Legendary investor Warren Buffett’s decision to walk away from a proposed export terminal for liquefied natural gas in Quebec is being held up in a new report as a sign that the LNG sector in Canada and elsewhere is on shaky ground.
The Global Energy Monitor report released Monday says Buffett’s move in March underscores the growing political and economic uncertainty that LNG projects are facing even as governments around the world tout liquefied natural gas as a clean alternative to coal power.
Canada has emerged as a major proponent of expanding liquefied natural gas as a way to fight climate change abroad and create jobs and revenue at home, with numerous multibillion-dollar projects to facilitate LNG exports to Asia and elsewhere in the works.
Yet Global Energy Monitor suggested Buffett’s decision to withdraw investment firm Berkshire Hathaway’s planned $4-billion investment in an LNG export terminal in Saguenay, Que., is a sign of things to come.
Neither Buffett nor Berkshire Hathaway explained their reasons for the move, but the company behind the terminal project blamed “the current Canadian context” — an apparent reference to nationwide rail blockades and protests against the Coastal GasLink pipeline in B.C. at the time.
“While many projects face opposition from local communities, the case of the Energie Saguenay LNG Terminal in Quebec shows the potential for a local protest to galvanize a national movement,” said the Global Energy Monitor report.
Global Energy Monitor is an international non-governmental organization that catalogues fossil-fuel infrastructure around the world and advocates for more investments in renewable energy.
Monday’s report goes on to suggest that political opposition is only one of many new challenges to the LNG sector, with another being a dramatic drop in the price of gas due to an oversupply at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has sent demand plummeting.
The result: plans to build pipelines, terminals and other infrastructure in Canada and around the world have been put on hold — or dropped entirely.
The report lists 13 LNG projects in Canada alone that have been cancelled or suspended in recent years. That includes a $10-billion LNG export facility in Nova Scotia, which is now in limbo as the company behind the project tries to decide whether to move ahead or not.
Pieridae Energy, the company behind the Nova Scotia project, announced in May a delay in making a final decision on proceeding. Spokesman James Millar said that was due to technical obstacles created by COVID-19, not market conditions.
One project apparently not affected is LNG Canada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline, which was the target of this year’s protests and blockades over a route that crosses traditional Wet’suwet’en territory in British Columbia. The company said last month that it plans to have 2,500 people working on the 670-kilometre pipeline from Dawson Creek to Kitimat by September.
Billionaire Stronachs split their company to settle family feud – BNN
A family feud that tore apart one of Canada’s richest families has been settled by splitting the company that owns some of America’s most famous racetracks.
Frank Stronach and daughter Belinda Stronach said Thursday they have ended a long and public battle for control of the family business. Belinda will get control of the Stronach Group’s thoroughbred racing and gaming businesses, which include Santa Anita Park and Gulfstream Park, plus related real estate.
Frank Stronach and his wife, Elfriede Stronach, will get full ownership of a thoroughbred stallion and breeding business, including Stronach Stables, and farming operations in Florida, Kentucky and Ontario. They will no longer have any interest in Stronach Group.
In October 2018, Frank Stronach sued Belinda and others, including Stronach Group CEO Alon Ossip, for C$520 million (US$393 million), claiming mismanagement of the family fortune.
Belinda Stronach, a former politician who briefly ran Magna International Inc., rejected the claims of mismanagement. She said she was trying to prevent her father from pursuing “idiosyncratic and often unprofitable projects” that threatened the family fortune.
Neither Stronach has any current involvement with the operations of Aurora, Ontario-based Magna, Canada’s largest car-parts maker.
“I am pleased that my father will be able to focus on an agricultural business and related projects that are his passion. The settlement will allow The Stronach Group to continue building successful companies with quality jobs that contribute to the community,” Belinda Stronach said in a statement.
After a few years of working as a machinist in Austria, Frank Stronach arrived in Canada in the early 1950s with a few hundred dollars in his pocket and built Magna into a company with revenue of $28.7 billion and net income of U$1.1 billion by 2011 — the year he stepped down as chairman.
Stronachs settle family feud – CBC.ca
A high-profile feud among members of the Stronach family has been settled.
Under a settlement announced by The Stronach Group, control of the family fortune is basically split between two factions.
Former politician and business executive Belinda Stronach will remain chairwoman and president of The Stronach Group, with full control of its horse racing, gaming, real estate and related assets.
Her Austrian-born parents, Frank and Elfriede Stronach, will assume full ownership and control of a stallion and breeding business, all farm operations in North America and all European assets.
The family fortune was founded by Frank Stronach, who built the global Magna automotive manufacturing business — where Belinda worked for a time before entering federal politics.
Father and daughter issued a joint statement saying they were glad their disagreements had been settled.
Bank of Canada cuts benchmark mortgage rate for 3rd time in months – Global News
House-hunting Canadians saw their buying power increase this week as the benchmark five-year mortgage rate reported by the Bank of Canada fell for the third time this year, easing a key stress test faced by borrowers.
The central bank said the rate fell to 4.79 per cent, after decreasing to 4.94 per cent in May and to 5.04 per cent in March.
James Laird, the co-founder of Ratehub.ca and president of CanWise, said Thursday the lower rates will be a win for some.
“If you just barely couldn’t qualify (for a mortgage), you might now qualify for what you were looking for,” he said.
“It is a move that will allow you to qualify just a little more than you could before.”
Mortgage rates have been falling in recent weeks.
While most borrowers do not pay anything close to the benchmark posted rate for a mortgage, the rate is used when assessing borrowers as part of a financial stress test.
What you need to know before your deferring your mortgage payment
The check is meant to ensure homebuyers will be able to make their mortgage payments in the future if rates increase from the where they are today. The drop in the benchmark rate makes the test is easier.
According to Ratehub.ca’s mortgage affordability calculator, a family with an annual income of $100,000, a 10 per cent down payment and five-year fixed mortgage rate would have qualified for a home valued at $523,410 under the 4.94 per cent qualifying rate. Under the new rate, they can now afford $531,230.
Laird said the rate drop was hardly a surprise because when underlying rates have been dropping, eventually posted rates catch up.
Though the decrease will help many, he categorized it as “not a major change.”
“Anyone was qualifying for a mortgage no problem, they are unaffected,” he said.
“Anyone who was not close to qualifying, they are also not affected.”
© 2020 The Canadian Press
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