Suncor Energy Inc.’s decision to bow to investor pressure and investigate a sale of its gas stations has turned the spotlight on one potential buyer — Quebec’s Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.
The acquisitive owner of the Circle K chain has been seeking a major acquisition and tried unsuccessfully to take over French grocery chain Carrefour SA last year. Suncor said Monday it will consider options for its downstream assets, which include more than 1,500 Petro-Canada locations, making it one of the country’s largest retail fuel and convenience store chains.
Petro-Canada would be a sizable deal for most buyers, with a price tag that some analysts estimate at more than $10 billion. For Couche-Tard, it would likely come with significant antitrust hurdles.
The Laval, Quebec-based firm manages close to 2,100 stores across Canada and about 1,200 have gas stations. There’s a lot of overlap with Petro-Canada, especially in the eastern part of the country.
“Couche-Tard, I think, would have a hard time buying the whole network. There would be competition issues there, concentration issues,” Ryan Bushell, president of Newhaven Asset Management Inc., said on BNN Bloomberg Television.
Parkland Corp., a smaller Canadian fuel retailer, has also been in acquisition mode, but with a stock market value of $5.2 billion, Petro-Canada would be a “big bite,” Bushell said. “I’ll be interested to see if a third player, or maybe an international player, emerges.”
Suncor closed up 1.1 per cent in Toronto on Monday after earlier rising as much as 5 per cent. Couche-Tard dropped 1.9 per cent while Parkland jumped 3 per cent.
Officials from Couche-Tard and Parkland declined to comment.
Martin Landry, an analyst at Stifel GMP, believes large retailers like EG Group Ltd. or 7-Eleven Inc.’s parent could have some interest. Petro-Canada stations “are high quality and well-maintained and located,” he said, adding that he calculates the valuation at “roughly” $10 billion to $14 billion.
If Couche-Tard wanted to buy the business, it would probably have to divest 50% of the gas stations due to antitrust issues, according to Landry.
Credit Suisse analyst Manav Gupta pegged the value of the division at $9.6 billion to $11.2 billion, based on an estimate it can earn $800 million before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization on a normalized basis.
Others questioned whether a sale in response to an activist push by Elliott Investment Management LP will generate a high price.
“Do you really need to fire sale this thing when everybody knows that you’ve aired all of your laundry?” said Rafi Tahmazian, partner and senior portfolio manager with Canoe Financial in Calgary, which continues to hold “a small position” in Suncor.
“I would want a good explanation from them on why there’s such a hate-on for an asset when it doesn’t feel like the right time to be doing that to yourself,” Tahmazian said, adding that energy markets are volatile at the moment and the company would be better off waiting for a clear direction before seeking a buyer.
“You’ve already had major gas stations sell in the last six years or so,” Eight Capital analyst Phil Skolnick said. He thinks Elliott’s estimate that the business could be worth 14 times Ebitda is too rich, given a limited pool of buyers and the potential for fuel prices to fall from current levels.
Major Toronto power outage caused by sea crane snapping hydro lines – CP24
Tens of thousands of hydro customers in downtown Toronto have their power back after a massive outage on Thursday that forced some businesses to close and caused headaches for drivers.
Power was restored just before 8 p.m., nearly eight hours since the outage began.
“Safety is always our top priority. We know this power outage has made today exceptionally difficult for many of you, and we appreciate your patience,” David Lebeter, the chief operating officer of Hydro One, said in a statement on Thursday evening.
“We had all available resources helping to restore power as quickly and safely as possible. I want to thank all of those affected by this outage for their patience and Toronto Fire and Toronto Hydro for their collaboration.”
Hydro One said a crane in an upright position that was on a barge travelling in the Port Lands’ Ship Channel around 12:30 p.m. ran into three high-voltage transmission lines, causing further downstream damage to equipment at its power station near The Esplanade and resulting in power being lost throughout of the downtown core.
At its peak, an estimated 10,000 customers were left in the dark.
For several hours, the outage knocked out power to parts of the Hospital for Sick Children’s campus. It also darkened a portion of the Eaton Centre, forcing the closure of hundreds of stores. The mall, however, reopened at around 3:30 p.m. after power was slowly being restored.
Many large advertising screens at Yonge-Dundas Square also went dark. Traffic lights were down in some downtown intersections, prompting police to remind drivers to treat them as four-way stops. It led to some thoroughfares jamming up.
CTV News Political analyst Scott Reid was driving downtown when the lights went out.
He said navigating the city’s streets was a bit “hairy” as several traffic lights are out in the downtown core.
Reid said police officers were directing traffic at some major intersections, but not all.
The outage did not impact subways, but the TTC said there were significant streetcar delays due to traffic lights being out in parts of the downtown core. Meanwhile, Metrolinx said its PRESTO, GO Transit, and UP Express services were all running. It added that Union Station never lost power.
Several people were also trapped in elevators due to the outage. Toronto Fire said crews responded to a number of elevator rescues.
No injuries have been reported at this point in connection to the outage.
“(It was) definitely a unique situation,” Hydro One spokesperson Tiziana Baccega Rosa said.
She noted that an investigation is ongoing into the circumstances of how that barge was moving with a crane in an upright position and not adhering to the safety protocols.
Hydro One said crews will continue to work in the coming days to fix the damage caused by the crane.
City launches investigation
In a statement, the city said that a subcontractor to Southland-Astaldi Joint Venture (SAJV), which is involved in the Ashbridges Bay Treatment Plant outfall project, may have caused the outage.
“The city has launched a full investigation and has requested a full report from SAJV to understand what happened and what needs to be done to ensure this does not happen again,” the statement read.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said in a separate statement that the outage caused tremendous disruption in the downtown area and that it should not have happened.
“I want to thank the team from Hydro One who worked with our Toronto Hydro team to restore power to those affected as quickly as possible,” Tory said.
The mayor said city staff and all relevant parties will be reviewing the incident to ensure that it will not be repeated.
“I have been clear to city officials that I support them doing everything possible to get to the bottom of this and ensure full and complete accountability,” Tory said.
Is global inflation nearing a peak? – Al Jazeera English
Calling the top of the current wave of inflation has been a painful exercise for economists and central bankers, who have been proven wrong time and again during the past year.
But data on Wednesday, which showed that some measures of inflation had cooled in the world’s two largest economies, was likely to rekindle a debate about whether the worst might be over after a year of torrid price growth.
United States consumer prices did not rise in July compared with June due to a sharp drop in the cost of petrol, delivering much-needed relief to American consumers on edge after steady prices climbs during the past two years.
And China’s factory-gate inflation slowed to a 17-month low on an annual basis while consumer prices rose less than expected.
After wrongly predicting last year that high inflation would be transitory, most central bankers, including the US Federal Reserve, have stopped trying to put an exact date on when they expect current price growth to peak.
US central bank officials see inflation decelerating through the second half of the year, the European Central Bank puts the peak in the third quarter and the Bank of England sees it in October.
Here are some of the key data shaping the inflation debate:
Raw materials are getting cheaper…
The main culprit for the surge in consumer prices last winter – energy and other raw materials – may be the harbinger of lower inflation this time around.
Prices of critical commodities such as oil, wheat and copper have fallen in recent months after spiking earlier this year. Oil and food items soared after Russia invaded Ukraine.
The fall in prices came amid weaker global demand and economic slowdowns in China, the US and Europe, where consumers are dealing with high prices.
Some indices of inflation are already being affected: fewer firms are reporting increased input costs, and wholesale price rise is decreasing in many parts of the world
…But European energy bills won’t
With winter approaching on the continent, European households are unlikely to see their energy bills come down anytime soon. Recently, there have been talks of rationing in eurozone countries, including in Germany.
This is because gas prices in Europe – which, for years, has relied on Russia for a large portion of its imports – are still four times higher now than a year ago and close to record highs. There has been much uncertainty surrounding gas flow via the Nord Stream pipeline.
Even in the United Kingdom, which has its own gas but very little storage capacity, consumers are set to see their power bills jump in October when the current price cap expires.
There is bad news for German drivers, too, who will see a subsidy at the petrol pump expire at the end of August.
Expectations are (mostly) under control
Some central bankers can take comfort in the fact that investors have not lost faith in them.
Market-based measures of inflation expectations in the US and the eurozone are only just above the central banks’ 2 percent target, while they remain uncomfortably high in the UK.
After the Federal Reserve’s meeting last month, the central bank’s Chair Jerome Powell stressed that the Fed is ready to use all of its tools “to bring demand into better balance with supply in order to bring inflation back down to our 2 percent goal”.
Consumers in the US, eurozone and UK, expect to see inflation stay above the 2 percent target for years to come.
According to a survey conducted by the Reuters news agency, a vast majority of the economists polled said that inflation would stay elevated for at least another year before receding significantly. About 39 percent of economists asked said that they expect inflation to stay high past 2023.
Core prices may be trending down…
Core inflation, the number that measures inflation while excluding the price of volatile components like food and fuel, has started to cool in the US and UK. Some economists predict Japan and the eurozone will follow suit.
Nevertheless, core inflation remains higher than most central banks’ comfort zone both in developed and developing economies. That means that central banks will continue to increase borrowing costs. The US Federal Reserve last month raised rates by 75 basis points for the second consecutive time. The bank meets again in September to consider further tightening.
And an artificial intelligence model used by Oxford Economics suggests core inflation will also peak in Japan and the eurozone in the second half of the year.
The Long Short-Term Memory network, originally developed to help machines learn human languages, parses detailed inflation data to spot patterns that helps it predict the Consumer Price Index in the future.
…But wages are pointing up
Workers’ wages have increased in the last year due to a tight labour market but not as fast as inflation.
The US Employment Cost Index also recently revealed that higher wages also resulted in a significant increase in US labour expenses in the second quarter of 2022.
According to figures released earlier this week, the cost of labour per unit of production increased by about 10 percent for non-farm firms in the US in the second quarter of this year.
One of the main factors influencing pricing over the long term is wages, and if they climb too quickly, a spiral of price rises may start.
“If that happens, we end up with an almost self-fulfilling type prophecy, where firms will start to push price increases onto their customers,” Brent Meyer, policy adviser and economist at Atlanta’s Federal Reserve, recently told Al Jazeera.
Outside of the US, the economic recovery has been more muted, and the impending recession may make it harder for labour to negotiate lower wages.
Steep price drops will bring ‘sanity’ back to housing market in 2023: Desjardins – Global News
Desjardins is forecasting the average home price in Canada will decline by nearly 25 per cent by the end of 2023 from the peak reached in February of this year.
In its latest residential real estate outlook published on Thursday, Desjardins says it’s expecting a sharp correction in the housing market, adjusting its previous forecast that predicted a 15-per-cent drop in the average home price over that same period.
Desjardins says the worsened outlook stems from both weaker housing data and more aggressive monetary policy than previously anticipated.
The Bank of Canada raised its key interest rate by a full percentage point in July, pushing up the borrowing rates linked to mortgages, and further increases are expected this year.
The report also notes housing prices have dropped by more than four per cent in each of the three months that followed February, when the national average home price hit a record $816,720.
Despite the adjustment in the forecast, prices are still expected to be above the pre-pandemic level at the end of 2023.
Regionally, the report says the largest price corrections are most likely to occur in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, where prices skyrocketed during the pandemic.
“While we don’t want to diminish the difficulties some Canadians are facing, this adjustment is helping to bring some sanity back to Canadian real estate,” the report said.
The authors also note that the upcoming economic slowdown will ease inflationary pressures enough for the Bank of Canada to begin reversing interest rate hikes. Desjardins expects the Canadian housing market to stabilize late next year.
Bidding wars a thing of the past in Calgary’s once hot housing market
© 2022 The Canadian Press
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