In response to COVID-19 outbreak, Northern Horizon Capital AS, the management company of Baltic Horizon Fund (the Fund) has taken assertive action to manage the risks arising from the pandemic and to protect the health and safety of the public, our tenants, employees and the operating partners. We are closely monitoring the developments surrounding the outbreak and diligently implementing the instructions of WHO and the national health authorities.
Baltic Horizon Fund will keep all its stakeholders informed on the most important actions we have initiated and will aim to ensure that we do everything in our power to prevent further spread of the virus, ensure continuity of our business and minimize the risks to our investors.
We are witnessing significant shifts in the operating environment across the Baltic region and anticipate the disruptions to persist in the near term. All three Baltic countries have responded with different measures in order to slow down the spread of COVID-19 and announced financial support programs to help businesses deal with the losses incurred as a result of the pandemic.
- Lithuania has initiated the quarantine over its entire territory until March 30. Shopping centers remain open, but all retail activities except for groceries, pharmacies and certain other necessity driven shopping are forbidden according to the government decree.
- In Latvia, the government hasn’t imposed retail bans per se so shopping centers also remain open, but due to a significant drop in customer flow, we observe that stores of non-essential goods are voluntarily cutting down the working hours or temporarily suspending operations.
- In Estonia, similar to Latvia, the shopping centers remain open, albeit with large share of tenants especially in discretionary spending category are temporarily suspending operations.
Meanwhile, our grocery anchored neighborhood shopping centres are demonstrating increased footfalls and revenues. In offices, most of our tenants have switched to remote working models and have restricted business travel, but the properties remain open and fully operational. We maintain active dialogue with our tenants in light of the changing situation, but for now, all rental obligations remain in effect and income is being collected as per original lease contracts. Additional safety measures such as more frequent cleaning and disinfection of the premises, increased ventilation capacity and public awareness initiatives have been put in place in all of our properties to reduce the risks of contagion.
The following measures are also in place to further mitigate the risks and protect the long-term interests of Baltic Horizon Fund and its investors:
- We have active communication channels with our tenants and property managers who on a regular basis inform us on the measures they are taking to ensure their business continuity. We have agreed on regular updates on tenants‘ performance and any issues in relation to COVID-19.
- We have approached the developers and construction companies to inform us promptly of any interruptions in supply chain of materials or any other potential delays in development projects. So far, none have been reported.
- There is a sufficient liquidity buffer in a form of cash balance to meet financial obligations in case of any temporary shortages in liquidity.
- We are continuously performing stress testing of debt covenants to be able to take any necessary measures in due time.
- The management company has initiated additional measures to protect the key staff of the Fund and ensure continuity: all employees are working remotely, all business travel is suspended, and succession plan has been reviewed and updated.
- The majority of our accounting and fund administration services providers and audit companies have the measures necessary to ensure uninterrupted business continuity in the case of a quarantine.
While it is too early to evaluate the full economic impact of the pandemic, it is likely that it will have negative overall effect on the Fund’s 2020 performance. Nonetheless, we believe that our diversified portfolio, leading operating partners, solid balance sheet and experienced team will get through this extraordinary times and protect the long-term value for the investors.