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Singapore minister on coronavirus pandemic effect on white-collar jobs



SINGAPORE — Competition for white-collar jobs will become more intense after the coronavirus pandemic showed that a lot of work can be done over the internet, Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said on Thursday.

“In the past, people think that the blue-collar workers are the ones at risk and that’s because their jobs can be replaced by robots and automation. To some extent, that is true,” Chan said during a panel discussion moderated by CNBC’s Nancy Hungerford at the virtual Singapore Summit.

“But increasingly, I think the world is realizing that competition is even tougher for the white-collar jobs that can be done over the internet,” he said. “The jobs that can be done over the internet can be done anywhere in the world and because of this, white-collar jobs will no longer have the geographical insulation it used to have.”

Singapore, an open and trade-dependent Southeast Asian economy, has been hit hard by global uncertainties resulting from the pandemic and reduced activity during a partial lockdown to contain Covid-19. That led Singapore’s economy to shrink by a record 13.2% in the second quarter this year compared to a year ago.

To support the economy, the government has dug into its reserves to fund fiscal stimulus worth close to 100 billion Singapore dollars ($73.68 billion), or around 20% of gross domestic product. Much of the government’s focus is on preserving and creating jobs in industries with good growth prospects, said Chan.

The jobs that can be done over the internet can be done anywhere in the world and because of this, white-collar jobs will no longer have the geographical insulation it used to have.

Chan Chun Sing

Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry

But that’s a difficult task for many governments which face political pressure to subsidize companies that may not have good prospects, said Fleur Pellerin, founder and managing partner of venture capital and private equity firm Korelya Capital, who also spoke on the panel.

“I think from a public point of view, it’s a very difficult topic to handle because we see that the new economy creates jobs, but probably not enough jobs to replace all the jobs that would become obsolete because of automation, artificial intelligence et cetera,” she said.

She said one of the biggest challenges facing governments in the coming years is anticipating shifts in the labor market over a five- to 10-year horizon that could come from advancement in technology or changes in the global environment. Then, governments have to prepare their people to transition into those new jobs, she added.

Before founding her company, Pellerin held various positions in the French government, including minister overseeing small- and medium-sized enterprises, innovation and the digital economy.

Not waiting for pandemic to ‘blow over’ 

Singapore — governed by the same political party since its independence in 1965 — is known for its ability to plan for the long term.

Chan said the government is not waiting for the pandemic to be over to ramp up its economic recovery effort. But he noted that a worsening spread of Covid-19 in other parts of the world could hurt the global economy, with knock-on effort on Singapore.  

“We expect to progressively recover for the last two quarters of this year but whether we will be in the clear by next year will very much depends on the global economic performance,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Friday.

“We will continue to diversify our markets and pivot into new products and services. So we’re not waiting for the pandemic to blow over.”

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Netflix stock should be avoided if lockdowns lift or a vaccine arrives



A man watching Netflix on an Apple iPad Pro, taken on March 6, 2020.

Future Publishing | Getty Images

LONDON — Netflix shares should be avoided if there’s a coronavirus vaccine or if lockdowns lift, according to media analyst Alex DeGroote, who owns DeGroote Consulting.

Speaking to CNBC’s “Street Signs Europe” on Tuesday ahead of Netflix’s third-quarter results, DeGroote said: “I would have seen Netflix, frankly, as a stock to avoid, should there be, for example, a vaccine, or should lockdowns ease greatly.”

He added that the stricter lockdown initiatives being rolled out across Europe now “keeps people at home and that keeps them subscribing and less likely to churn.”

Competition in the streaming market has soared in recent months as other companies have launched their own offerings as part of an effort to capitalize on the pandemic. In addition to Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and YouTube Plus, there’s also new platforms like Disney+ and NBCUniversal’s Peacock service.

“The rule of thumb is the average household will take about three subscription services, but at the moment we have potentially up to eight services on offer,” said DeGroote. “There are just too many services for the budgets that most households have.”

DeGroote believes some streaming services may merge or get acquired next year, while others may shut down completely.

“I think probably into next year, things will start to get tough, and that’s when you might see M&A, or you might see some of the bigger operators, frankly pull their streaming services,” he said.

Discounts keep customers subscribed

Netflix recently changed its discounting policy from a one-month free trial in the U.S. and the U.K. to a 50% discount for the first two months.

DeGroote believes this was part of an effort to retain subscribers. “I would expect all the platform companies to be far more creative with their discounting over the next 12 to 18 months, as they try and strike a balance between critical mass, in terms of the subscriber base, and also frankly losing money,” he said.

“The reality is that for most streamers, these businesses are not yet profitable,” DeGroote added. “They won’t be profitable until they have subscriber bases of a certain size, paying a reliable monthly subscription. That’s probably a year down the line.”

Netflix shares have risen by more than 75% since March, which is when the coronavirus pandemic started to spread significantly in the West.

The company’s story has largely been about new subscriber growth but that may no longer be the case.

“In terms of Q3, the company has really quite skilfully guided down expectations,” said DeGroote. “The expectations over net new subs in Q3 are relatively low at about two and a half million so it is more about whether they can beat that number. For what it’s worth, I think they probably will.”

Patrick Armstrong, CIO of Plurimi Investment Managers, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” Tuesday that technology companies “are going to be winners in this environment.”

Disclosure: Peacock is the streaming service of NBCUniversal, parent company of CNBC.

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Covid likely to become as ‘endemic’ as flu



Health workers are dressing with protective suits and face maks. The collection of swab samples by medical staff in the drive-in testing center of San Filippo Neri hospital in Roma, Italy on October 19, 2020.

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LONDON — Covid-19 is likely to become as “endemic” as the annual flu virus, according to the U.K.’s chief scientific advisor.

Some potential vaccines are in late–stage clinical trials, but Patrick Vallance said none is not likely to eradicate the virus.

“The notion of eliminating Covid from anywhere is not right, because it will come back,” he said, noting there had only been one human disease “truly eradicated” thanks to a highly effective vaccine and that was smallpox.

“We can’t be certain, but I think it’s unlikely we will end up with a truly sterilizing vaccine, (that is) something that completely stops infection, and it’s likely this disease will circulate and be endemic, that’s my best assessment,” Vallance told the National Security Strategy Committee in London on Monday.

“Clearly as management becomes better, as you get vaccination which would decrease the chance of infection and the severity of disease … this then starts to look more like annual flu than anything else, and that may be the direction we end up going,” he said.

Biotech companies and academic bodies around the world have joined forces to try to create a vaccine against the coronavirus at breakneck speed given its ferocity. On Monday, the grim milestone of 40 million confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide was reached, and the virus has caused 1.1 million deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Historically, creating a vaccine from scratch had taken 10 years on average, Vallance said, and it had never taken under five years.

“We’re now in the extraordinary situation where there are at least eight vaccines which are in quite large clinical studies around the world. … We will know over the next few months whether we have any vaccines that really do protect and how long they protect for,” he said.

He added that a number of vaccines created an immune response and antibody response, but only the Phase 3 clinical trials would prove whether they “actually stop people getting infected.” The safety profile of such vaccines would also become clearer and from then on, a “sensible vaccination strategy” could be looked at, Vallance said.

Vallance concluded he didn’t believe there would be any vaccine available for widespread use in the community until at least spring.

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UBS earnings: q3 2020



The logo of Swiss banking giant UBS engraved on the wall is seen on its headquarters on May 8, 2019 in Zurich.

Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON — The world’s largest wealth manager, UBS, reported a net income of $2.1 billion for the third quarter on Tuesday, up 99% from the same period last year.

Analysts had forecast reported net income of $1.5 billion for the quarter, according to data from Refinitiv Eikon. Last year, the bank reported net income of $1.049 billion for the same period.

It comes after the Swiss bank and asset manager posted an 11% drop in profits in the second quarter, as the global banking industry felt the full effect of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tuesday results will be UBS’ last under the leadership of CEO Sergio Ermotti, who is due to leave the bank this month. Ralph Hamers will become the new head on November 1.

This is a breaking news story and is being updated.

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