hoist the blue and white flag.
Söder helps diligently. After he announced in Munich that he would take Huml out of the public eye, he traveled directly to Berlin to use the state group’s federal theater. After all, he is still one of the most popular politicians in surveys, including among supporters of the CDU.
Even if he does not become the Union’s candidate for chancellor, he will still have a major say in the election campaign and the program.
Billionaire election gifts
His party traditionally beats content stakes loudly at the beginning of the year through the national group. In its resolutions, it promotes a “new departure” after the corona crisis. This includes paying nursing staff a “newcomer bonus” of 5000 euros. Another five billion euros will help to maintain hospitals in rural areas.
For newborns, the state is to invest 100 euros a month per child up to the age of 18 in a fund, thus creating a new pillar of old-age provision. Parents could fully deduct childcare costs from tax and take parental leave two months longer than before, according to the state group. Söder was similarly generous in the state election campaign in 2018. At that time the CSU lost an absolute majority.
This time the federal election campaign should be “short, intensive and digital”, as the regional group leader Alexander Dobrindt announced at the start of the retreat for his party leader. Who will become a candidate for the CDU and CSU after Angela Merkel will be clarified “after Easter”.
It is about who has the “greatest chance” of winning the election. “After that, a personnel decision will have to be made, regardless of who will be the new chairman of the CDU on January 16,” emphasized Dobrindt. In the spirit of Söder.
More: For the Corona measures, 2021 must be the year of knowledge instead of the election campaigns
Düsseldorf How can the vaccines against the coronavirus be best distributed? In view of the rapidly increasing number of infections everywhere, this question is currently one of the most pressing in the world. And so it is not surprising that Salesforce is also dealing with it: The SAP rival from San Francisco has developed a digital command center that is supposed to support health organizations with logistics.
The non-commercial global alliance Gavi, which organizes vaccinations for children in developing countries, now wants to use the solution to distribute two billion doses.
Salesforce has made a name for itself with software for sales control, marketing and customer management, but the ambitions of CEO Marc Benioff and his management are far greater. The 56-year-old, who turned the company founded in 1999 into one of the figureheads of Silicon Valley, wants to become the most important helper in digital transformation for his customers.
The goal is clear: SAP, Microsoft and other software manufacturers compete for business. The Dax group, which is a leader in supply chain management, also has a system for vaccine logistics on offer.
Gavin Patterson, who heads sales as Chief Revenue Officer at Salesforce and is one of Benioff’s confidants, is correspondingly self-confident. “There is no company that is better positioned than Salesforce to help customers of all sizes and from all areas to make their business more digital,” says the manager in an interview with Handelsblatt. “What we offer today is even more important than it was twelve months ago.”
Takeovers play a central role in this strategy, as the example of Slack shows – Salesforce plans to pay just under $ 28 billion for the communications specialist. However, this entails risks: In addition to the financial burden, there are organizational challenges, for example when integrating the many new business areas. At SAP, too, one of the greatest challenges and most important tasks for CEO Christian Klein is the integration of the various products into a uniform program package.
So I’m staying at home. Much has been written about how one has come to appreciate one’s own home in the past few weeks. People who have always been on the road before and have been stressed about it all the time have finally been able to discover how beautiful the view from their own kitchen window is.
Of course, there are always disadvantages to working from home. For example, that the quality of the Internet connection at home decreases considerably when everyone else is also working from home and looking out the kitchen window. You finally come to the longed-for deceleration.
In the home office, you finally no longer have the problem that you have to be separated from your dear family members during working hours. So you can discuss with your boss whether you have to do a certain job – and at the same time with your own child whether they have to do a certain homework. Most of the time you do both.
The more time you spend in the home office, the less you understand why offices were built at some point. Whereby: I personally recently came up with another reason. In office buildings you don’t have to deal with the smell of decay that quickly. In my home office, yes.
I live in an old building – and in old buildings, you know, there are always unpleasant surprises. I felt the same when I heard a strange, sticky smell during a Zoom meeting. I had the feeling that the stench was coming from the wall. I thought of a rotting rat in a wall – or something. Or some animal, maybe a raccoon, that got lost in a cable duct.
Once you have noticed a bad smell, it is difficult to ignore it. Especially when you’re in lockdown. I considered the possibility that a sewer pipe was leaking. I called a plumber who told me to wait for wet stains to show up somewhere. There were none.
I considered buying scented trees. I have seen in psychological thrillers that murderers cover up the decay smells of the murdered. In the end I preferred to set up a smoker. The smoker had to work in piece.
Now, after two weeks, I smell it less. But I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve just got used to it – while the decay has already sucked into my clothes. Under these circumstances, I don’t even know whether I should wish for an end to the lockdown at all. When I leave the apartment people will think I’m an undead. I heard a cat is missing from neighbors in the house.