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Couche-Tard makes play for French grocer Carrefour – The Globe and Mail

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Canadian convenience store giant Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. is making a play to buy French grocer Carrefour SA at a hefty premium in what would be a significant shift in strategy for the Circle K brand owner.

Couche-Tard recently submitted a non-binding offer letter to Carrefour for a friendly combination at a price of 20 euros per Carrefour share, the Laval, Que.-based company said in a statement Wednesday. That price marks a premium of about 29 per cent to Carrefour’s closing stock price Tuesday.

Terms of the transaction, which would be Couche-Tard’s largest-ever deal, are under discussion and remain subject to diligence but payment is currently expected to be largely in cash, Couche-Tard said. The additional information follows confirmation by the both companies late Tuesday that they were in early-stage talks.

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“This would be a fixer-upper acquisition” for Couche-Tard, said Brian Madden, senior vice-president and portfolio manager with Toronto-based Goodreid Investment Counsel, which holds Couche-Tard shares among $350-million in assets under management. “Carrefour has been struggling for twenty years, and has never eclipsed its stock price high from the turn of the century. If Couche-Tard were to acquire the convenience stores on favourable terms though, I think the market would welcome the transaction.”

Taking over supermarket operator Carrefour would be a major bite for Couche-Tard to swallow. Carrefour shares have climbed 10 per cent in trading on the Paris Stock Exchange this year, pushing up the company’s market capitalization to 12.6 billion euros (about US$15.4-billion). Its enterprise value, which includes debt, is about 27 billion euros (US$33-billion). Couche-Tard, one of Canada’s biggest companies by revenue, has a market value of $46-billion (US$36-billion).

It would also be a sharp turn in strategy for the Laval, Que.-based company and its chairman, Alain Bouchard. Couche-Tard has ballooned from a regional convenience store chain to a global titan through savvy acquisitions and organic growth. But it has focused almost exclusively on convenience stores and gas stations. Adding a grocery operator of this size would take it into largely uncharted territory, even if both businesses sell food.

Couche-Tard shares fell 8 per cent to $38 in early trading Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange, suggesting investors are struggling to see the merits of the acquisition. The company declined a request to make someone available to discuss its thinking.

“We question why Couche-Tard would desire to acquire a company which is predominantly a grocery operator with inherently lower margins and modest growth rates,” BMO Capital Markets analyst Peter Sklar said in a research note, adding Carrefour had a 4.8 per cent profit margin in 2019 versus Couche-Tard’s 8.3 per cent for roughly the same period. “Couche-Tard does not need to undertake such a transformational acquisition of this magnitude.”

Buying Carrefour is “theoretically” within reach for Couche-Tard, although it would stretch the company’s leverage to near the threshold for an investment-grade credit rating unless it raised money by issuing equity, Mr. Sklar said. The company has access to about $29.6-billion in debt to fund a transaction, Desjardins Capital Markets estimated.

Couche-Tard hasn’t made a major acquisition since buying Texas-based CST Brands for US$4.4-billion in 2017. But that hasn’t stopped it from looking.

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Japan’s Seven & i Holdings Co., the world’s biggest convenience-store operator, agreed last fall to buy Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s Speedway chain for US$21-billion. Couche-Tard was also in the running for Speedway, a source with knowledge of the matter told The Globe and Mail, but apparently balked at the price, which values Speedway at 13.7 times earnings before taxes, depreciation and amortization.

Couche-Tard also made a non-binding, US$5.8-billion play for fuel retailer Caltex Australia Ltd., now known as Ampol, last year, but suspended the effort after the COVID-19 pandemic made Ampol’s prospects and cash flow uncertain. That situation hasn’t improved, and Couche-Tard now appears to have moved on.

More recently, Couche-Tard did a small but strategic acquisition in Hong Kong that it is betting will jump-start its future expansion in the region. The company in November agreed to buy Convenience Retail Asia Ltd. for roughly US$360-million.

While visibility “became cloudy” on the merits of a Ampol transaction, other deals will almost certainly present themselves, Couche-Tard chief executive officer Brian Hannasch told The Globe and Mail in May. Takeover multiples, which show what an investor is willing to pay per dollar of earnings, are just one element of a convenience store sector poised for transformation in the months ahead, he said at the time.

There are recent precedents for convenience store operators pushing into the supermarket sector. In the United Kingdom, TDR Capital partnered with EG Group in October to buy a majority stake in Asda from Walmart Inc.

Carrefour Group operates 12,300 stores of various sizes in more than 30 countries but is concentrated in Europe, where it runs 2,800 supermarkets and about 700 larger-scale hypermarkets. It also owns a network of smaller convenience stores with sales areas of 200 to 900 square metres under Proxi and other names. The company expects to open 3,000 convenience stores by 2022, according to its website.

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Carrefour booked sales of 80.7 billion euros in 2019. It employs about 320,000 people.

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Ottawa sees lowest daily COVID-19 case count in three weeks – CTV Edmonton

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OTTAWA —
Ottawa Public Health is reporting 56 more people in Ottawa have tested positive for COVID-19, the lowest daily figure in three weeks.

However, two more residents of Ottawa have died of COVID-19.

It comes amid a drop of cases provincewide, with fewer than 2,000 new cases reported across Ontario, due in part to a technical issue in Toronto.

“Due to a technical issue, Toronto Public Health could not report an undetermined number of new cases today, resulting in an underestimation of the daily counts,” Public Health Ontario said.

Figures from OPH and the province often differ due to different data collection times. The province reported 41 new cases in the city.

According to Ottawa Public Health’s COVID-19 dashboard, there have been 12,427 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began and 407 deaths.

There are early signs of some improvement in the COVID-19 situation in the city, with the number of known active cases falling for the third day in a row, and some weekly trends also on the decline. The number of cases in the past seven days per 100,000 residents has been slowly falling, and the estimated reproduction rate in the last week is below 1, suggesting viral spread is slowing down.

The COVID-19 wastewater monitoring is also showing signs of a decline after a peak in early January. 

However, there are still more than 30 COVID-19 outbreaks in congregate care settings such as long-term care homes and retirement homes and new outbreaks are still being regularly declared.

OTTAWA’S COVID-19 KEY STATISTICS

A province-wide lockdown went into effect on Dec. 26, 2020. Ottawa Public Health moved Ottawa into its red zone in early January.

A provincial stay-at-home order has been in effect since Jan. 14, 2021.

Ottawa Public Health data:

  • COVID-19 cases per 100,000 (previous seven days): 81.9 cases
  • Positivity rate in Ottawa: 4.0 per cent (Jan. 11 – Jan. 17)
  • Reproduction number: 0.96 (seven day average)

Reproduction values greater than 1 indicate the virus is spreading and each case infects more than one contact. If it is less than 1, it means spread is slowing. 

VACCINES

As of Jan. 18, 2021:

  • Doses administered in Ottawa (first and second doses): 21,938 
  • Doses received in Ottawa: 22,245

As of Jan. 19, 2021:

  • Doses administered in Ontario: 224,134 
  • Vaccinations completed in Ontario: 25,609
  • Doses received in Ontario: 277,050 (Jan. 14, 2021)

ACTIVE CASES OF COVID-19 IN OTTAWA

The number of people with known active cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa is below 1,200 for the first time in a week.

OPH reported 1,137 active cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, down from 1,232, driven largely by a jump in resolved cases.

The number of resolved cases rose by 149 on Tuesday to 10,883. 

The number of active cases is the number of total laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 minus the numbers of resolved cases and deaths. A case is considered resolved 14 days after known symptom onset or positive test result.

HOSPITALIZATIONS IN OTTAWA

There are 39 people in Ottawa hospitals with COVID-19 complications and eight people are in the ICU.

Of the people in hospital, one is between the ages of 10 and 19 (this person is in the ICU), one is in their 30s (this person is in the ICU), six are in their 50s (one is in the ICU), eight are in their 60s (two are in the ICU), seven are in their 70s (three are in the ICU), nine are in their 80s, and seven are 90 or older.

TESTING

Ontario health officials say 34,531 COVID-19 tests were performed on Monday across Ontario and 36,750 tests remain under investigation.

The Ottawa COVID-19 Testing Taskforce says 1,717 swabs were taken at assessment centres on Monday and local labs performed 2,640 tests. There are 2,368 COVID-19 tests in progress as of Jan. 19.

The positivity rate for the week of Jan. 11 to 17 was 4.0%

The Average turnaround from the time the swab is taken at a testing site to the result was 23 hours.

CASES OF COVID-19 IN OTTAWA BY AGE CATEGORY

Here is a breakdown of all known COVID-19 cases in Ottawa by age category:

  • 0-9 years old: 7 new cases (888 total cases)
  • 10-19 years-old: 8 new cases (1,572 total cases)
  • 20-29 years-old: 15 new cases (2,638 total cases)
  • 30-39 years-old: 10 new cases (1,716 total cases)
  • 40-49 years-old: 10 new cases (1,627 total cases)
  • 50-59 years-old: 3 new cases (1,469 total cases)
  • 60-69-years-old: 2 new cases (897 total cases)
  • 70-79 years-old: 0 new cases (562 total cases)
  • 80-89 years-old: 1 new case (632 total cases)
  • 90+ years old: 0 new cases (423 total cases)
  • Unknown: 0 new cases (3 cases total)

COVID-19 CASES AROUND THE REGION

  • Eastern Ontario Health Unit: 14 new cases
  • Hastings Prince Edward Public Health: 3 new cases
  • Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington Public Health: 3 new cases
  • Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit: 0 new cases
  • Renfrew County and District Health Unit: 2 new cases
  • Outaouais region: 20 new cases

INSTITUTIONAL OUTBREAKS

Ottawa Public Health is reporting COVID-19 outbreaks at 38 institutions in Ottawa, including long-term care homes, retirement homes, daycares, hospitals and schools.

Five new outbreaks were declared on Tuesday at an Andrew Fleck Children’s Services daycare, the Montfort Long-term Care Centre home, the Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre, the Peter D. Clark long-term care home, and a supported independent living home.

The outbreak at the Duke of Devonshire retirement home has ended.

There are six active community outbreaks. An outbreak at a multi-unit dwelling has ended.

Three are linked to health workplaces, one is linked to an office workplace, one is linked to a distribution centre, and one is linked to a services workplace

The schools and childcare spaces currently experiencing outbreaks are:

  1. Andrew Fleck Children’s Services – Home Child Care – 29101 (NEW)
  2. Greenboro Children’s Centre
  3. Montessori by Brightpath
  4. Ruddy Family Y Child Care
  5. Services à l’enfance Grandir Ensemble – La Maisonée – 28627

The long-term care homes, retirement homes, hospitals, and other spaces currently experiencing outbreaks are:

  1. Alta Vista Manor
  2. Besserer Place
  3. Centre D’Accueil Champlain
  4. Colonel By Retirement Home
  5. Extendicare Laurier Manor
  6. Extendicare Medex
  7. Extendicare New Orchard Lodge
  8. Extendicare West End Villa
  9. Garry J. Armstrong long-term care home
  10. Grace Manor Long-term Care Home
  11. Granite Ridge long-term care home
  12. Group Home – 28608
  13. Group Home – 28740
  14. Group Home – 28848
  15. Group Home – 29045
  16. Group Home – 29049
  17. Group Home – 29052
  18. Hillel Lodge
  19. Madonna Care Community
  20. Montfort Long-term Care Centre (NEW)
  21. Oakpark Retirement Community
  22. Park Place 
  23. Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre (NEW)
  24. Peter D. Clark long-term care home (NEW)
  25. Redwoods Retirement Residence
  26. Shelter – 28365
  27. Sisters of Charity Couvent Mont Saint-Joseph
  28. St. Patrick’s Home
  29. Supported Independent Living – 28110
  30. Supported Independent Living – 29100 (NEW)
  31. Valley Stream Retirement Residence
  32. Villa Marconi
  33. Villagia in the Glebe Retirement Residence

A single laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19 in a resident or staff member of a long-term care home, retirement home or shelter triggers an outbreak response, according to Ottawa Public Health. In childcare settings, a single confirmed, symptomatic case in a staff member, home daycare provider, or child triggers an outbreak.

Under provincial guidelines, a COVID-19 outbreak in a school is defined as two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in students and/or staff in a school with an epidemiological link, within a 14-day period, where at least one case could have reasonably acquired their infection in the school (including transportation and before or after school care).  

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PM warns Canada could impose new COVID-19 travel restrictions without notice – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Citing the evolving situation with the identified COVID-19 variants from other countries, the prime minister is strongly urging Canadians not to travel because federal travel rules could change very quickly.

In French, the prime minister implored anyone who has booked trips to cancel them, saying a vacation is not worth it given the uncertainty and chance of either contracting the virus or ending up stranded abroad.

He said the federal government is closely following the latest science on more transmissible strains, such as those from the U.K. and Brazil, and officials could impose new restrictions without advance notice at any time.

The government continues to advise against any non-essential travel, though that decision is left up to Canadians and no outright ban is in place. 

Canadian airlines and travel companies continue to offer vacation packages and flight deals to warmer destinations, with flights departing from Canada daily. 

Acknowledging that people have the right to travel, Trudeau said the government also has the ability to impose penalties for those endangering others’ health. 

Canada has had restrictions on international travellers entering the country since mid-March 2020, as well as a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for anyone who returns from an international location. 

In December, while some Canadians opted to vacation abroad, the federal government imposed new travel rules, including the requirement to show a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding a flight coming back into this country. As well, for a short period of time flights from the U.K. were banned with little notice, but have since resumed. 

Violating any of Canada’s international travel screening and self-isolation requirements can result in charges under the Quarantine Act, with maximum penalties of up to six months in jail or a fine of up to $75,000.

According to Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, in Canada there have been 23 confirmed cases of the variant first reported in the U.K., and two cases of the South African strain. Further, the Public Health Agency of Canada is reporting nearly 200 recent international flights that have landed in Canada with at least one COVID-19 positive passenger aboard. 

“Every vacation travel we postpone for a better time in the future, every outing or activity we avoid, shorten, or limit to essentials… helps to reduce spread of the virus,” Tam said Tuesday.  

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3 Qualities to Look for When Hiring New Employees

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Hiring New Employees

You’re hiring a new executive position at your firm. There’s a shortlist of five stellar candidates — compact with impressive experience, education, and references — that are about to engage in separate secondary interviews within the coming days. How do you make the right decision? They all made it to the second round of interviews due to their high qualifications and excellent interview skills, so how can you possibly choose just one individual?

There’s no denying that making the final hiring decision can be a challenge. However, if you can find the following three qualities in a candidate, in addition to relevant experience and skillset, you’ve got yourself the right person for the job.

1. Emotional Intelligence

You’re looking for someone who can think quickly on their feet, is a problem-solver, and can effectively communicate with peers. What some hiring committees forget to consider is whether or not a candidate conveys emotional intelligence. Would this person show empathy to colleagues? How would they react to a stressful situation? You want someone who’s not only devoted to producing excellent work but also someone level-headed with interpersonal skills. Ask candidates why they believe they’ve been successful in their careers thus far. The people who thank a mentor or previous manager are the ones you’ll want to get to know because their answer shows they see outside of their egos.

2. Confidence

To identify top talent in your candidate pool, you must look for individuals with high self-esteem and confidence. Confidence shows that they’re happy with themselves and could handle learning a brand new position without experiencing self-doubt. It also shows that they could positively carry themselves in an office full of new faces. You’ll want to stay away from those who appear insecure because such individuals are generally more hesitant at work. If someone is very nervous during the interview, let them know that they’re in a safe space and try to calm them down by saying that you understand and have been in their shoes. If they continue to exhibit signs of insecurity, you might want to move on to the next candidate.

3. Knowledge of the Company

If a person has made it to the second round of interviews, then they must have made it clear that they’ve researched the company on some level. But how much do they actually know? Of course, you don’t expect anyone to know precise figures from your last annual report (although it wouldn’t help if the position is in finance), but they should have a solid understanding of your mandate and trajectory. As you listen to answers, pay attention and see if they align with the company’s values and mission.

Seek Extra Help from a Recruitment Agency

Many organizations work with professional recruiters to help them find the best employees. When you work with a recruitment agency, you don’t have to spend days sifting through resumes and interviewing. A recruiter will handle the entire hiring process for you. There’s also less risk of hiring the wrong person because an agency has the hiring experience and access to exclusive talent.

Hiring is never easy, but by working with an agency and focusing on the right qualities, you’ll find the best candidate in no time.

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