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CIBC hikes dividend, plans buyback despite Q4 profit miss – BNN



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Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce joined its peers on Thursday in rewarding its shareholders for their patience.

The bank said its board authorized a dividend hike that will lift the quarterly payout to $1.61 per share from $1.46, effective with the Jan. 28 distribution. It also announced plans to repurchase up to 10 million of its common shares.

Like the other lenders that have made similar moves this week, CIBC was able to share its wealth after the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions recently lifted its pandemic-era ban on dividend hikes and share buybacks. 

CIBC also said on Thursday its full-year profit climbed to $6.4 billion from $3.8 billion in 2020. For the fiscal fourth quarter, which ended Oct. 31, earnings surged 42 per cent year-over-year to $1.44 billion. However, on an adjusted basis the bank fell short of expectations at $3.37 per share; the average analyst estimate was for $3.54. 

Unlike other banks this week whose profits got a boost from improved credit quality, CIBC set aside $78 million for loans that could go bad during the fourth quarter. In the prior quarter, the bank had benefitted from the release of $99 million that was previously set aside as provisions for its loan books. 

CIBC’s core Canadian personal and banking division saw profit stagnate in the final quarter of its fiscal year. Net income was $597 million, compared to $590 million a year earlier and $642 million in the prior quarter. The division’s provisions for credit losses jumped to $164 million from $67 million in the fiscal third quarter. In a release, CIBC attributed the provisioning in part due to what it calls “model parameter updates.”

The bank’s other divisions fared better in the quarter, as profit rose year-over-year in capital markets, Canadian commercial banking and wealth management, as well as in CIBC’s U.S. division where profit doubled year-over-year to US$204 million. 

“Against the backdrop of the ongoing global pandemic, our bank continued to invest for the future, including expanding our platform and capabilities in the U.S., accelerating the growth of our Canadian consumer franchise, and making foundational investments in cloud technology and other capabilities that will enable us to do more for clients in 2022 and beyond,” said CIBC President and Chief Executive Victor Dodig in a release.

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Health Canada approves Pfizer's COVID-19 antiviral pill Paxlovid – The Globe and Mail



Paxlovid is a combination of two medications, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir, and works by stopping COVID-19 from replicating.HANDOUT/AFP/Getty Images

Health Canada approved on Monday the first oral COVID-19 medication that can prevent severe illness or death in some high-risk individuals, an important milestone that could eventually help alleviate some pressure on hospitals.

Paxlovid, an oral antiviral pill manufactured by Pfizer, is a combination of two medications, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir, and works by stopping the virus from replicating. But given global supply limits, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said the drug “won’t be a key contributor” in efforts to counter the Omicron wave.

Federal Minister of Public Services and Procurement Filomena Tassi said Monday that Canada has received an initial shipment of 30,400 treatment courses, with another 120,000 expected before the end of March. Ontario said on Monday it expects 10,000 doses of the medication this month and that the drug will initially be available at 15 hospitals across the province.

Isaac Bogoch, an infectious-diseases physician at Toronto’s University Health Network, said the drug will likely be most beneficial over the long term to help prevent severe illness in some and keep more people out of hospital.

“COVID’s not going anywhere any time soon and it’s still phenomenal to at least have the first step forward having this [drug] out in the community where it will do good,” Dr. Bogoch said.

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Health Canada approved the drug for treatment in people who have a confirmed COVID-19 infection and have a high risk of developing severe illness requiring hospitalization, such as older Canadians who are unvaccinated or whose vaccinations are not up to date, and people with immune-compromising conditions.

Data released by Pfizer show the drug can dramatically reduce the chances of hospitalization and death in high-risk individuals. Dr. Bogoch cautioned that more research needs to be done to have a full understanding of how well the drug works in a variety of people.

Dr. Tam said the highest risk categories for Paxlovid prioritization at the outset include immunocompromised individuals, people 80 and older and people 60 and older living in remote or rural communities, living in long-term care or those from First Nations, Métis or Inuit communities whose vaccinations aren’t up to date.

Federal officials also emphasized the need to ensure good access to Paxlovid in remote and rural communities where there is less access to tertiary care centres, which handle complex patients.

The drug must be taken within five days of symptom onset, which presents a series of logistical and practical challenges. Individuals will need to see a health care provider, obtain a COVID-19 test and wait for results before getting a prescription, which can be difficult to accomplish over the course of a few days.

Dr. Tam said in a briefing Monday that some clinicians, such as those who treat people with immune-compromising health conditions, can start preparing plans for fast and efficient prescribing of Paxlovid, which could help ensure it reaches those high-risk patients in a timely manner. Pharmacies could play an important role because they are located throughout the community and don’t require an appointment.

Dr. Bogoch said he hopes officials allow the drug to be distributed from a variety of channels, including pharmacies, to help ensure it can be given to people in a timely and efficient way.

Paxlovid interacts with a number of common medications, including blood thinners, drugs used to treat seasonable allergies and treatments for some heart conditions, which means some high-risk individuals may not be able to take it.

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Canada’s First Quantum agrees to higher payments at Panama copper mine



The Panamanian unit of Canadian miner First Quantum Minerals has agreed with Panama’s government to increase royalty payments at its flagship copper mine, the company and the government said on Monday.

Minera Panama, which is majority owned by First Quantum Minerals, has agreed to pay $375 million a year to state coffers from the Cobre Panama mine, which it says is one of world’s largest copper producers.

“We accept the proposal of the national Government, while requesting that the necessary protections be provided in order to safeguard the continuity of the operation,” Minera Panama said in a statement.

The company did not immediately respond to a question about the size of the increase in royalty payments

Panama‘s government said President Laurentino Cortizo would give details of the agreement on Tuesday.

The company began negotiating a new contract with officials in September, after Cortizo promised to seek a fairer deal with better public benefits.

Toronto-based First Quantum began commercial operations at Cobre Panama, about 120 km (75 miles) west of Panama City, in 2019.

The mine contributes 3.5% of the country’s gross domestic product, according to government figures, and at full capacity can produce more than 300,000 tonnes of copper per year.


(Reporting by Elida Moreno, writing by Daina Beth Solomon, editing by Richard Pullin)

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U.N. chief urges business to help poor nations in ‘hour of need’



U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to business leaders on Monday to support developing countries “in their hour of need” with access to COVID-19 vaccines, help to combat the climate crisis and reform of the global financial system.

Speaking virtually to the World Economic Forum, Guterres said: “Across all three of these areas, we need the support, the ideas, the financing and the voice of the global business community.”

He said there has been a “global inability to support developing countries in their hour of need” and warned that without immediate action inequalities and poverty would deepen, fueling more social unrest and more violence.

“We cannot afford this kind of instability,” said Guterres, who began a second five-year term as U.N. chief on Jan. 1.

He has long been pushing for more global action to address COVID-19 vaccine inequity and climate change and for reform of the global financial system.

“We need a global financial system that is fit-for-purpose. This means urgent debt restructuring and reforms of the long-term debt architecture,” Guterres said.

The World Health Organization last year set targets for 40% of people in all countries to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of 2021 and 70 per cent by the middle of this year.

“We are nowhere near these targets. Vaccination rates in high-income countries are — shamefully — seven times higher than in African countries. We need vaccine equity, now,” Guterres said.

He also warned of a lopsided recovery from the pandemic with low-income countries at a huge disadvantage.

“They’re experiencing their slowest growth in a generation,” Guterres said. “The burdens of record inflation, shrinking fiscal space, high interest rates and soaring energy and food prices are hitting every corner of the world and blocking recovery — especially in low- and some middle-income countries.”


(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Editing by Franklin Paul)

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