New Melbourne Lockdown Could Hurt Airport, Hospital Stocks

A six-week lockdown across metropolitan Melbourne is likely to affect sales and profits for some of Australia’s biggest firms as the nation battles a growing coronavirus outbreak in Victoria state, according to analysts.

Victoria’s government said from midnight Wednesday people in the nation’s second-most populous city must stay home except for work, essential services, medical treatment or school -- returning to curbs that were lifted weeks ago across the country. The re-imposed shutdown could cost the economy A$1 billion ($695 million) a week, Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg wrote in an op-ed published Wednesday.

“Since March, the majority of Victorians will have spent more time in lockdown than not when restrictions next ease in August,” Morgan Stanley analysts wrote. “The consumer response will be important to watch.”

Sydney Airport and Transurban Group are among the stocks most affected, according to RBC Capital Markets. Along with the closure of the shared border between New South Wales and Victoria, the curbs will delay a revival of domestic travel for the airport, the analysts wrote. For toll operator Transurban, the stay-at-home measures could result in a 25-30% decline in Melbourne traffic during this half of the year from the same period in 2019.

Victoria’s daily coronavirus infection count reached a new state record of 191 on Tuesday, taking the national tally to 8,755 cases with 106 deaths, the latter putting it on par with Maine, one of the least-affected U.S. states.

The lockdown could also hamper an earnings recovery for private hospital operator Ramsay Health Care Ltd., J.P. Morgan analysts said. The rise in virus cases has already prompted Melburnians to cancel surgeries, making it unclear whether the company’s Victoria operations could rebound this quarter. The state government is also likely to announce limits for elective surgeries in the coming days, the analysts added.

Elsewhere in the health sector, pathology providers such as Healius Ltd. could see fewer patients as people put off medical appointments, according to Jefferies Financial Group Inc. About a quarter of the company’s revenue is estimated to come from Victoria, the analysts said.

Credit Suisse Group AG downgraded Coca-Cola Amatil Ltd. to neutral amid uncertainty around operating performance. The broker said the short-term impact of the Victoria lockdown was “concerning” given that half of the company’s sales come from shops that aren’t grocery stores, and the state represents about a fifth of national beverage consumption.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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