The last 12 months have been quite turbulent. We started on the back of 2019 and our best year ever. In 2020, we expected to do even better, and also to celebrate the 25th anniversary of our foundation.
Then COVID hit.
It led to a fundamental realignment of business conditions that not only included a global lockdown, but a structural shift in business operations that will be felt for at least the three next years.
Three of our core business areas saw a fall in business between 75% and 100% of turnover. These were our core consultancy operations (down 75%) and our investment advisory operations in Greece and Cyprus (down 100%).
We also took advantage of some emerging business opportunities, and for the past 6 months have been working intensively on our latest startup. We have also registered companies in Dublin and Houston, and in 2021 will, COVID willing, launch operations there.
Along the way, it challenged our basic assumptions in terms of risk and company operations. We have been restructuring as a result, and are emerging stronger in many ways than we were in 2019.
So, here are our New Year’s Resolutions for 2021.
In 2021, we will:
Launch Debene Wellness, our health and wellness start-up, with operations starting in Portugal, Spain, and other countries;
Support the next Cyprus Entrepreneurship Competition!
Launch operations in Dublin towards mid-2021 (assuming we can travel) and financial operations in Houston sooner;
Continue our internal work in digitally transforming our company;
Improve our internal financial reporting, strategic planning and marketing processes.
Our business incubator will continue operations, and we are committed to expanding on our goal of investing in or supporting one new company per year from 2020 to 2030. In 2021, however, it is highly likely that 100% of our resources will be allocated into Debene, NavInvest Greece, NavInvest Cyprus and possibly ECN.
Our core forecast for 2021 is heavily influenced by COVID and points to:
A rapid vaccine distribution in 2021 that will nonetheless be insufficient to reduce new COVID cases absent other, lockdown measures through April / May 2021. While both governments and the pharma industry are working at unprecedented rates, there are insufficient doses available and many people will resist getting the vaccine.
A series of rolling full or partial lockdowns until end April / early May 2021. This will continue economic and social damage, requiring heavy public sector expenditure. Government support notwithstanding, the rate of small business closure and unemployment will increase significantly.
A hesitant resumption of the tourist season, but with arrivals in destination countries such as Greece and Cyprus at between 30-40% 2019 arrivals in the best case.
Public expenditure in 2021 will accelerate due to the EU’s Pandemic Response Fund, European Central Bank quantitative easing, and other support. We expect a modest [real] economic rebound starting at the end of QII 2021, extending through the rest of the year.
However, this rebound will be offset and defined by several factors:
Measured year-on-year, the rebound will appear significant and may even have a double digit dimension. Measured over 2019, however, it will still be clear that we have several years to go before we can recover that year’s economic output.
The economic damage suffered by households and small businesses is phenomenal, and continues to grow despite the “zombie economy” effects of public policy (lockdowns) and public support (furloughs, subsidies).
The debt taken on by public authorities will eventually have to be repaid. Given that this debt is at historic levels in countries as diverse as the United States, Japan, Greece and Italy, we cannot be certain how future growth will be affected. It is clear, however, that there will have to be a fiscal reckoning in the near future.
With this in mind, we wish everyone good health, wise decisions and patience. While things will likely improve in 2021, we are a long way back from the pre-pandemic normal.
As always, if we can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!