Hungarian restaurant reinvents the wheel for social distancing

Michelin-starred Hungarian restaurant Costes has staged a skyline dining event on the Budapest Eye ferris wheel to generate sales in a coronavirus-proof environment. (Reuters)
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Updated 19 October 2020

Hungarian restaurant reinvents the wheel for social distancing

  • It is now especially important for people to be able to be separate from other guests to be safe

BUDAPEST: Hit by a plunge in turnover after foreign tourists vanished, Michelin-starred Hungarian restaurant Costes has staged a skyline dining event on the Budapest Eye ferris wheel to generate sales in a coronavirus-proof environment.

Costes owner Karoly Gerendai said that turnover at one of his reopened restaurants is down to about a tenth of pre-lockdown levels, forcing him to look for new ways to do business.

“Now that there are not many people either on the wheel or in the restaurant because there are no tourists, the opportunity arose that we could do this,” he said of the event at the landmark attraction in central Budapest.

“It is now especially important for people to be able to be separate from other guests to be safe, and the ferris wheel is ideal with its separate cabins.”

As of Sunday, Hungary had reported 46,290 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases with 1,142 deaths and the economy is heading toward a 5-7 percent contraction this year.

Tickets for the novel Costes dining experience cost up to 48,000 forints ($154.40) each for a four-course meal and sold out within days, Gerendai said, as affluent local clients sought a rare escape from the constraints of coronavirus restrictions.

Gerendai is planning to repeat the event when warmer weather arrives in the spring, though the cooler October night was no deterrent for customers on Saturday.

“We wanted to get out a bit and enjoy the experience again because we have been living quite closed in,” said Szabolcs Balazs, who took the meal with his wife and two children.

“We used to go to restaurants quite often; we have been to two Michelin-starred ones, but because of COVID we stopped going. So this is the only chance for us now because here we are really separated.”


Lee’s death sparks hope for Samsung shake-up, dividends

Updated 26 October 2020

Lee’s death sparks hope for Samsung shake-up, dividends

  • Shares in the company and affiliates rise; around $9bn in tax estimated for stockholdings alone

SEOUL: Shares in Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and affiliates rose on Monday after the death a day earlier of Chairman Lee Kun-hee sparked hopes for stake sales, higher dividends and long-awaited restructuring, analysts said.

Investors are betting that the imperatives of maintaining Lee family control and paying inheritance tax — estimated at about 10 trillion won ($8.9 billion) for listed stockholdings alone — will be the catalyst for change, although analysts are divided on what form that change will take.

Shares in Samsung C&T and Samsung Life Insurance closed up 13.5 percent at a two-month high and 3.8 percent, respectively, while shares in Samsung SDS also rose. Samsung Electronics — the jewel in the group’s crown — finished 0.3 percent higher.

Son and heir apparent Jay Y. Lee has a 17.3 percent stake in Samsung C&T, the de facto holding firm, while the late Lee was the top shareholder of Samsung Life with 20.76 percent stake.

“The inheritance tax is outrageous, so family members might have no choice but to sell stakes in some non-core firms” such as Samsung Life, said NH Investment Securities analyst Kim Dong-yang.

“It may be likely for Samsung C&T to consider increasing dividends for the family to cover such a high inheritance tax,” KB Securities analyst Jeong Dong-ik said. Lee, 78, died on Sunday, six years after he was hospitalized due to heart attack in 2014. Since then, Samsung carried out a flurry of stake sales and restructuring to streamline the sprawling conglomerate and cement the junior Lee’s control.

Investors have long anticipated a further shake-up in the event of Lee’s death, hoping for gains from restructuring to strengthen de facto holding company Samsung C&T’s control of Samsung Electronics, such as Samsung C&T buying an affiliate’s stake in the tech giant.

“At this point, it is difficult to expect when Samsung Group will kick off with a restructuring process as Jay Y. Lee is still facing trials, making it difficult for the group’s management to begin organizational changes,” Jeong said.

Lee is in two trials for suspected accounting fraud and stock price manipulation, as well as for his role in a bribery scandal that triggered the impeachment of former South Korean President Park Geun-hye. The second trial resumed hearings on Monday.

Lee did not attend the trial on Monday, as Samsung executives joined other business and political leaders for the second day of funeral services for his father.