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Amazon hikes Prime membership fees in U.S., profit soars on Rivian stake

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Amazon.com Inc on Thursday said it was raising the price of its Prime subscriptions, as it looks to offset higher shipping costs and wages even after beating profit expectations for the holiday quarter.

Shares rose 17% in after-hours trade, after dropping nearly 8% before the market’s close as part of a broader technology stock sell-off. If shares rise on Friday by that much it would be the stock’s biggest percentage gain since October 2009.

For the holiday quarter, Amazon earned $14.3 billion, double its net income from a year earlier. That included a pre-tax gain of $11.8 billion from its stake in electric car maker Rivian Automotive.

On the heels of a windfall from greater at-home shopping in the pandemic, Amazon has poured money into its operations to manage disruptions, most recently the Omicron variant of COVID-19. It has marketed signing bonuses to attract hundreds of thousands of workers in a tight labor market, and it has paid more for shipping because it could not get products into the right warehouses.

Now, it is raising the U.S. monthly fee of Prime, its fast-shipping and media subscription, to $14.99 from $12.99, with annual membership increasing to $139 from $119. The change is effective Feb. 18 for new members, it said.

U.S. subscribers’ annual fees last went up four years ago to $119 from $99, and they went up four years prior from $79. Analysts have said it was time And it has more than 200 million paid subscribers to its loyalty club Prime to whom to appeal for an increase to cover the company’s increased costs.

With more than 200 million members globally, Prime is an incentive to consumers to direct more of their shopping to Amazon so they can make the most of their subscriptions. Such fees for the fourth quarter alone grew 15% to $8.1 billion.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) was a bright spot for Amazon, too. The cloud computing division has booked more sales with demand rising for gaming and remote work. It increased revenue 40% to $17.8 billion, ahead of estimates of more than $17.3 billion.

The unit even won a key customer, announcing Thursday an expanded partnership with retailer Best Buy Co Inc. AWS has long sought rivals as its marquee clients, such as Netflix Inc, to show it is a trustworthy partner and not scooping up competitors’ data. Microsoft Corp and Alphabet Inc’s Google recently forecast a positive outlook or results for their cloud businesses as well.

Still, Amazon forecast first-quarter sales below Wall Street estimates, projecting between $112 billion and $117 billion, or to grow between 3% and 8%.

Analysts were expecting $120.04 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco and Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Lisa Shumaker)

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Ford government caps rent increases to 2.5% in 2023 – CityNews Toronto

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  1. Ford government caps rent increases to 2.5% in 2023  CityNews Toronto
  2. Ontario is doubling how much landlords can hike rent prices by in 2023  blogTO
  3. Ontario rent guideline highest increase in a decade  CP24 Toronto’s Breaking News
  4. Rent increases in Ontario capped at 2.5 per cent next year  Tbnewswatch.com
  5. View Full coverage on Google News



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Air Canada to reduce flights this summer amid 'customer service shortfalls' – CTV News

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Air Canada is planning to reduce its flights in July and August, according to a statement from the company’s president, as the airline continues to deal with “customer service shortfalls.”

“Regrettably, things are not business as usual in our industry globally, and this is affecting our operations and our ability to serve you with our normal standards of care,” Michael Rousseau wrote.

The airline will be reducing its capacity as summer travel comes to a peak and pandemic-related restrictions on travel continue to lift.

In an emailed statement to CTV News Channel, an Air Canada spokesperson said the company will be reducing its schedule by an average of 154 flights per day for July and August. Prior to this change, Air Canada said it was operating around 1,000 flights per day. The routes most affected are flights to and from Toronto and Montreal airports. The changes will reduce the frequency of these flights, and will primarily affect evening and late-night flights on the airline’s smaller aircraft.

The spokesperson also said the airline will be temporarily suspending routes between Montreal and Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Kelowna, and Toronto and Fort McMurray. International flights will remain mostly unaffected, except for timing changes that the spokesperson said would reduce flying at peak times.

“To bring about the level of operational stability we need, with reluctance, we are now making meaningful reductions to our schedule in July and August in order to reduce passenger volumes and flows to a level we believe the air transport system can accommodate,” the statement reads.

While Rousseau acknowledges this will have a “negative impact on some customers,” he said he hopes giving this notice to the public of the airline’s reduced schedule will allow travellers to make other arrangements.

“We are convinced these changes will bring about the improvements we have targeted,” he said. “But to set expectations, it should also be understood the real benefits of this action will take time and be felt only gradually as the industry regains the reliability and robustness it had attained prior to the pandemic.”

Recent data shows that as we head into the summer travel season, more than half of all flights in and out of some of Canada’s major airports are being cancelled or delayed as the tourism and airline sectors continue to face staffing shortages. 

On Wednesday, the CEO of the Montreal-Trudeau Airport – where Air Canada said it would be reducing some of its flights – told CTV News Montreal that the airport was already in discussions with airlines to reduce the number of flights.

“We’re having discussions and it’s likely the frequencies — the number of flights we’ll have on a given destination — or destinations themselves,” Philippe Rainville said, adding that a staffing shortage at the airport is causing issues, most notably in loading and unloading luggage from planes.

Toronto Pearson International Airport is experiencing similar issues, with videos circulating on social media appearing to depict hundreds of pieces of luggage piled up in the baggage claim area.

“I have had conversations with the four largest airports and the two largest airlines just on Thursday and I will be having follow up conversations with them soon,” Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said at a press conference on Wednesday. “They know that they need to add more resources and they are working on that and we are offering our support to address these issues. But these are unacceptable issues.”

Airline and airport workers say some of the big reasons behind the struggle to address the industry’s staffing shortage are that they’re not being treated well, and their pay is not sufficient for how difficult the job is.

“There are so many screening officers that have quit because of low pay and poor working conditions that the airports are severely understaffed,” David Lipton, representative of the United Steelworkers union in Ottawa, told CTV National News on June 19.

Lipton said some unions are offering screening staff hundreds of dollars a week if they don’t take a vacation or sick days. 

With files from CTV News Montreal, CTV News Toronto, and Alexandra Mae Jones

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Accounting firm EY to pay $100M US fine after auditors caught cheating on ethics exams – CBC News

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Accounting firm Ernst & Young will pay $100 million US to settle U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charges that its auditors cheated on certified public accounting (CPA) exams and that it misled the agency’s investigators.

The London-based auditor admitted to the charges and agreed to pay what the SEC said is its largest fine against an auditor.

“EY acknowledges the findings determined by the SEC,” said Brendan Mullin, EY media relations director, adding that the firm’s response has been “thorough, extensive and effective.”

“At EY, nothing is more important than our integrity and our ethics.”

The CPA is the key qualification for accountants in the United States.

EY has also agreed to “undertake extensive remedial measures to fix the firm’s ethical issues,” the SEC said.

49 people got test answers ahead of time

The Wall Street watchdog found that 49 EY professionals “obtained or circulated” answer keys to CPA licence exams, while hundreds of others cheated to complete the continuing professional education components relating to CPA ethics.

“This action involves breaches of trust by gatekeepers … entrusted to audit many of our nation’s public companies. It’s simply outrageous that the very professionals responsible for catching cheating by clients cheated on ethics exams,” said Gurbir Grewal, the SEC’s enforcement director, in a statement.

“And it’s equally shocking that Ernst & Young hindered our investigation of this misconduct,” added Grewal.

EY submitted to the SEC that it did not have issues with cheating when, in fact, the firm had been informed of potential cheating on a CPA ethics exam by a member of staff, the SEC said.

It added that EY admitted it did not correct its submission even after an internal EY investigation confirmed there had been cheating, and even after its senior lawyers discussed the matter with the firm’s senior management.

The SEC’s order also finds that EY violated a Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) rule requiring the firm to maintain integrity in the performance of a professional service.

The SEC has ordered EY to retain two independent consultants to help remediate its deficiencies. One will review the firm’s policies and procedures relating to ethics and integrity. The other will review EY’s conduct regarding its disclosure failures, including whether any EY employees contributed to the firm’s failure to correct its misleading submission, the SEC said.

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