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BlackBerry stock up as Q4 results beat analyst estimates

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BlackBerry Ltd. beat analyst estimates in the fourth quarter as North American customers fuelled growth for the former smartphone company, which now generates its revenue from software, services and intellectual property.

“We believe total revenue growth is a significant milestone to both the company and our shareholders,” BlackBerry chief executive John Chen said on a conference call following the release of its results.

“This profitable growth is a clear indication that we have successfully pivoted to become an enterprise software company.”

He noted that BlackBerry met all of its key financial targets for the financial year ended Feb. 28 and exceeded analyst revenue and profit estimates.

The company, based in Waterloo, Ont., said Friday that it earned US$51 million or eight cents per diluted share for the quarter ended Feb. 28. That compared with a loss of US$10 million or six cents per diluted share a year ago.

Its revenue, reported in U.S. currency, totalled $255 million, up from $233 million and above analyst estimates.

On an adjusted basis, BlackBerry said it earned 11 cents per share for the quarter, also better than expected.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of six cents per share on revenue of $241.3 million, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.

The quarter included BlackBerry’s US$1.4-billion acquisition of Cylance, a California-based artificial intelligence and cybersecurity firm. The deal, announced in November, closed near the end of the BlackBerry’s fourth quarter.

The Cylance deal is the company’s biggest acquisition since Chen arrived in late 2013 with a mandate to transform the business after its once-popular smartphone products were overtaken by rivals, particularly Apple and Samsung.

BlackBerry’s software and services for enterprises, part of the company’s legacy business, reported $92 million of revenue in the fourth quarter, down from $108 million a year earlier.

BlackBerry Technology Solutions, which includes its QNX automotive products, increased its revenue to $55 million from $46 million and revenue from licensing intellectual property was $99 million, up from $58 million a year earlier.

North America, particularly the United States, continues to be BlackBerry’s biggest market — accounting for $176 million or 69 per cent of total revenue in the quarter — up from $147 million or 63.1 per cent of the total a year earlier.

Revenue from the Europe, Middle East, Africa region and the Asia Pacific regions fell slightly from a year ago to $61 million and $17 million respectively.

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Hudson’s Bay Company agrees to taken company private

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Hudson’s Bay Co. will go private in a deal valuing the Canadian retailer at $1.9 billion in a bid by a group of investors led by executive chairman Richard Baker to try their hand at reinvigorating the fading 349-year-old department-store chain.


Hudson Bay Company executive chairman Richard Baker

The board of Hudson’s Bay said it entered into an agreement with investors led by Baker after the group raised its offer price to $10.30 a share, up from $9.45 a share. It approved the offer after a recommendation by a committee of independent directors.

Hudson’s Bay shares rose 7 per cent to $10.11 at 9:35 a.m. in Toronto.

Attention will now turn to minority shareholders who came out against Baker’s earlier proposal. The company needs a majority of them to approve the new deal for it to go through.

Catalyst Capital Group and other investors had said Baker’s original offer undervalued a company that’s rich in real estate holdings. Representatives for Catalyst and for Jonathan Litt, an activist investor who’s also been critical of Baker, were not immediately available for comment.

“The special committee is confident that this transaction represents the best path forward for HBC and the minority shareholders,” David Leith, head of the special committee, said in a statement.

Baker and his investment group want full control of the retailer, which also owns Sak’s Fifth Avenue, to turn the business around outside the glare of public markets. While Saks has been the group’s bright star of late, the Canada-based Hudson’s Bay chain, the oldest company in North America, is removing 300 “unproductive” brands and bringing in another 100 in a turnaround effort.


Mannequins sit on display inside a Saks Fifth Avenue.

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News

A number of traditional retailers are struggling and closing stores as consumer preferences change and shoppers increasingly migrate online to competitors like Amazon.com Inc.

Department stores in particular have struggled to attract new consumers and maintain sales.

Luxury focused chains haven’t been exempt from the fallout: Barneys New York Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection in August amid rising rent costs and a decline in visitors. A consortium led by Authentic Brands Group LLC has been selected as its initial bidder, with the group planning to open Barneys shops inside Saks Fifth Avenue stores owned by Hudson’s Bay, Bloomberg reported on Oct. 16, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

Hudson’s Bay has been trying everything to lower debt and stop its stock’s slide, most recently selling selling the operations of its Lord & Taylor department store chain to clothing rental subscription company Le Tote.

Chief executive Helena Foulkes, who was brought in last year, also sold flash-sale e-commerce site Gilt and cashed out of European operations.

The stock traded as high as $10.72 in August on expectations the bid would be raised. It was back at $9.45, the original offer price, at the end of last week. Over the last five years, the stock has lost about half of its value.

“It’s good to see that there’s a resolution with a good, formal take-private offer and a cash bid, and I think that should be a good resolution for a lot of people,” Greg Taylor, chief investment officer at Purpose Investments, said on BNN Bloomberg.

“Certainly a lot of people would have wanted a lot more from this but in the current dynamics around department stores in North America, I think this is probably as good as they could have hoped.”

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Energy regulator says crude-by-rail shipments fell to 310000 bpd

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The Canada Energy Regulator says exports of crude oil by rail from Canada fell slightly in August to 310,000 barrels per day from 313,000 bpd in July.

The August number is up 35 per cent from 230,000 bpd reported in August of 2018 but still well below the record high of 354,000 bpd set last December.

The small change in crude-by-rail shipments came despite a threat by Imperial Oil Ltd. CEO Rich Kruger to throttle back the company’s rail movements in August and September to protest the ongoing Alberta oil production curtailment program.

He says the program damages the economic case for crude-by-rail by artificially lowering the difference in oil prices between Alberta and the end market on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Imperial reported moving 80,000 bpd by rail in June. It co-owns an oil shipping rail terminal at Edmonton with capacity to load 210,000 barrels of crude per day.

Alberta has gradually eased the curtailment program designed to better align production with tight pipeline capacity from an initial withholding of about 325,000 bpd last January to 125,000 bpd in September.

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Hudson Bay Company agrees to pay more to shareholders for takeover bid

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Hudson Bay Company

The board of Hudson Bay Co. has agreed to a sweetened offer by a shareholder group led by executive chairman Richard Baker.

The retailer says the group has agreed to pay $10.30 per share in cash to take HBC private. The bid is up from an earlier offer of $9.45 per share.

The agreement values HBC at about $1.9 billion.

HBC says the price offered represents a premium of 62 per cent compared with where its shares were trading before the shareholder group’s initial privatization proposal in the summer.

The Baker-led group holds a 57 per cent stake in the retailer and includes Rhone Capital, WeWork Property Advisors, Hanover Investments (Luxembourg) and Abrams Capital Management.

The deal is subject to the approval by a majority of the minority of HBC shareholders, excluding the shareholder group and its affiliates, and approval by a 75 per cent majority vote at a special meeting of shareholders.

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