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Couche-Tard seeks to rescue Carrefour bid as objections rise – BNN

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Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.’s top executives are in Paris seeking to salvage a US$20 billion bid for Carrefour SA as officials from Canada press the French government to relax its objections to the deal.

Pierre Fitzgibbon, the economy minister in Couche-Tard’s home province of Quebec, said he would speak with French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire Friday to apply “positive pressure” in favor of the transaction. Fitzgibbon said he would stress the close-knit relationship between the province and France that has facilitated previous deals, including Alstom SA’s purchase of Bombardier Inc.’s rail unit, announced last year.

Couche-Tard “could be a very strategic shareholder that would benefit Carrefour’s operations in France,” Fitzgibbon said to reporters.

The Canadian convenience-store operator plans to pump 3 billion euros (US$3.6 billion) into the French supermarket operator over five years, according to a person familiar with the situation, as part of a set of assurances to the government of President Emmanuel Macron.

Other pledges include preserving jobs for two years, keeping Carrefour’s headquarters in France and maintaining stock listings in France as well as Canada, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public.

Carrefour shares gave up some of this week’s gains after Le Maire said he was prepared to give a “clear and definitive no” to a deal, falling 2.9 per cent to 16.61 euros in Paris. Couche-Tard’s offer is for 20 euros per share; both sides see room for negotiation on the final price, according to people familiar with the situation.

A Carrefour representative didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Le Maire previously cited concerns about a French supermarket chain falling into foreign hands, saying the country needs to maintain domestic control over its food supply. France recently beefed up its authority to block foreign takeovers.

“We have the legal instrument available to us,” Le Maire said Friday. “I’d rather not have to use it, but will if needed.”

The finance ministry is ready to study the proposal once the Canadian side officially presents it, people familiar with the matter said earlier this week. They said Macron’s administration plans to take as long as needed to assess its impact on jobs and the sector.

Despite Le Maire’s strident comments, Couche-Tard Chief Executive Officer Brian Hannasch and other managers are in Paris negotiating with Carrefour’s leadership in an effort to come up with a package that’s palatable to the French company’s shareholders and the government, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Couche-Tard shares were up 5.1 per cent to $38.10 as of 12:47 p.m. Toronto time. Prior to Friday’s gains, they had fallen for eight consecutive days.

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinted that his government is prepared to throw its weight behind the company’s effort. “Our role as a government is always to be there to support Canadian companies including as they look to expand around the world. I know that discussions continue to be ongoing and I won’t make any further comments on that,” he told reporters Friday in Ottawa.

Biggest Employer

Carrefour employs around 100,000 people in France and is the country’s largest private employer, with stores ranging from convenience outlets to giant hypermarkets dotting the landscape.

The company has been implementing a turnaround plan under Chief Executive Officer Alexandre Bompard that involves investments in online shopping and organic food. Analysts point to the absence of geographical overlap between the companies.

The investment plan was reported first by Les Echos, which is owned by Bernard Arnault’s LVMH. Arnault also controls a 5.5 per cent stake in Carrefour.

If Couche-Tard goes ahead with its bid, it would need to submit its plans for screening by the Finance Ministry, which has 30 days to respond to such requests, to which it can add 45 days for a deeper examination. No reply from the government amounts to a refusal. In parallel, or before that, Couche-Tard could start informal negotiations on the commitments it’d be ready to make.

French Revolution

“If Carrefour’s board of directors and reference shareholders see a real strategic interest in the deal and manage to convince the Finance Ministry, the door could open,” said Pascal Bine, Paris-based partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.

But that’s not a given in a country where riots over the availability of bread set in motion a process that toppled the monarchy in 1789, Bine added.

“Since the COVID crisis, a new paradigm has emerged, aimed at preserving the economic sovereignty of the country, including the supply of essential goods and services,” he said. “If people are not fed, it’s the Revolution.”

–With assistance from Kait Bolongaro and Derek Decloet.

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Canada's coming month of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine shipments will be reduced by half – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Over the next month Canada will be experiencing a “temporary” delay in Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipments due to the pharmaceutical giant’s expansion plans at its European manufacturing facility, with the shortage resulting in an average of 50 per cent of coming doses delayed each week.

While shipments will continue in the coming weeks, the amount of doses in them will be lessened, sometimes by hundreds of thousands of doses.

“Pfizer has confirmed that Canada’s deliveries will be impacted for the next four weeks. We will see an average reduction over this timeframe of 50 per cent of expected deliveries. There will minimal impact next week… The most profound impact will be in the week of January 25,” said Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s logistical rollout. 

This setback to Canada’s short-term COVID-19 vaccine delivery schedule means the number of doses going to each province and territory will have to be readjusted. Fortin said that the allocations will begin to scale back up in the first two weeks of February, before returning to the size of doses originally anticipated. 

Canada was planning on receiving between 124,800 and 366,600 Pfizer doses every week between now and the end of February, as part of the plan to have six million doses total from Pfizer and Moderna by the end of March when Phase 1 ends.

The delivery for the week of Jan. 25, which Fortin said is likely to see the largest reduction, was set to be 208,650 doses. If that’s reduced by half, Canada will receive 104,325 Pfizer doses that week, which is fewer than the forecasted allocation received this week.

“In my conversation this morning with Pfizer, it was very clear that we’re are still correct in our planning assumption to receive approximately four million doses of Pfizer by March 31,” Fortin said,

Fortin said that knew the company would at some point need to scale-up their manufacturing to ramp-up its mass production, but the news of the looming construction project was brought to the federal government’s attention in the last 24 hours, according to Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos.  

Procurement Minister Anita Anand announced the delay on Friday, saying all nations who are receiving vaccines from this Pfizer facility will be receiving fewer doses.

“It is a temporary reduction, it’s not a stoppage… We will make up those doses,” Anand said.

Addressing the setback during his Rideau Cottage address on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that shipments have largely been ahead of schedule so far, but that “with an undertaking this historic, it’s only to be expected that there will be a few bumps along the way.”

Norway, which is also receiving Pfizer doses from its Europe facilities has announced that “for some time ahead” their deliveries will be reduced. In the coming week their shipment will be reduced by approximately 18 per cent.

“The reduction is due to a reorganisation at Pfizer in connection with an upgrade of production capacity… It is not yet clear how long it will take before Pfizer is up to maximum production capacity again,” said the statement published by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. 

The government sought to ensure that all countries who will be impacted, will be “equitably treated” in terms of delivery reductions, according to Anand. Fortin confirmed later Friday that this will be the case, with all seeing deliveries reduced by 50 per cent on average.

Anand said that while Canada is expecting to be able to catch up, the delay is “unfortunate.”

“However such delays and issues are to be expected when global supply chains are stretched well beyond their limits,” Anand said.

By end of the day Friday, the federal government will have distributed a total of 929,000 doses of the two approved COVID-19 vaccines, around 84 per cent of which have been administered.

WON’T IMPACT PHASE 2  

The plan is to receive “more than” one million doses of approved vaccines every week, on average, starting in April with Phase 2. 

Trudeau said that while this issue is out of Canada’s hands, the country “must still get ready for the ramp-up,” in Phase 2. 

Fortin said the delays “will not change our second quarter goals,” though he could not guarantee future delays. He said he understands and feels the “disappointment,” but “we need to move forward.”

He committed to keep all key stakeholders, and Canadians appraised of any future delivery schedule changes. 

The ongoing initial vaccination stage has seen Canada pushing to properly allocate and prioritize key groups like residents and staff in long-term care homes as well as front-line health-care workers. 

In this first stage of the vaccine campaign, Canada has seen both doses sitting in freezers as well as provinces saying they are running short, while those on the front line have sought to sort out who should and shouldn’t be receiving shots at this time.

“It was with precisely these types of issues in mind that Canada pursued the aggressive procurement strategy that we did,” Anand said. “This approach of ensuring diversity and volume months ago is what now gives us flexibility and margins to remain on track in difficult times.” 

Asked whether Canada will be looking to revisit their decision to not procure additional Moderna doses to make up the shortage over the next few weeks, Fortin said the amount scheduled to arrive from that company will stay the same.

As previously reported, the additional 16 million Moderna doses that the federal government left on the table in talks with that company would not be arriving until late 2021. 

As for whether Canada looked into being able to receive Pfizer shipments from the  United States facility, Fortin said that the federal government looked into it, but for now Canada’s line of doses will continue to come exclusively from the European facility.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu added that because as part of the regulatory approval granted to Pfizer, Health Canada approves the manufacturing sites as well as the vaccine itself.

“So, should we procure from even the same company a different site, then there would need to be review of the manufacturing data,” she said. 

Several federal officials sought to reassure Canadians Friday that the country remains on track to vaccinate everyone who wants to be, by the end of September.   

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Canada's coming month of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine shipments will be reduced by half – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Over the next month Canada will be experiencing a “temporary” delay in Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipments due to the pharmaceutical giant’s expansion plans at its European manufacturing facility, with the shortage resulting in an average of 50 per cent of coming doses delayed each week.

While shipments will continue in the coming weeks, the amount of doses in them will be lessened, sometimes by hundreds of thousands of doses.

“Pfizer has confirmed that Canada’s deliveries will be impacted for the next four weeks. We will see an average reduction over this timeframe of 50 per cent of expected deliveries. There will minimal impact next week… The most profound impact will be in the week of January 25,” said Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s logistical rollout. 

This setback to Canada’s short-term COVID-19 vaccine delivery schedule means the number of doses going to each province and territory will have to be readjusted. Fortin said that the allocations will begin to scale back up in the first two weeks of February, before returning to the size of doses originally anticipated. 

Canada was planning on receiving between 124,800 and 366,600 Pfizer doses every week between now and the end of February, as part of the plan to have six million doses total from Pfizer and Moderna by the end of March when Phase 1 ends.

The delivery for the week of Jan. 25, which Fortin said is likely to see the largest reduction, was set to be 208,650 doses. If that’s reduced by half, Canada will receive 104,325 Pfizer doses that week, which is fewer than the forecasted allocation received this week.

“In my conversation this morning with Pfizer, it was very clear that we’re are still correct in our planning assumption to receive approximately four million doses of Pfizer by March 31,” Fortin said,

Fortin said that knew the company would at some point need to scale-up their manufacturing to ramp-up its mass production, but the news of the looming construction project was brought to the federal government’s attention in the last 24 hours, according to Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos.  

Procurement Minister Anita Anand announced the delay on Friday, saying all nations who are receiving vaccines from this Pfizer facility will be receiving fewer doses.

“It is a temporary reduction, it’s not a stoppage… We will make up those doses,” Anand said.

Addressing the setback during his Rideau Cottage address on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that shipments have largely been ahead of schedule so far, but that “with an undertaking this historic, it’s only to be expected that there will be a few bumps along the way.”

Norway, which is also receiving Pfizer doses from its Europe facilities has announced that “for some time ahead” their deliveries will be reduced. In the coming week their shipment will be reduced by approximately 18 per cent.

“The reduction is due to a reorganisation at Pfizer in connection with an upgrade of production capacity… It is not yet clear how long it will take before Pfizer is up to maximum production capacity again,” said the statement published by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. 

The government sought to ensure that all countries who will be impacted, will be “equitably treated” in terms of delivery reductions, according to Anand. Fortin confirmed later Friday that this will be the case, with all seeing deliveries reduced by 50 per cent on average.

Anand said that while Canada is expecting to be able to catch up, the delay is “unfortunate.”

“However such delays and issues are to be expected when global supply chains are stretched well beyond their limits,” Anand said.

By end of the day Friday, the federal government will have distributed a total of 929,000 doses of the two approved COVID-19 vaccines, around 84 per cent of which have been administered.

WON’T IMPACT PHASE 2  

The plan is to receive “more than” one million doses of approved vaccines every week, on average, starting in April with Phase 2. 

Trudeau said that while this issue is out of Canada’s hands, the country “must still get ready for the ramp-up,” in Phase 2. 

Fortin said the delays “will not change our second quarter goals,” though he could not guarantee future delays. He said he understands and feels the “disappointment,” but “we need to move forward.”

He committed to keep all key stakeholders, and Canadians appraised of any future delivery schedule changes. 

The ongoing initial vaccination stage has seen Canada pushing to properly allocate and prioritize key groups like residents and staff in long-term care homes as well as front-line health-care workers. 

In this first stage of the vaccine campaign, Canada has seen both doses sitting in freezers as well as provinces saying they are running short, while those on the front line have sought to sort out who should and shouldn’t be receiving shots at this time.

“It was with precisely these types of issues in mind that Canada pursued the aggressive procurement strategy that we did,” Anand said. “This approach of ensuring diversity and volume months ago is what now gives us flexibility and margins to remain on track in difficult times.” 

Asked whether Canada will be looking to revisit their decision to not procure additional Moderna doses to make up the shortage over the next few weeks, Fortin said the amount scheduled to arrive from that company will stay the same.

As previously reported, the additional 16 million Moderna doses that the federal government left on the table in talks with that company would not be arriving until late 2021. 

As for whether Canada looked into being able to receive Pfizer shipments from the  United States facility, Fortin said that the federal government looked into it, but for now Canada’s line of doses will continue to come exclusively from the European facility.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu added that because as part of the regulatory approval granted to Pfizer, Health Canada approves the manufacturing sites as well as the vaccine itself.

“So, should we procure from even the same company a different site, then there would need to be review of the manufacturing data,” she said. 

Several federal officials sought to reassure Canadians Friday that the country remains on track to vaccinate everyone who wants to be, by the end of September.   

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