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Couche-Tard prices $1 billion debt offering, including inaugural green bonds

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Canadian convenience store operator Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc said on Monday that it has priced a $1 billion debt offering, including inaugural green bonds.

Green bonds are a category of fixed-income securities that raise capital for projects with environmental benefits, such as renewable energy or low-carbon transport.

The private debt offering included a $350 million aggregate principal amount of 3.625% senior unsecured notes due 2051, referred to by the company as the green bonds.

The statement from Couche-Tard did not disclose further pricing details of the overall bond sale.

In March, the Canadian company reported a 20.8% fall in quarterly revenue to $13.16 billion.

Separately, Amazon.com Inc issued its first sustainability bond on Monday, raising $1 billion to invest in renewable energy, clean transport, greener buildings and affordable housing.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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General Motors to boost spending on electric vehicles 30%, add two new battery plants

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General Motors Co will boost global spending on electric and autonomous vehicles to $35 billion through 2025, a 30% jump over its most recent forecast as it pursues EV leadership, people briefed on the matter told Reuters.

As part of that spending, the No. 1 U.S. automaker will build two additional U.S. battery plants and move ahead some of its EV investments, said the sources, who asked not to be identified. In November, GM upped its spending plans from $20 billion, a figure that was announced in March before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the auto industry.

The Detroit company declined to comment.

The expected announcement of increased spending by GM comes less than a month after rival Ford Motor Co upped its EV spending by more than a third to over $30 billion by 2030.

The combined $65 billion in commitments by the largest U.S. automakers, as well as increased spending by EV leader Tesla Inc and startups including Lucid and Rivian reflect the EV arms race that has left some automakers like Lordstown Motors Corp scrambling to raise more funds.

In addition, GM Chief Executive Mary Barra is scheduled to meet on Wednesday with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other key Democrats to discuss EVs and vehicle emissions, the sources said.

Barra will also meet U.S. Representative Richard Neal, head of the tax policy Ways and Means Committee, Frank Pallone, who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, and two key Michigan Democrats: Representatives Dan Kildee and Debbie Dingell, the sources said.

WOOING WASHINGTON

Working with Washington is critical as President Joe Biden has proposed $174 billion to boost EVs and charging as part of his infrastructure plan, including $100 billion in new EV rebates. GM’s ability to benefit from the current $7,500 federal EV tax credit has expired.

GM has sparred with Democrats over vehicle emissions rules, but last week said it supported overall emissions reductions in California’s 2019 deal with other major automakers. It has also sought more flexibility to hit carbon reduction target between now and 2026.

The Associated Press reported on Monday that GM planned to announce two new U.S. battery plants, citing comments by President Mark Reuss. GM confirmed the executive’s comments, but sources said the company has not decided where in the United States to build the plants, which are each expected to cost more than $2 billion.

In January, GM said it was setting a goal to sell all its new cars, SUVs and light pickup trucks with zero tailpipe emissions by 2035, a dramatic shift away from gasoline and diesel engines.

GM and its South Korean joint-venture partner, LG Energy Solution, are already building a battery plant in northeastern Ohio and have announced a second, $2.3 billion battery plant will be located in Spring Hill, Tennessee.

GM confirmed in November it would speed up the rollout of new EVs, with plans to offer 30 models globally by 2025, up from a prior target of 20 by 2023. Barra said the automaker wants to exceed annual sales of 1 million EVs in the United States and China by 2025.

On May 26, a Senate committee advanced legislation that would boost tax credits to as much as $12,500 for EVs assembled by union workers in the United States. The current maximum tax credit is $7,500.

The bill also includes a 30% tax credit for manufacturers to retool or build new facilities to produce advanced energy technologies including batteries. That would represent a big boost to GM’s battery factory plans.

 

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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Pre-owned business jet shortage drives sellers’ market, demand for new luxury planes

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A shortage of newer-model business jets is driving up prices of second-hand aircraft, a trend that is expected to deliver a windfall for luxury planemakers as new affluent buyers enter the market.

After a turbulent 2020 due to COVID-19, the rush toward private transport is so marked that some buyers are snapping up second-hand planes before fully inspecting the wares as the market shifts toward sellers, lawyers and brokers said.

That is expected to push up demand for new jets from planemakers like General Dynamics Corp‘s Gulfstream, Textron Inc and Bombardier Inc since buyers have fewer pre-owned options, and the price gap between old and new narrows.

“There are virtually no young pre-owned aircraft available – good news for would-be sellers and for (planemakers),” said aviation analyst Rolland Vincent.

He recalled one trucking company’s recent search for a pre-owned Gulfstream jet: “There was one aircraft in the world that fit their requirements.”

Traffic from business jets, which carry roughly a handful to 19 travelers, has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels in the United States, the world’s largest market for private aviation, according to FlightAware data.

“On the pre-owned side, inventory appears to be fairly low, and that’s always a benefit to new aircraft sales,” said Scott Neal, senior vice president worldwide sales, Gulfstream.

“We are seeing strong interest across the board from first-time buyers and high net worth individuals as well as corporate customers with a desire to grow their fleets.”

Textron in April raised its full-year profit forecast, propelled by a rebound in business jet demand.

The trend could encourage some planemakers to increase production rates, although any ramp-up would hinge on supply chain capabilities, Vincent said.

Planemakers do not disclose total number of orders.

Preowned aircraft for sale in May accounted for 6.6% of the worldwide fleet, the lowest level recorded in 25 years by JETNET data, Vincent said. He said 864 pre-owned business jets sold during the first four months of 2021, up 36% from the same period last year.

“There are multiple offers on planes,” said Florida-based aviation attorney Stewart Lapayowker, founder of Lapayowker Jet Counsel PA.

Amanda Applegate, a partner at Aerlex Law Group, said she handled more deals for new jets than usual in May, as buyers fail to secure popular pre-owned planes like the G650, raising prices.

Applegate said it’s a case of pent-up demand as some wealthy travelers previously avoided private jets due to concerns like “flight shaming” over the environment. Corporate planes burn more fuel per passenger than commercial.

But since COVID-19, buyers have been shifting to private aviation to avoid airport crowds and coronavirus variants.

Applegate said some deals are so competitive she’s seen buyers give up pre-purchase inspections to win them.

Don Dwyer, managing partner at Guardian Jet, which does aircraft brokerage, appraisals, and consulting, recalled one case where a client didn’t undertake a pre-purchase inspection, which can take more than a month to complete.

It was a particular case since the plane was highly coveted, in good shape based on a visual inspection, and the seller was reputable, Dwyer said.

“I don’t recommend it, but in certain situations it can work.”

 

(Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Denny Thomas and Steve Orlofsky)

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Ford starts shipping Bronco SUVs from Michigan assembly plant

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Ford Motor Co said on Tuesday it had started producing and shipping the new Bronco sport utility vehicles (SUVs) from its Michigan assembly plant, following a delay in the launch of the SUVs due to COVID-19-related issues with the automaker’s suppliers.

Customers have booked more than 125,000 sixth-generation Bronco SUVs since the beginning of the year, the company said. The SUVs are targeted at the Jeep Wrangler market segment.

Ford said it had made more than 190,000 reservations for the Bronco in the United States and Canada.

The company built the first generation of Broncos from 1966 to 1977, and withdrew the line in 1996 amid falling demand.

Ford said it had invested $750 million into and added about 2,700 jobs at the Michigan assembly plant to build the new Broncos.

 

(Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)

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