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Asia stocks slip as coronavirus cases surge – Reuters

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SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian share markets got off to a shaky start on Monday as the relentless spread of the coronavirus finally made investors question their optimism on the global economy, benefiting safe harbour bonds and the U.S. dollar.

FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective face mask, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, walks in front of a stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, May 18, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan eased 0.2% and further away from a four-month top hit last week.

Japan’s Nikkei shed 1.5% and South Korean stocks 1.4%. E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 lost 0.3%.

Wall Street had faltered on Friday as some U.S. States reconsidered their reopening plans. The global death toll from COVID-19 reached half a million people on Sunday, according to a Reuters tally.

About one-quarter of all the deaths so far have been in the United States, with cases surging in a handful of southern and western states that reopened earlier.

“The increase in U.S. COVID-19 infection rates has dented momentum across markets despite the improvements in the global economy, which continues to beat most data expectations,” wrote analysts at JPMorgan in a note.

“Our strategists remain sanguine and recommend to buy on dips but also selectivity,” they added. “Traditional hedges like JPY vs USD, USD vs EM FX, Gold and quality stocks are still outperforming this month. We stay overweight U.S. equities but move EM equities to neutral and stay neutral U.S. credit.”

Sovereign bonds benefited from the shift to safety with yields on U.S. 10-year notes falling to 0.63%, having briefly been as high as 0.96% early in June.

The U.S. dollar went the opposite direction, rising to 97.461 against a basket of currencies from a trough of 95.714 earlier in the month.

It was a shade higher on the yen at 107.20 on Monday, but well within the recent range of 106.06 to 107.63. The euro stood at $1.1222 having found solid support around $1.1167.

It is an important week for U.S. data with the ISM manufacturing index on Wednesday and payrolls on Thursday, ahead of the Independence Day holiday. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is also testifying on Tuesday.

In commodity markets, gold held near its highest since early 2012 at $1,771 an ounce.

Oil prices slipped amid concerns the pandemic would slow the reopening of some economies and thus hurt demand for fuel.

Brent crude futures fell 62 cents to $40.40 a barrel, while U.S. crude lost 60 cents to $37.89.

Editing by Sam Holmes

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Torstar surges over first offer price amid rival bid – BNN

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Torstar Corp. rallied to an eight-month high after receiving an unsolicited offer to purchase the company by a private investor group, less than two weeks before shareholders were set to vote on an initial buyout deal by two prominent Canadian business families.

Shares of the Toronto Star parent skyrocketed 16 per cent to 72 cents on Thursday as it resumed trading after saying a competing proposal may result in a “superior offer” to an earlier bid from NordStar Capital LP. While no final decision has been made, Torstar said it’s now in discussions with the new group.

Brothers Matthew Proud, chief executive officer of Dye & Durham Corp., and Tyler Proud, head of Avesdo Inc., are leading the $58 million competing bid, around 72 cents per share, according to several media reports.

NordStar, owned by the Rivett and Bitove families, had offered to buy Torstar for 63 cents a share in cash in May, making for a price tag of $51 million.

The original deal is still “in the best interest of the company,” Torstar’s board said in a press release Thursday. “The board continues to recommend that Torstar shareholders vote in favor of the NordStar transaction.”

The break fee in the NordStar contract is $3.5 million. Currently, the arrangement has the support of Torstar’s board and its largest independent shareholder Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., ahead of a special meeting on July 21.

Nordstar has no plans to increase its offer. Its bid fully values Torstar based on expenses it will have to incur to grow the company and its newspapers, a spokesperson for the company said in a statement provided to BNN Bloomberg.

NordStar is controlled by Jordan Bitove and Paul Rivett. Rivett was a senior executive at Fairfax, a Toronto-based insurance and investment holding company, when it built its 40 per cent stake in Torstar’s Class B shares. He announced his retirement from the firm in February.

Bitove is a private equity executive whose family was part of the ownership group that brought the Toronto Raptors basketball franchise to the city in the 1990s.

Torstar, which also publishes more than 70 other newspapers, has been unable to turn around years of losses in advertising revenue. Before Nordstar’s offer, Torstar’s shares had slumped almost 80% since the end of 2017.

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Torstar shares halted on TSX after getting rival takeover offer for newspaper company – CBC.ca

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A second bid to buy newspaper publishing empire Torstar Corp. has emerged, one that reportedly values the company 14 per cent higher than the previous offer.

Torstar Corp. confirmed on Thursday that a second offer to buy the company has come forward, and the company’s board is currently considering the unsolicited offer by an unnamed private investor group.

Torstar “is engaging in discussions and negotiations with the New Offeror regarding its non-binding proposal,” the company said in a press release.

The company did not say who was making the offer, but the Globe and Mail newspaper first reported that the bid came from the Proud Brothers, Matthew and Tyler, who made their money in the technology sector.

The new  bid reportedly offers 72 cents a share to buy the company. That would value the company at $58 million, better than the 63-cent offer in May from the Bitove and Rivett families’ company Nordstar, which valued the company at $52 million.

Like many newspapers, the owner of the Toronto Star, Hamilton Spectator and 70 other publications across Canada has seen a precipitous drop in its paid circulation and advertising revenue, and a corresponding increase on the digital side is not making up for it.

The company took in $479 million worth of revenue in 2019, down $64.4 million or 12 per cent from 2018’s level, and spent $51 million more than it earned, according to its latest earnings.

But the company has $42 million in cash on its books, and no debt, which is what makes it an attractive acquisition even beyond the core business.

Shares in the company were halted in premarket trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday morning, with regulators citing “pending news” as the reason for the halt.

Torstar shareholders are scheduled to vote on whether or not to accept the original NordStar offer on July 21. 

Torstar’s board says it still recommends shareholders vote for the NordStar deal, pending the discussions they are having with those who’ve made the new offer.

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Popular West Island pub asks recent patrons to monitor health after employee tests positive for COVID-19 – CTV News Montreal

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MONTREAL —
A popular pub in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue is the latest in the greater Montreal area to go on hiatus after a COVID-19 case that could have exposed patrons to the virus.

Annies Sur Le Lac has temporarily closed so that its staff – about 20 people – can get tested for COVID-19 after a member of management tested positive.

The pub’s manager, Kevin O’Connel, told CTV News the measure wasn’t required by public health but was taken out of an abundance of caution. 

“This is all new to us,” he said.

He also wanted to publicize the situation so that anyone who visited the bar on Friday, Saturday or Sunday can be aware, monitor their health and go get their own tests if needed.

Employees wear personal protective equipment and practice proper hygiene, O’Connel said. The person who tested positive also didn’t interact directly with customers.

Still, that person had been at the pub over the weekend, and was in contact with other staff, so they aren’t taking any chances, he said. 

Annie’s reopened on June 22 with health protocols in place, O’Connel said. More than two dozen tables were removed from the outdoor terrace to allow two metres of distance between patrons. They made it easier for people to wash their hands and put protective equipment on staff.

O’Connel says he called public health authorities at Info-Santé and was told the bar isn’t under any obligation to close, but they decided to “pull the plug” anyway. 

They’ll reopen once all the staff have been tested—15 to 20 people—and the entire establishment can be sanitized. A cleaning company is coming in on Friday to do the deep clean.

None of the other staff is showing symptoms. If all the test results come back this week, it’s possible the bar will reopen this weekend.

In the meantime, the bar has posted a sign on the door that explains the closure.

After a much bigger outbreak in Montérégie, which involved a bar in the South Shore, Quebec released new rules today for bars. They include cutting off alcohol sales at midnight, limiting capacity to 50 per cent and banning dancing.

O’Connel said his bar had reopened for the spring and summer season for a single day in March when the pandemic forced it to shut. Now, after reopening for just two weeks, he says he’s very disappointed about all the stops and starts but wants to put safety first.

He went for his own test this morning in Mercier, he said.

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