A company controlled by billionaire financier Stephen Smith has reached a deal to acquire alternative mortgage lender Home Capital Group Inc. HCG-T for $44 per share in cash, for a purchase price of nearly $1.7-billion.
The offer from a subsidiary of Smith Financial Corp., which already owns 9.1 per cent of Home Capital, represents a 63-per-cent premium to its latest stock price and a 72-per-cent premium to the average trading price over 20 days up to last Friday.
But the deal isn’t set in stone. The agreement includes a “go-shop period” until Dec. 30 during which Home Capital and its financial advisers can solicit bids and enter into negotiations with rival buyers. If Home Capital terminates the agreement with Smith Financial to accept a better offer within the go-shop period, it will pay a $25-million termination fee. The fee doubles if Home Capital seals an alternative deal more than five days after December 30.
Home Capital’s board “concluded that the transaction is in the best interests of the Company and fair, from a financial point of view, to shareholders,” said board chair Alan Hibben, in a prepared statement. “We are pleased to have reached an agreement that provides shareholders with compelling and certain value in the form of an all-cash offer.”
Three months ago, Home Capital disclosed that it had rejected an unsolicited takeover offer from an unnamed bidder. Mr. Smith, who is executive chairman and co-founder of rival mortgage lender First National Financial Corp., was widely thought to have been the most likely bidder at the time.
Home Capital rebuilt its fortunes after a near-collapse in 2017 and has consistently been one of the leading providers of alternative mortgages – those offered to borrowers who struggle to qualify at a major bank, often because they have mildly bruised credit, are self-employed or are newly arrived in Canada. But Home Capital’s share price has tumbled 39 per cent over the last year as soaring interest rates put pressure on the housing market and already stretched home buyers.
The acquisition would add to Mr. Smith’s already significant stake in Canada’s mortgage industry. In addition to leading First National, he is chairman of Canada Guaranty Mortgage Insurance Co., one of the country’s largest private mortgage insurers which he owns in partnership with Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. He is also chairman and co-owner of Fairstone Bank of Canada, formerly Walmart Bank Canada, which offers mortgages among other loans and financing products.
“With its talented work force, diversified presence across Canada, trusted positions as a lender and deposit-taker and 36-year operating history, Home Capital is a strategic asset,” Mr. Smith said in a news release. “I look forward to owning another business with a bright future.”
The deal needs approval from two thirds of Home Capital shareholders at a special meeting, and is subject to further approvals from courts and regulators.
The transaction is expected to close in mid-2023, but if it closes on or after May 20, the purchase price goes up by three-tenths of a cent each day – or about 25 cents per share for each three-month delay.
In the meantime, Home Capital intends to keep paying its quarterly cash dividends.
BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. and TD Securities Inc. are Home Capital’s financial advisers, and RBC Dominion Securities Inc. is adviser to Smith Financial. Torys LLP acted as legal adviser to Home Capital, and Stikeman Elliott LLP for Smith Financial.
BMO, TD and Deloitte LLP each provided opinions that the transaction is fair.
Food prices in Canada: Families to pay $1,065 more in 2023 – CTV News
Canadians won’t escape food inflation any time soon.
Food prices in Canada will continue to escalate in the new year, with grocery costs forecast to rise up to seven per cent in 2023, new research predicts.
For a family of four, the total annual grocery bill is expected to be $16,288 — $1,065 more than it was this year, the 13th edition of Canada’s Food Price Report released Monday said.
A single woman in her 40s — the average age in Canada — will pay about $3,740 for groceries next year while a single man the same age would pay $4,168, according to the report and Statistics Canada.
Food inflation is set to remain stubbornly high in the first half of 2023 before it starts to ease, said Sylvain Charlebois, lead author of the report and Dalhousie University professor of food distribution and policy.
“When you look at the current food inflation cycle we’re in right now, we’re probably in the seventh-inning stretch,” he said in an interview. “The first part of 2023 will remain challenging … but we’re starting to see the end of this.”
Multiple factors could influence food prices next year, including climate change, geopolitical conflicts, rising energy costs and the lingering effects of COVID-19, the report said.
Currency fluctuations could also play a role in food prices. A weaker Canadian dollar could make importing goods like lettuce more expensive, for example.
Earlier this year the loonie was worth more than 80 cents US, but it then dropped to a low of 72.17 cents US in October amid a strengthening U.S. dollar. It has hovered near the 74 cent mark in recent weeks, ending Friday at 74.25 cents US.
“The produce section is going to be the wild card,” Charlebois said. “Currency is one of the key things that could throw things off early in the winter and that’s why produce is the highest category.”
Vegetables could see the biggest price spikes, with estimates pegging cost increases will rise as high as eight per cent, the report said.
In addition to currency risks, much of the produce sold in Canada comes from the United States, which has been struggling with extremely dry conditions.
“The western U.S., particularly California, has seen strong El Nino weather patterns and droughts and bacterial contaminations, and that’s impacted our fruit and vegetable suppliers and prices,” said Simon Somogyi, campus lead at the University of Guelph and professor at the Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics.
“The drought is making the production of lettuce more expensive,” he said. “It’s reducing the crop size but it’s also causing bacterial contamination, which is lessening the supply in the marketplace.”
Prices in other key food categories like meat, dairy and bakery are predicted to soar up to seven per cent, the researchers found.
The Canadian Dairy Commission has approved a farm gate milk price increase of about 2.2 per cent, or just under two cents per litre, for Feb. 1, 2023.
“The increase for February is reasonable but it comes after the unprecedented increases in 2022, which are continuing to work their way through the supply chain,” Charlebois said of the two price hikes of nearly 11 per cent combined in 2022.
Meanwhile, seafood is expected to increase up to six per cent, while fruit could increase up to five per cent, the report said.
Restaurant costs are expected to increase four to six per cent, less than supermarket prices, the report said.
Rising prices will push food security and affordability even further out of reach of Canadians a year after food bank use reached a record high, the report said.
The increasing reliance on food banks is expected to continue, with 20 per cent of Canadians reporting they will likely turn to community organizations in 2023 for help feeding their families, a survey included in the report found.
Use of weekly flyers, coupons, bulk buying and food rescuing apps also ticked up this year and is expected to continue growing in 2023, the report said.
“We’re in the era now of the smart shopper,” said Somogyi, also the Arrell Chair in the Business of Food.
“For certain generations, it’s the first time that they’ve had to make a list, not impulse buy, read the weekly flyers, use coupons, buy in volume and freeze what they don’t use.”
Last year’s report predicted food prices would increase five to seven per cent in 2022 — the biggest jump ever predicted by the annual food price report.
Food costs actually far exceeded that forecast. Grocery prices were up 11 per cent in October compared with a year before while overall food costs were up 10.1 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.
“We were called alarmists,” Charlebois said of the prediction that food prices could rise seven per cent in 2022. Critics called the report an “exaggeration,” he said.
“You’re always one crisis away from throwing everything out the window,” Charlebois said. “We didn’t predict the war in Ukraine, and that really affected markets.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2022.
Family says Amazon shipped fake product, refuses refund until 'correct' item returned – CBC News
When Matthew Legault graduated from high school in June, his parents figured they’d recognize his hard work by buying the parts he needed to build his own personal computer.
They placed an order with Amazon and it arrived at their Calgary home quickly.
But when Matthew opened the graphics card — a $690 part — he discovered the plastic casing had been hollowed out and filled with a putty-like substance to give it weight.
“It was actually a bit of a shock,” he said. “Everything looked pretty official up to the point where I pulled it out and took a second look.”
The real shock came, though, when Matthew’s father tried to get a refund.
François Legault followed Amazon’s return instructions and sent the item back, expecting a refund.
Instead, Amazon said in an email there would be no refund until the “correct” item was shipped back.
On top of that, the Amazon rep said the returned, fake item had been thrown out, to protect other employees.
“It was absurd,” said François. “It’s just a piece of plastic so I doubt there’s any danger to their employees. And secondly … now they’ve destroyed the piece of evidence.”
Amazon repeatedly claimed it had shipped the correct item.
Legault repeatedly explained he had received and returned “a complete fake” and attached photos to prove it.
Telling customers the item they’ve returned has been disposed of is a great way for Amazon to “end the conversation,” said marketing specialist Marc Gordon, who coaches both small companies and big-name multinationals on interacting with customers.
But “that’s impacting the quality of service they provide.”
Service, Gordon says, may be affected as customers who flocked to the online retailer during the pandemic return to brick-and-mortar stores, forcing Amazon to re-organize.
“They don’t have the time or the resources to deal with every customer complaint, every inquiry, every problem,” said Gordon. “They want this done and they want to move on to something else.”
In an email, Amazon’s Canada spokesperson Ryma Boussoufa said: “Not every returned product can or may legally be resold or donated for hygienic or product safety reasons. In those cases, we will recycle products where possible.”
‘Slap in the face’
François says his history with Amazon should have stood for something — he’s been a loyal customer for years, and rarely returned anything.
“The box had obviously been tampered with,” he said. “We kind of expected that Amazon would have better quality controls, better procedures to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen.”
“They’re basically saying that we’re trying to defraud them,” said François. “We’ve never had a pattern of returning things, or anything of that nature.”
An Amazon rep had, at one point, said the decision was final.
“That’s a little bit of a slap in the face,” said François. “They’re basically shutting this down and saying that there’s nothing else to discuss. And unfortunately, I beg to differ.”
After Go Public made inquiries, the company refunded François and apologized for taking almost five months to resolve the “unfortunate incident.”
Amazon reported global profits in 2020 of over $386 billion US, a 38 per cent increase over the previous year. It doubled its workforce between 2020 and 2021 and rapidly expanded.
But last year, growth was slower — a 22 per cent increase over 2020 — and growth for the current year is expected to be slower again, according to industry experts.
Last month, Amazon confirmed it would be laying off some 10,000 employees worldwide.
The returns customers make every day are a major expense for Amazon, Gordon says.
Online retailers in general lose an average of 21 per cent of a returned item’s original value — once costs for shipping, processing and restocking are factored in — according to a U.S.-based study by Pitney Bowes earlier this year.
Go Public asked what percentage of orders were returned last year, but Boussoufa wrote that the company doesn’t release that data “for reasons of commercial sensitivity.”
More returned products ‘disposed’
Go Public heard from more than half a dozen others who said they, too, were frustrated by Amazon’s policy of disposing returned items before a dispute was resolved.
Allan Papernick of St. Davids, Ont., ordered a $280 Citizen watch last April. But it was difficult to read the black hands on its black face, so he sent it back.
Amazon repeatedly told Papernick he had sent back an “older model” watch, which it had then discarded. It asked him to return the correct item.
“If I was scamming them, then let them send that item back to me,” he said. “Getting rid of it is a weird business practice, to say the least.”
He threatened to sue for $10,000 and received a full refund the next day.
Amazon did not answer when Go Public asked whether all outgoing packages are individually inspected to confirm the contents. But every returned item is carefully inspected “to accurately determine its condition,” according to Boussoufa, the spokesperson.
Other customers, like Justin Tabbert of Ottawa, say they will never again order from Amazon after similar, frustrating experiences.
He spent about $700 ordering RAM for his computer last April, but says his package had been opened and was missing half the order.
When he sent it back, Amazon complained it was “missing components.” It ended up resending the full order, but the issue’s still not resolved.
“Now they are saying they will charge me for another [order], because in their view, they’ve sent two,” said Tabbert.
Make an unboxing video
Gordon says Amazon’s tactic of insisting a customer return an item they say they don’t have is designed to put the onus back on the customer to fix the issue.
“The problem is, it doesn’t work,” said Gordon. “You just end up with a really irate customer who feels that they’ve been taken advantage of, or misled or screwed over.”
He says anyone worried about not being able to get a refund if an online order has problems, should make an unboxing video. Have someone grab their phone and film when a package is opened.
“If it’s exactly what they ordered, great, they can delete the video,” said Gordon. “If it is, in fact, something that’s been substituted or fake or fraudulent, well, it’s right there in the video. There’s no denying it.”
As for Matthew Legault, the high school grad is happy his computer is up and running — he uses it to play games with friends and is learning how to write computer code.
His father says the Amazon dispute has taught him something, too.
“This whole experience has really motivated me to shop local again,” said François.
Amazon has “lost a lot of business from us.”
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GM converts CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont., to make electric delivery vans – CBC News
A General Motors plant in Ingersoll, Ont., has been converted into an assembly line for electric delivery vans, making it the first full-scale electric vehicle-making facility in Canada.
The first BrightDrop Zevo 600 rolled off the line at the CAMI plant on Monday, marking the reopening of the facility that was temporarily shuttered in May in order to retool itself from making internal combustion engines into one that builds electric vehicles.
“We are fully committed to an all-electric future,” GM Canada president Marissa West told CBC News in an interview. “We’re seeing a really high customer demand.”
Representatives of the provincial and federal governments, which each kicked in $259 million to help the automaker upgrade the facility, were on hand for a media event commemorating the opening. The total price tag for the GM’s upgrades to its facilities in Ontario in Ingersoll and Oshawa was $2 billion, GM has said previously.
BrightDrop is a unit of GM that focuses on building delivery vehicles for commercial customers, not passengers. Prior to the CAMI upgrading, GM made the BrightDrop vans on a very limited basis at another facility in Michigan.
Similarly, other electric vehicles have been made on a limited basis in Canada, but nothing on the scale of what GM has planned with the BrightDrop launch.
Banking on electric future
After decades as a key hub in the North American auto industry, Canada’s status as a car-making powerhouse has slipped in recent years, as the major car companies have slowly cut back production at facilities scattered across southern Ontario.
The last round of union negotiations in late 2020, however, made it clear that both sides see the industry’s future is electric, and Monday’s unveiling is likely the first in what’s set to be a long line of Canadian-made EVs.
“We really believe that we’re at an inflection point where EVs are becoming much more mainstream,” West said.
Though niche right now, electric vehicles are taking up more and more space on Canadian roads. Up to five per cent of all vehicles in Canada are either fully electric or hybrid, and that ratio is expected to increase in the coming years.
By 2035, the government insists that all new vehicles in Canada will be electric, an ambitious target for a little over 12 years from now, but Monday’s announcement brings that one step closer.
According to West, GM has a similar timeline for its operations around the world, with the company forecasting its entire global fleet to be free of tailpipe emissions by 2035.
Jacquie Richards, the quality launch manager at the facility, says the future is now, when it comes to electric vehicles.
The vehicle itself, the BrightDrop Zevo 600, will be used primarily by commercial customers including FedEx, Walmart, DHL, Verizon and others.
“I’m excited to see this vehicle we’re making delivering packages in our neighbourhood,” Richards said.
Production will start slow, with just a few thousand vehicles annually, but that’s expected to ramp up to 50,000 at year by 2025.
After a rough few years for the industry, Mike Van Boekel, chair of Unifor Local 88, which represents the plant’s hourly workers, said it’s nice to be positive about the future again.
He said roughly 700 people who were employed at the CAMI facility have voluntarily retired in the past two years, but the new work means anyone who had a job there before who wants one now can have one.
The plant was idled in May for the refurbishment, but as of Monday, there were about 400 workers on the line — with maybe more to come.
“We’ll actually have to hire for the third shift, which is good news for people looking for work as well,” he told CBC News. If that happens, there could be as many as 1,600 people working at the CAMI plant by the end of next year.
With the GM news and other initiatives about critical mineral mines and battery facilities, Canada’s automotive sector is pinning its hopes on the future on electrification, and automotive consultant Sam Fiorani says that’s a smart move.
Countries like Norway and others are well ahead of North America in terms of electric vehicle adoption, but consumer appetite is growing, the founder of Auto Forecast Solutions said.
“The U.S. Canada, and much of the rest of the world are going to be behind them. But we’ll get there over the next 20 years.”
A big problem facing the industry for now isn’t demand, but supply. “Supply of vehicles has been so tight that dealers can offer whatever they want,” he said. “I’ve walked into dealerships where they tack $5,000 onto the list price of a car; it’s just outrageous at the moment.”
But as inventories slowly build up, there will be more and more vehicles for consumers in the key price range of $20,000 to $40,000, which is when things will really take off. And Fiorani says Canada is poised to make more than its fair share of them.
“With the market in the U.S. moving very rapidly toward EVs, the Canadian industry will be really well-situated for providing a lot of vehicles for the U.S.,” he said. “They’re well-positioned to get more than their share. I think Mexico might be behind at the moment.”
Do you have a question about climate change and what is being done about it? Send an email to email@example.com
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