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CannTrust cannabis sales licence suspended

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CannTrust Holdings Inc.’s licence to produce and sell legal and medical cannabis in Canada was suspended by federal regulators on Tuesday, the latest blow to the beleaguered pot firm after an inspection uncovered that it grew thousands of kilograms of marijuana in unlicensed rooms.

CannTrust said in a statement that it received notice from Health Canada earlier Tuesday morning that it won’t be able to sell and produce cannabis, other than cultivating and harvesting existing plants.

“While the suspension remains in effect, CannTrust will be permitted to cultivate and harvest existing lots or batches previously propagated, as well as conducting ancillary activities to those lots, including drying, trimming and milling. During the suspension, CannTrust may not propagate new lots or batches of cannabis or engage in the sale or distribution of cannabis,” the company said in a statement.

CannTrust added the notice from Health Canada states the regulator could reinstate its licences “if the reasons for the suspension no longer exist or if CannTrust demonstrates that the suspension was unfounded.” The Vaughan, Ont.-based company said its management and board are reviewing the notice with its counsel and other advisors.

CannTrust said federal regulators listed several measures that the firm could implement, which would address the various public health and safety risks that contributed to Health Canada’s partial suspension.

Those measures include controlling the cannabis that comes in and out of the company’s facilities, ensuring that marijuana will be produced and distributed in authorized areas, recovering pot that was grown in unauthorized areas, improving employees’ knowledge and compliance with the law, and developing better record-keeping and inventory tracking.

CannTrust has been in a state of turmoil since July 8 when it revealed it had breached Canadian regulations by growing marijuana in unlicensed areas of its Pelham, Ont.-based facility.

As a result of that infraction, Health Canada seized nearly 5,200 kilograms of dried cannabis and the company instituted a voluntary hold on approximately 7,500 kg at another facility.

The pot firm has also fired CEO Peter Aceto with cause, demanded the resignation of chairman Eric Paul and formed a special committee tasked with probing the regulatory scandal. CannTrust also hired Greenhill & Co. as a financial advisor to explore a sale of the company, strategic investment or a business combination.

In August, CannTrust said Health Canada found that its Vaughan, Ont. manufacturing facility was non-compliant as well. CannTrust also disclosed last month that the Ontario Securities Commission’s Joint Serious Offences Team had opened an investigation into “matters and parties” related to the company.

Earlier this month, BNN Bloomberg reported that some CannTrust staff late last year brought cannabis seeds from the black market into production rooms, leading to some illicitly-grown pot flowing into the legal market.

CannTrust now joins a handful of Canadian cannabis producers which have had their ability to grow and sell legal cannabis suspended by Health Canada, the federal regulator in charge of enforcing and licensing pot in the country.

Last week, British Columbia-based Evergreen Medicinal Supply Inc.’s licence was suspended due to issues relating to its production practices, record-keeping, inventory control, and adherence to licence controls. In February, Bonify Holdings Corp.’s licences were suspended after the company was found to be selling marijuana it obtained from illicit sources.

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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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