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Canada’s Bank of Montreal to buy Bank of the West from BNP Paribas for $16 billion

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Bank of Montreal said on Monday it will buy BNP Paribas’ U.S. unit, Bank of the West, for $16.3 billion in a deal that will allow the Canadian bank to double its footprint in the world’s biggest economy, while giving France’s biggest bank a huge step up in firepower for deals.

The deal gives BMO, Canada‘s fourth-largest lender, a large-scale presence in California, whose population is bigger than the bank’s home country. It will also increase the United States’ contribution to BMO’s pre-provision, pretax earnings to 44% from 36% in fiscal 2021 and will give the Canadian bank the ability to deploy almost all of its excess capital, which has been a drag on returns.

BNP Paribas has been struggling to keep up with larger rivals in the U.S. retail banking market, and the sale will leave the French bank focused squarely on Europe, where it is growing in stature as one of the region’s biggest investment banks as local rivals stall. In the past two years it has taken on equity and prime broking businesses from Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse.

“This is a value accretive transaction for all sides, which emphasises the quality of the Bank of the West franchise,” BNP Paribas CEO Jean-Laurent Bonnafe said on Monday.

BMO shares were down 2.2% at C$131.20 on Monday, on track for their lowest close since mid-October. They have lost more than 6%, including Monday’s drop, since rumours of the deal surfaced last week. BNP Paribas shares were up 0.5% on Monday.

BNP said it would use the proceeds from the sale to fund more share buybacks and to finance bolt-on acquisitions and further develop its presence in Europe.

It said it would also consolidate and further develop its activities in the United States, and the cash from the sale could give BNP Paribas more strategic flexibility than other European banks.

Analysts at Credit Suisse and Keefe, Bruyette & Woods (KBW) also said the $16 billion sale price was higher than many analysts had forecast.

“Achieving this price for Bancwest is a clear positive for shareholders and gives BNPP some strategic optionality, which has been a rare thing for European banks,” wrote KBW.

The United States has proven an increasingly unattractive market for European lenders, with BBVA selling its U.S. operations to PNC Financial Services Group Inc in 2020 and HSBC Bank earlier this year selling most of its U.S. business to Citizens Financial Group Inc.

BNP Paribas bought Bank of the West in 1979 and the unit had been its largest business outside of Europe.

REGULATORY UNCERTAINTY

BMO has had a presence in the United States for decades, from its acquisition of Harris Bank in 1984, to its $52 billion acquisition of M&I in 2011.

Canadian banks have amassed billions of dollars of excess capital following a March 2020 moratorium that was lifted last month and they and investors have been itching to put that money to work to lift returns on equity.

BMO said on Monday its share repurchase program, which it previously said it would restart, is on hold until the Bank of the West deal closes at the end of calendar 2022.

The Canadian bank expects “meaningful” revenue synergies from the deal, which will be further quantified in coming weeks, executives said on a conference call on Monday.

But the deal comes at a time when the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is pushing regulators – including the Federal Reserve – to take a tougher line on mergers across the economy amid worries that declining competition is hurting everyday Americans.

BMO’s CEO, Darryl White, told investors on Monday’s conference call that he saw “no sensible reason” the bank would not obtain the green light from U.S. regulators. He noted it was a positive sign that the Fed on Friday approved three outstanding deals.

“While BMO is anticipating that the deal should be closed by the end of next year, regulatory uncertainty does exist,” Barclays wrote in a note.

BMO said the acquisition would bring in nearly 1.8 million customers and extend its banking presence through 514 additional branches and commercial and wealth offices in key U.S. growth markets.

“We can see the strategic benefits from the acquisition, including further diversification of its loan book and expanding its geographic footprint,” Barclays said in the analyst note, cautioning that BMO’s relative capital advantage has now effectively disappeared overnight.

“We believe that this has the makings of a ‘wait and see’ approach.”

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta in Paris and Nichola Saminather and Maiya Keidan in TorontoEditing by Megan Davies, Jason Neely and Matthew Lewis)

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Airlines say Canadian flights unaffected by turmoil over 5G wireless launch in U.S. – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press


Published Wednesday, January 19, 2022 2:54PM EST


Last Updated Wednesday, January 19, 2022 4:05PM EST

MONTREAL – Canadian airlines say flights to the U.S. remain unaffected by the rollout of new 5G wireless technology that has sparked blowback from many large carriers.

Several international airlines cancelled flights to the United States this week over concerns that 5G mobile phone service could interfere with aircraft technology.

On Tuesday, telecommunications giants Verizon and AT&T announced last-minute delays to Wednesday’s service launch near key U.S. airports – the third postponement since early December – after U.S. carriers warned that the wireless frequency could cause widespread flight disruptions.

Critics say the new C-band 5G service operates in a frequency range that could interfere with radio altimeters, which measure an aircraft’s height above the ground and help pilots land in low visibility.

Air Canada, WestJet Airlines Inc. and Transat A.T. say no flights to the U.S. have been cancelled due to the issue.

“WestJet has not identified any material risk to our operations regarding the rollout of 5G across Canada,” spokeswoman Denise Kenny said in an email.

Airlines for America, a trade association representing 10 U.S. airlines and Air Canada, warned in a letter to the U.S. government Monday that “the vast majority of the travelling and shipping public will essentially be grounded” if the rollout goes ahead as initially planned. The 50 biggest American airports would have been subject to flight restrictions, prompting cancellation of some 1,100 flights, the organization said.

Canada’s 5G rollout faces no such hurdles.

Last fall, the federal Industry Department established protective measures, including so-called exclusion zones near airports, to reduce any interference with radio altimeters while allowing deployment of 5G systems in the 3,500-megahertz band in Canada. (The planned 5G rollout by American telecoms falls between 4,200 and 4,400 megahertz.)

It also imposed a “national antenna down-tilt requirement” on telecoms to protect helicopters and planes used in low-altitude military and search and rescue operations as well as medical evacuations, “which by nature do not fly predictable routes into and out of major airports,” the department’s Nov. 18 decision reads.

“It is expected that as new information and studies become available, and as new radio altimeter standards are developed internationally, these measures may be modified or relaxed,” Industry Department spokesman Hans Parmar said in an email.

John Gradek, head of McGill University’s aviation management program, said 5G networks in Canada run at lower wireless speeds that would not interfere with landings, and that only some older planes whose technology has not been upgraded pose a risk in the U.S.

“The question you have to ask yourself is, are the airlines investing in what I would call hardening the radio altimeter equipment so it no longer gets interfered with by C-band 5G?” he said in a phone interview.

“People knew this was coming. The airlines could have done something to invest in their airplanes to get the equipment in place, but they have not. We all know it’s money – airlines are kind of short on money these days.”

Robert Kokonis, president of consulting firm AirTrav Inc., says U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration should shoulder more blame for the “debacle” than cash-strapped carriers, pointing to a “lack of co-ordination and communication.”

“Between the commissioners of the Federal Aviation Administration – the FAA – and the Federal Communications Commission – the FCC – there’s an abject failure of decision making on behalf of the Biden administration,” he said in a phone interview.

“This is the biggest aviation market in the world. For this to happen – after the Boeing 737 Max oversight issue – you’ve got to scratch your head and wonder: what is going on in that country?”

The wave of cancellations by some airlines will carry “ripple effects” for carrier schedules around the world, he added.

On Wednesday, Emirates announced it would halt flights to several U.S. cities due to “operational concerns associated with the planned deployment of 5G mobile network services” at certain airports. It said it would continue flights to Los Angeles, New York and Washington.

Emirates president Tim Clark pulled no punches when discussing the issue. He told CNN it was “one of the most delinquent, utterly irresponsible” situations he’d ever seen as it involved a failure by government, science and industry.

Of particular concern appears to be older Boeing 777 wide-body jetliners. Emirates only flies that model and the Airbus A380 jumbo jet – and it was among one of the most affected airlines.

Japan’s All Nippon Airways cancelled 20 flights to cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration “indicated that radio waves from the 5G wireless service may interfere with aircraft altimeters,” the carrier said. Along with Japan Airlines, it said Boeing announced restrictions on airlines flying its 777s.

Air India also announced on Twitter it would cancel flights to Chicago, Newark, N.J., New York City and San Francisco because of the 5G issue. But it also said it would try to use different aircraft on U.S. routes – a course several other airlines took.

In Canada, the industry and transport departments are working with the telecom and aviation sectors “to ensure that appropriate rules are in place to protect the critical operations of radio altimeters” and minimize potential interference, Transport Canada spokeswoman Sau Sau Liu said in an email.

Transport Canada also issued a civil aviation alert on Dec. 23 offering recommendations on how to fly an airplane “in a 5G environment,” she noted.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2022.

Companies in this story: (TSX:AC, TSX:TRZ)

– With files from The Associated Press

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Global National: Jan. 19, 2022 | Canada's inflation rate soars to its highest level since 1991 – Global News

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Deal reached between B.C. First Nations and forestry company to defer old-growth logging – CBC.ca

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Logging will be temporarily deferred in approximately 2,500 hectares of old-growth forest following an agreement between four Vancouver Island First Nations and a forestry company.

The Nanwakolas Council, which represents four First Nations, and Western Forest Products have agreed to defer old-growth logging in a section of forest north of Campbell River, for two years.

The deferral includes preservation of 10 square kilometres of forest identified by an old-growth advisory panel as needing protection.

Another 15 square kilometres of priority ancient forests were also deferred through other agreements between the nations and the forestry firm.

In November, the government said it would defer the logging of B.C.’s rarest old-growth trees and gave 200 First Nations a deadline to say if they supported the deferrals or if they thought further discussion was required.

Nanwakolas Council president Dallas Smith used a pop-culture reference to summarize his reaction to the agreement.

“If you’re a Star Wars person, I feel like Luke Skywalker in the newer movies – we have our Jedi powers now and we’re not questioning whether we are or not,” Smith said.

“We are First Nations and we are in control of this. And it’s like Yoda said, ‘Do or do not. [There is] no try.’ And we’re doing it now.”

First Nations waited for years to ensure their cultural values were incorporated to discussions about forests and all that they hold, Smith said, adding that came together with the agreement.

Smith said unlike in the past, those solutions will come from First Nations, be rooted in Indigenous values, but still look after the economic concerns of the region.

Approval from First Nations required

Smith said another part of their agreement is that any other harvesting will have to be done after approval with all First Nations communities.

Forests Minister Katrine Conroy said Wednesday the temporary halt of logging in large sections of old-growth is an important measure giving First Nations and the forest industry time and space to develop long-term strategies.

“A temporary deferral is a step in a long-term partnership and vision for forest management that will benefit local communities and ecosystem health,” she said at a news conference.

Tegan Hansen, a forest campaigner at Stand.earth, says all deferrals recommended by the old-growth advisory panel should happen now.

“I’m really not hopeful if the province tries to piecemeal small deferrals over a very long period of time when what we need to see is a process where instead of nations having to opt in to logging deferrals, we have deferrals as a base, which is what the recommendation is, and nations can opt in to logging as they choose on their territories,” Hansen said.

“So we’re really seeing a flip in the order of process in terms of what the old growth strategic review set out for the province.”

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