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Air Canada shares close marginally lower after government takes equity stake

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By Allison Lampert and Maiya Keidan

MONTREAL (Reuters) -Air Canada stock ended marginally lower in volatile trading on Tuesday on concerns that existing shareholdings would be diluted after the federal government took an equity stake in the carrier as part of C$5.9 billion ($4.7 billion) in aid.

Analysts and investors said Air Canada‘s decision to accept the bigger-than-expected aid package was the right decision for Canada‘s largest carrier as it tries to cope with the crippling downturn in air travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Definitely a positive development because it’s giving them access to a very attractively priced backstop credit facility at very reasonable terms,” said Catharine Sterritt, portfolio manager at CIBC Asset Management, a top shareholder.

The deal announced on Monday gives Ottawa a roughly 6% stake in the airline at a discount of 14%, which prompted several analysts to cut their price targets.

“We believe some investors could be negatively surprised by equity dilution and a repayable loan for refunds,” Scotiabank’s Konark Gupta wrote in a note, while reiterating a “sector perform” rating on the stock.

Air Canada shares opened more than 4% higher before sinking about 6.7% and closed down 0.44% at C$26.88 in Toronto.

“In spite of the dilution we see, we still see a path for this company to be worth in excess of at least C$40 when the COVID situation and the airline situation normalizes all a bit more,” Paul Younes, an investment analyst at Letko Brosseau and Associates, which holds the stock, told Bloomberg TV.

Canada is wrestling with soaring COVID-19 cases driven by coronavirus variants and a comparatively slower vaccination rollout than in the United States, raising questions about the reopening of air travel.

“The bigger issue for AC and its investors is the timing around the vaccine rollout and eventual lifting of travel restrictions, as most markets that have reopened show strong pent-up demand,” Raymond James analyst Savanthi Syth said in a note.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday praised the deal with Air Canada as “good and fair.”

The agreement – the largest individual coronavirus-related loan that Ottawa has arranged with a company – came after the airline industry criticized Trudeau’s Liberal government for dawdling.

TD Securities analyst Tim James said the access to capital would prove to be insurance as opposed to necessary liquidity required to finance operations or capital expenditures in 2021 and beyond. He cut his target price on Air Canada to C$29 from C$31, while reaffirming a “hold” rating.

Air Canada would ease restrictions on future refunds for passengers, a key part of the government talks.

Canada‘s government also is engaged in aid talks with WestJet Airlines Ltd and Transat AT Inc.

($1 = 1.2589 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal and Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Maiya Keidan in Toronto; Editing by Paul Simao and Peter Cooney)

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Basketball trailblazer denied Canadian permanent residency, must return to U.S. – CBC.ca

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Bilquis Abdul-Qaadir, the trailblazing basketball player who set up an academy for girls and coached multiple sports at an Islamic school in London, Ont., has been denied permanent residency in Canada and will have to go back to the United States. 

“We’ve been here for two years, my son is Canadian, and we would love to be part of this country, but we finally got the message from immigration that we were denied permanent residency. It’s very unexpected,” said Abdul Qaadir from her London home. “I’m at a loss for words. I’ve single-handedly brought sports to an underserviced community. It’s heartbreaking.”

Abdul-Qaadir and her husband, A.W. Massey, moved to London from Tennessee three years ago.

She said she hasn’t been able to work in Canada since August, when her work permit expired and wasn’t renewed by a Canadian border official. 

“We’re still trying to figure out what we’re going to do. We aren’t sure. We’re angry and we’re tired. We put our heart and soul into this application. We felt like we checked all the boxes.” 

Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir and her husband, A.W. Massey, moved to London, Ont. three years ago from Tennessee. (Submitted by A.W. Massey)

Abdul-Qaadir led a four-year battle against the International Basketball Federation, which banned religious head coverings on the court. She won, but sacrificed her basketball career to do so.

She had been the leading high school point scorer for both boys and girls in Massachusetts, and went on to play for the University of Memphis in Tennessee, where she was the first woman to play in a hijab in NCAA Division 1. 

Alongside her motivational speaking gigs, she teaches at the London Islamic School and has opened a basketball academy in London, but all that is now up in the air. 

On Thursday, Abdul-Qaadir got a letter from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that said she doesn’t “meet the requirements for immigration to Canada.” 

She applied for permanent residency as an athletic director at the London Muslim Mosque, but her duties — including developing, managing and supervising the school’s physical education and athletic programs, as well as being the head coach for the basketball, volleyball and cross-country teams — are “inconsistent with the actions” of an athletic director. 

“I am not satisfied that your stated duties is sufficient to indicate that your role involves plan, organize, direct, control and evaluate the operations of comprehensive fitness programs at this organization. I am also not satisfied that you performed a substantial number of the main duties for this [job classification],” IRCC wrote in her letter.   

Abdul-Qaadir said she doesn’t know if she and her husband will fight the refusal. 

Abdul-Qaadir set the state record for the highest all-time high school scorer for men and women in Massachusetts. ( Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photographer)

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(CBC)

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Mastercard expands cryptocurrency services with wallets, loyalty rewards

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Mastercard Inc said on Monday it would allow partners on its network to enable their consumers to buy, sell and hold cryptocurrency using a digital wallet, as well as reward them with digital currencies under loyalty programs.

The credit card giant said it would offer these services in partnership with Bakkt Holdings Inc, the digital assets platform founded by NYSE-owner Intercontinental Exchange.

Founded in 2018, Bakkt went public earlier this year through a $2.1 billion merger with a blank-check company. Shares of the company were up 77% at $16.19 on Monday.

Mastercard said its partners can also allow customers earn and spend rewards in cryptocurrency instead of loyalty points.

The company had said in February https://www.reuters.com/article/us-crypto-currency-mastercard-idUSKBN2AA2WF it would begin offering support for some cryptocurrencies on its network this year.

Last year, rival Visa Inc had partnered https://www.reuters.com/article/us-blockfi-crypto-currency-visa-idUSKBN28B603 with cryptocurrency startup BlockFi to offer a credit card that lets users earn bitcoin on purchases.

Bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency, touched a record high of $67,016 last week after the debut of the first U.S. bitcoin futures-based exchange traded fund. It has more than doubled in value this year.

 

(Reporting by Niket Nishant in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.)

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Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou returns to work in Shenzhen, after extradition drama – Global Times

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Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Huawei Technologies, returned to work at the tech giant’s headquarters in Shenzhen on Monday after almost three years fighting extradition to the U.S. in Canada, state-backed Chinese newspaper Global Times reported.

Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei, completed three weeks of quarantine last week after returning to the southern city of Shenzhen where a crowd of well-wishers chanting patriotic slogans awaited her at the airport.

“Over the last three years, although we have struggled, we have overcome obstacles and our team has fought with more and more courage,” she said in a speech at an internal company event that was circulated online.

The extradition drama had been a central source of discord between Beijing and Washington, with Chinese officials signalling that the case had to be dropped to help end a diplomatic stalemate.

Meng was detained in December 2018 in Vancouver after a New York court issued an arrest warrant, saying she tried to cover up attempts by Huawei-linked companies to sell equipment to Iran in breach of U.S. sanctions.

She was allowed to go home after reaching an agreement https://www.reuters.com/technology/huawei-cfo-meng-appear-court-expected-reach-agreement-with-us-source-2021-09-24 with U.S. prosecutors last month to end a bank fraud case against her.

 

(Reporting by David Kirton; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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