AstraZeneca and Oxford Share Trial Results
Vaccine Monday: AstraZeneca and Oxford Share Trial Results
COVID-19 cases are rising in many parts of the country. Families and businesses alike are looking toward what could be a difficult holiday season. However, scientists are hard at work developing vaccines and treatments for the virus and several have recently shared positive news.
AstraZeneca PLC (AZN) and the University of Oxford shared promising results from clinical trials of their COVID-19 vaccine yesterday. The shot’s efficacy ranged from 62% to 90% depending on the dosage given. On average it was 70% effective.
Recently, a shot created by Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech (BNTX) proved to be over 90% effective, as did one developed by Moderna (MRNA). The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is different from these other two candidates because it does not need to be stored at subzero temperatures, which may make it easier to distribute, especially in developing countries. AstraZeneca and Oxford have promised to distribute their vaccine without a profit during the pandemic. It is expected to cost between $3 and $5 per dose.
Merk Acquires OncoImmune, Plans to Manufacture COVID-19 Drug
Merk, (MRK) the pharmaceutical giant, is planning to buy OncoImmune, a privately-held drug company, for $425 million. OncoImmune developed a medicine called CD24Fc, which has been shown to lower the risk of respiratory failure or death by over 50% for COVID-19 patients requiring oxygen.
The lifesaving drug is in high demand. CD24Fc is a complex medicine to make, and Merk’s resources will allow for more of the drug to be manufactured. Merk has also been busy developing a pill for COVID-19 as well as two potential vaccines.
FDA Grants Emergency-Use Authorization to Regeneron
Over the weekend, the FDA granted emergency use authorization for the COVID-19 antibody treatment developed by Regeneron. (REGN), which was given to President Trump when he tested positive for COVID-19 last month.
The treatment, called REGN-COV2 is part of a group of therapies called monoclonal antibodies, which act like immune cells to fight infections. Scientists who worked on REGN-COV2 have emphasized that it is a treatment for the virus, not a cure, and it works differently for different patients. However, it does give doctors yet another tool to fight COVID-19. While the pandemic is far from over, recent news has provided glimmers of hope.
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A New Business Model for Car Dealerships
A Car Supply Shortage
For decades, Americans have visited car lots, chosen a vehicle, and driven home in their new rides. Now this pattern may be permanently changed. The supply of cars at dealerships is about 25% smaller than it was pre-pandemic. During the early stages of the pandemic, car factories shut down. Though most of them are up and running again, there is still a supply shortage.
As a result of this dip in supply, many people purchasing cars are picking out a model, then waiting a few weeks before it arrives. Though this takes away the instant gratification of buying a car and driving it home, leaders in the auto industry and the dealership industry are realizing that this model is boosting their profits.
Rising Demand for Cars
In addition to supply being tight, demand for cars has also spiked during the pandemic. People are feeling wary of public transportation and planes so they are purchasing cars. This has created a seller’s market where car companies are able to charge record high prices and steer consumers toward certain models.
When auto companies have more control over which models consumers are buying, it allows them to offer fewer models, simplify their supply chains, and cut costs. For dealers, the new business model of displaying fewer cars allows them to save space. This is already having an impact on the market for dealership real estate. Dealers are also turning over cars more quickly with this new business model. Last month, the typical new vehicle sold after only 56 days on a lot. This is 27% less time than sales took during the same month a year ago.
GM (GM), Ford (F), and Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) all reported strong third-quarter results. Their profit margins in North America hit record or near-record highs. Many dealerships also reported strong results during the summer and fall.
Current market conditions have been compared to the European model of selling cars. For years, European customers have picked out cars and then waited for significant periods of time before their new ride arrives. Both dealerships and automakers have been trying to shift toward offering fewer models and lower inventory for some time. Now, the pandemic has created these conditions.
Though car companies and dealerships might like these market conditions to stay in place, some analysts expect that eventually car buyers will regain some leverage and brands will shift back to the old model to compete for customers’ attention. On the other hand, consumers could get used to this model and it could be here to stay.
The Pandemic’s Impact on the Future of Business Travel
Leisure Travel Is Likely to Recover
Airlines have suffered severe financial hardships during the pandemic. However, they are expecting that if and when a vaccine is widely available, demand for leisure travel will recover. There could even be a spike in demand for a certain period, because many people have put off vacations and visits to family during the pandemic. When lockdowns became less severe over the summer, airlines saw a significant uptick in leisure travel. A vaccine would likely cause a much larger spike.
In contrast, business travel did not see much growth, even when restrictions eased slightly. Because companies have become so comfortable with videoconferencing during the pandemic, analysts expect that business travel will see a permanent decline of about 15%.
Companies’ Travel Budgets Are Tight
Before the pandemic, business travel was the most profitable sector of the airline industry. Business travelers tend to be more likely to book convenient, high-price flights, and to fly first class or business class. Airline executives expect this could change. Even when some people begin flying for work again, companies’ travel budgets are likely to be tighter as a result of the economic downturn.
Recent data shows that, for the few airline tickets purchased with corporate accounts during the third quarter, the average fare was 45% cheaper than it was during the same period a year ago. Prices are likely to recover somewhat if and when a vaccine becomes available, but analysts expect they will likely not make a full recovery.
Budget Airlines See an Opening
Budget airlines are seeing an opportunity to move into the business travel sector. For mainline air carriers, business travel accounted for about 50% of revenue pre-pandemic. For Southwest (LUV), about 35% of revenue came from business travel. Airlines like Spirit (SAVE) and Allegiant (ALGT) generate about 10% of revenue from business travel.
However, these trends could change. For example, Southwest is expanding its presence at Chicago O’Hare, a major business travel hub for American Airlines (AAL) and United (UAL). Southwest is also making moves to compete with higher-cost airlines in Houston and Miami. Major hubs tend to be more expensive for airlines to service. However, at the moment, these airports are far less busy, so budget airlines may be able to establish a presence in new hubs.
Though there are still many questions about the future of air travel, it is likely that the business travel industry will be permanently impacted by the pandemic.