Canada’s restaurant industry is bracing for the biggest jump in the country’s alcohol excise duty in more than 40 years, spurring warnings the tax hike could force some bars and restaurants out of business.
Adani no longer Asia’s richest person as stock rout continues
Shares in Indian tycoon Gautam Adani’s conglomerate plunged again on Wednesday as a rout in his companies deepened to $86bn in the wake of a US short-seller report, with the billionaire also losing his title as Asia’s richest person.
Wednesday’s stock losses saw Adani slip to 15th on Forbes rich list with an estimated net worth of $75.1bn, below rival Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd who ranked ninth with a net worth of $83.7bn.
Before the critical report by US short seller Hindenburg, Adani had ranked third.
The losses mark a dramatic setback for Adani, the school-dropout-turned-billionaire whose fortunes rose rapidly in recent years in line withthe stock values of his businesses that include ports, airports, mining, cement and power. Now, the tycoon is fighting to stabilise his companies and defend his reputation.
The share slides came just a day after the Adani Group managed to muster support from investors for a $2.5bn share sale for flagship firm Adani Enterprises, in what some saw as a stamp of investor confidence at a time of crisis.
The report by Hindenburg Research last week alleged improper use by the group of offshore tax havens and stock manipulation. It also raised concerns about high debt and the valuations of seven listed Adani companies.
The group has denied the allegations, saying the short seller’s narrative of stock manipulation has “no basis” and stems from an ignorance of Indian law. It has always made the necessary regulatory disclosures, it added.
Shares in Adani Enterprises, often described as the incubator of Adani businesses, plunged 28 percent on Wednesday, bringing its losses since the Hindenburg report to more than $18bn. Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone dropped 19 percent. Both stocks marked their worst day ever.
“The kind of fall that we are seeing in Adani stocks is scary,” said Avinash Gorakshakar, head of research at Mumbai-based Profitmart Securities.
Adani Power and Adani Wilmar fell 5 percent each, and Adani Total Gas slumped 10 percent, with all three falling by their daily price limits. Adani Transmission was down 3 percent and Adani Green Energy was down 5.6 percent.
Adani Total Gas, a joint venture with France’s Total, has been the biggest casualty of the short-seller report, losing about $27bn.
Dollar bonds issued by Adani entities also resumed their slide on Wednesday. The US dollar-denominated bonds of Adani Ports maturing in February 2031 led the losses, falling 3.59 cents to 67.58 cents.
Underscoring the nervousness in some quarters, Bloomberg reported that Credit Suisse had stopped accepting bonds of Adani group companies as collateral for margin loans to its private banking clients.
Deven Choksey, managing director of KR Choksey Shares and Securities, said this was a big factor in Wednesday’s share slides.
Credit Suisse had no immediate comment.
After losing $86bn in recent days, equivalent to 16 percent of India’s annual budget spend of $550bn announced on Wednesday, the seven listed Adani Group entities now have a combined market capitalisation of about $131bn.
“There was a slight bounce yesterday after the share sale went through, after seeming improbable at a point, but now the weak market sentiment has become visible again after the bombshell Hindenburg report,” said Ambareesh Baliga, a Mumbai-based independent market analyst.
“With the stocks down despite Adani’s rebuttal, it clearly shows some damage on investor sentiment. It will take a while to stabilise,” Baliga added.
Asked whether he was concerned about wider losses on India’s equity markets because of the plunge in Adani Group shares, economic affairs secretary Ajay Seth said the government “does not comment on issues related to a particular company”.
India’s benchmark Nifty index has fallen 2.7 percent since the Hindenburg report. Data also shows that foreign investors sold a net $1.5bn worth of Indian equities after the Hindenburg report – the biggest outflow over four consecutive days since September 30.
Scrutiny of the conglomerate is stepping up, with an Australian regulator saying on Wednesday it would review Hindenburg’s allegations to see if further enquiries were warranted.
India’s markets regulator, which has been looking into deals by the conglomerate, will add Hindenburg’s report to its own preliminary investigation, sources have told Reuters. The regulator has not commented on the Adani-Hindenburg saga.
Indian credit rating agency ICRA Ltd, a unit of Moody’s Investors Service, said on Wednesday it was monitoring the impact of the developments on its rated portfolio in Adani Group. It added that while the group’s large debt-funded capital spending plan was a “key challenge”, some of it was discretionary in nature and could be deferred, depending on the liquidity position.
India’s state-run Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) said on Monday it would seek clarifications from Adani’s management on the short-seller report. LIC owned a 4.23 percent stake in Adani Enterprises as of end-December and more than 9 percent in Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone. The insurance giant was also a key investor in Adani’s recent share sale.
Shares in cement firms ACC and Ambuja Cements, which Adani Group bought from Switzerland’s Holcim for $10.5bn last year, fell 6.2 percent and 16.7 percent, respectively.
Hindenburg said in its report it had shorted US bonds and non-India traded derivatives of the Adani Group.
Windsor-Essex brewers lament impact of looming 6.3% alcohol tax
Chapter Two Brewing Company in Windsor is celebrating a milestone this weekend.
“Five years! We’re pretty pumped that we got this far and we’re still going strong,” said brewery co-owner and general manager, Cheryl Watson. “It’s good news, I mean, we’ve gone through a lot.”
From the impact of lockdowns during the pandemic to recent inflationary pressures and wage increases, Watson notes the cost of doing business has been steep.
And that anniversary celebration will clouded by a looming alcohol excise tax increase on all alcohol producers.
“I think everything is just, it’s been unpredictable for suppliers and buyers alike,” Watson said. “We have to look at and figure out what part of it you’re going to cover and what part of it you’re going to ask your customer to cover.”
That question will get harder on April 1 when the 6.3 per cent federal excise tax goes into effect on beer, wine and spirits producers.
Taxes already make up 50 per cent of the cost of beer, 65 per cent of the cost of wine and 75 per cent spirits, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
“The screws are tightening and we don’t have as many places to play anymore,” said Watson.
The increase on the table is triple the usual jump — a number tied directly to inflation — and has alcohol manufacturers wondering who is going to pick up the tab.
“You’re going to see probably a six to 10 per cent increase on the price of your beer,” said Shane Meloche, the owner of Frank Brewing Company in Windsor. He’s weathered the storm that is the past few years in the hospitality industry and doesn’t want to raise prices but worries this time, he may have no choice.
“We’re here to make money. We’ve got 20 to 30 people that work here. We need to stay in business,” Meloche said. “We want to keep everybody employed. So the only way to do that is to pass along that price to the consumer.”
Restaurants who sell alcohol will also feel the effects. A recent Restaurants Canada survey found about half of Canadian restaurants are operating just at or below profitability levels, noting the tax increase will cost Canada’s food-service industry about $750 million a year.
“Their profit margins are very slim. And then when you have a six per cent increase, it’s slimmer,” said Paul Boots, who along with business partner John Conlon launched Suds Runner just a few months back.
It’s a licensed manufacturing representative retailer for nine different Breweries in Ontario where customers can go online and order flights of beer from them that you can’t get at the LCBO or Beer Store — and they bring it to your door.
They started the venture to support local breweries and give their less popular brews more exposure for customers who can’t make it out to craft breweries as often as they’d like.
They hope the increase doesn’t crush their suppliers, customers, or them.
“It’s important, I think, for people to understand that if the price is going up a little bit, it’s not because they’re making more money,” said Conlon.
“They’re just trying to work, trying to make it work.”
Shares in Deutsche Bank drop as global banking worries persist – Al Jazeera English
Tumbling stocks dragged down other major banks across Europe, fuelling fears about a banking sector crisis.
Shares in Deutsche Bank have fallen sharply, dragging down other major European banks and reigniting fears about a widening banking sector crisis.
Germany’s biggest lender dropped more than 14 percent on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in Friday morning trading before clawing back ground in the afternoon to trade 9.5 percent lower, at 8.43 euros ($9.07) a share.
Tumbling bank stocks dragged down markets across Europe on Friday with Germany’s Commerzbank down 7.5 percent, France’s Societe Generale off 5.9 percent and Austria’s Raiffaisen down 5.9 percent.
Deutsche Bank is one of 30 banks considered globally significant financial institutions, so international rules require it to hold higher levels of capital reserves because its failure could cause widespread losses.
The long-troubled bank has become the focus of investor concerns after the collapse of three regional US lenders and the Swiss government-brokered takeover of Credit Suisse by rival UBS triggered market turmoil this month.
The cost of insuring the bank’s debt against a risk of defaulting, known as credit default swaps, has surged as investors fret about the banking sector’s health.
Rising costs on insuring debt were a prelude to Credit Suisse‘s rescue by UBS. That hastily arranged takeover on Sunday and jitters about Credit Suisse’s long-running troubles led its shares to tank and customers to pull out their money.
Asked whether Deutsche Bank could be the next Credit Suisse, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said, “There is no reason to be concerned.”
Scholz expressed confidence in Deutsche Bank, saying it had “modernised and organised the way it works. It’s a very profitable bank.”
Speaking in Brussels after a summit of EU leaders, he also said the European banking system was “stable” with strict rules and regulations.
Deutsche Bank said on Friday that it would redeem $1.5bn in tier 2 bonds early. Such a move is normally aimed at boosting confidence in a bank although its shares plunged regardless.
The bank was hit by a string of problems linked to its attempts before the 2008 global financial crisis to compete with Wall Street investment banking giants.
But it launched a major restructuring, which involved thousands of job cuts and a greater focus on Europe, and has returned to financial health. Last year, it booked its highest annual profit since 2007.
European officials said banks in the European Union’s regulatory system, which does not include Credit Suisse, are resilient and have no direct exposure to the failed California-based Silicon Valley Bank and little to Credit Suisse.
Efforts to strengthen banking regulation in recent years “puts us all in a position to say that European banking supervision and the financial system are robust and stable and that we have resilient capitalisation of European banks”, Scholz said.
European leaders, who played down any risk of a possible banking crisis at their summit on Friday, said the financial system is in good shape because they require broad adherence to tougher requirements to keep ready cash on hand to cover deposits.
International negotiators agreed to those rules after the 2008 financial crisis, triggered by the failure of US investment bank Lehman Brothers. US regulators exempted midsized banks, including Silicon Valley Bank, from those safeguards.
Restaurants and bars across Canada brace for biggest alcohol tax jump in 40 years
Bar and eatery operators across Canada have endured lockdowns, labour shortages, supply chain mayhem and soaring costs for everything from payroll to cooking oil. Rising inflation has also softened demand as some consumers stay home to save money.
“Many of us haven’t recovered from the pandemic and now they want to raise this tax,” she said. “It’s hard to get blood out of a turnip. We’ll see more restaurant closures if this goes ahead.”
The federal beverage alcohol duty is set to increase 6.3 per cent on April 1.
While the duty is separate from provincial liquor board fees and sales taxes, it ultimately filters down to higher prices for consumers, said CJ Helie, the president of Beer Canada.
“It’s imposed at the point of production and paid by the manufacturer, which means it’s built into the price of the product and magnified as it goes through the supply chain from the distributor to the retailer,” he said.
The automatic annual tax increase is a long-standing irritant for the beverage industry, but was “digestible” when inflation was around two per cent, Helie said.
But this year’s adjustment is more than triple the usual increase and should be reconsidered given the state of the industry, he said.
Some brewers may try to absorb the higher cost by delaying investment plans like new hiring but he said there’s only so much they can do before passing the tax hike along.
“They’ll try to recoup what they can through the wholesale price but it could impact demand and end up costing them in lower sales volumes anyway,” Helie said.
Alcohol excise duty rates are adjusted by law on an annual basis to account for inflation, Adrienne Vaupshas, press secretary of Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, said in an email.
The increase next month works out to less than a penny on a can of beer, she added.
But industry group Restaurants Canada said it will cost Canada’s food-service industry about $750 million a year, with the average casual dining restaurant expected to pay an extra $30,000 towards alcohol.
At the retail level, the impact may be more subtle. Though added on top of other price increases, consumers may notice higher prices.
The Liquor Control Board of Ontario said customers may experience a price increase on select products by the end of April if manufacturers pass along the federal excise tax increase.
A spokeswoman for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. said beverage alcohol prices are increasing by just over three per cent overall next month.
But these increases are due to a number of factors, including higher excise taxes and the rising cost of raw goods such as bottles, cans, barley, and labels, NSLC spokeswoman Allison Himmelman said in an email.
In British Columbia, a spokesperson for the BC Liquor Distribution Branch said it’s not possible to confirm what level of price increase consumers may or may not see.
“Each liquor supplier will decide whether or not to increase its wholesale price to account for the increase it must pay in excise duty,” Robin Fraser said in an email.
“Then retailers will make the decision on whether to adjust the prices for consumers for those products,” Fraser said. “It is up to each retailer to determine if, and by how much, to raise its prices.”
Alcohol beverage prices rose 5.7 per cent in February compared with a year before, according to Statistics Canada.
While that’s only slightly higher than the overall inflation rate of 5.2 per cent last month, the tax hike in April along with other increases could see the alcohol inflation rate rise faster than general inflation later this spring.
“Our industry is struggling and we can’t absorb more increases,” said Olivier Bourbeau, vice-president of federal affairs with Restaurants Canada. “Restaurant margins are always thin but right now they’re around two to three per cent.”
This is in part because restaurants are absorbing some of the higher costs due to inflation, Bourbeau said.
Indeed, while grocery prices recorded a 10.6 per cent year-over-year increase in February, restaurant food prices only rose 7.7 per cent, Statistics Canada figures show.
Also, alcohol beverages purchased from stores rose 6.0 per cent in February, while alcoholic beverages served in licensed establishments increased only 4.3 per cent, the agency said.
“Restaurants can’t absorb any more price increases,” Bourbeau said. “But if they pass those costs to customers it could hurt their business.”
“At the end of the day, consumers will only pay so much before they start to cut back.”
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