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Fake News and Murder Charges: How Italy Became Ground Zero for AstraZeneca’s Disastrous Rollout – Yahoo News Canada



Massimo Pinca via Reuters

Massimo Pinca via Reuters

ROME—Nothing kills faith in a vaccine quite like manslaughter charges implying that it’s lethal. It helps little when the same drugmaker is accused of fudging data and hiding millions of vials in a warehouse inside Italy—a country experiencing massive vaccine shortages.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Was Paused. That’s a Good Thing.

But such is the story of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine curse. Once hoped to be the workhorse of the European Union’s vaccine program, the AstraZeneca vaccine was meant to offer an escape route out of the pandemic But now people are rolling their sleeves back down at the thought of getting an AZ jab.

But for all the bad press, little of it is actually true.

News reports Wednesday morning out of Italy screamed that the company had hidden or lost 30 million doses in a warehouse south of Rome—around the same number of doses they failed to deliver to the continent thanks to what they had, at the time, called production glitches.

But the 30 million doses in the Catalent finishing facility that La Stampa newspaper claimed were lost were actually well-documented and inventoried, a representative for Catalent told The Daily Beast.

They all had lot numbers and none were ever intended for Europe. Instead, most were prepared to be sent to third-world countries as part of the Covax agreement. A small number of the vials were destined for the U.K., which would likely be blocked by a European Union ban on exports of vaccines made in Europe (and a precedent set by Italy earlier this month when the country banned AstraZeneca exports to Australia). And the rest are earmarked for the European Union, according to AstraZeneca. But the doses were not “found” because, in fact, they had never been “lost.”

AstraZeneca also issued a statement meant to clarify its distribution. “There are no exports currently planned other than to COVAX countries,” the statement said. “It is incorrect to describe this as a stockpile. The process of manufacturing vaccines is very complex and time consuming. In particular, vaccine doses must wait for quality control clearance after the filling of vials is completed.”

Whether those doses should or should not be distributed in Europe is an entirely different question and one no one The Daily Beast contacted seemed to be able to answer. “There are protocols to follow on the distribution of these vaccines,” Antonio Addis, head of the Dept. of Epidemiology in Rome’s First Municipal Medical district says. “You cannot just go into a warehouse and take the vials intended for someone else because you are running short.”

But missing doses are not AstraZeneca’s only woes. The vaccine hit another glitch this week when American drug regulators publicly questioned whether the company had supplied outdated data on the trials under consideration. A midnight missive Sunday came after the British-Swedish drug maker released a press release over the weekend touting a level of effectiveness that it claimed paved the way to FDA approval. Both sides now say they are updating data and that the vaccine is still on target to be approved for use in the U.S. in April.

But the most devastating hit has been lingering doubt about whether the jab causes sometimes-fatal blood clots, which led to a manslaughter investigation into two doctors and a nurse who injected someone who later died in Italy. Last week, after a dozen countries suspended the vaccine’s use, the European drug regulator deemed it safe but insisted labeling should be updated to hint that some people may experience clotting. Most countries brought the vaccine back online, but notably Sweden—one of AstraZeneca’s home countries—did not.

The Italian manslaughter case is still ongoing after a Sicilian prosecutor ordered the sequester—by SWAT team no less—of thousands of vials on March 11. When the manslaughter suit was launched, the head of the World Medical Association, which represents doctors from 115 countries, said the damage from the investigation would be devastating. “In any other country in the European Union, this would not be considered manslaughter,” Frank Montgomery, the World Medical Association’s chairperson, told Reuters. “Possible side-effects from a vaccination would never lead to the prosecution of a doctor.”

Italy’s legal system allows for manslaughter investigations to be easily launched when someone dies, in part to secure transparency to all evidence collected in a wrongful death investigation. The most famous case came after an earthquake in L’Aquila in 2006 led to the conviction and then acquittal of scientists who told local residents not to worry about increased seismic activity and “go home and have a glass of wine” instead. When a deadly quake struck and killed hundreds, the seismologists and scientists were arrested and tried for murder. In the case of the earthquake, the scientists were eventually acquitted on appeal, but the damage done to confidence in the scientific community has yet to be rebuilt.

The same is likely the case for AstraZeneca, which continues to feel the aftershocks of its less than stable rollout.

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Canadian National challenges Canadian Pacific with $33.7 billion Kansas City bid



By Shreyasee Raj

(Reuters) -Canadian National said on Tuesday it had offered to buy Kansas City Southern railroad for about $33.7 billion, and shares of U.S. company soared as investors anticipated a potential bidding war with Canadian Pacific.

Canadian Pacific had agreed a deal to acquire Kansas City Southern for about $25 billion last month. Either combination would create a North American railway spanning the United States, Mexico and Canada as supply chains recover from being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The acquisition interest in Kansas City Southern also follows the ratification of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement last year, that removed the threat of trade tensions which had escalated under former U.S. President Donald Trump.

Kansas City said it would evaluate Canadian National’s offer. If it found it could lead to a better deal, Canadian Pacific will be given the opportunity to raise its bid.

Canadian National’s cash-and-stock offer, worth $325 per share, is at a 26.8% premium to Kansas City Southern’s offer as of Monday’s trading close.

“We are surprised by this move given the healthy valuation Canadian Pacific had already offered to Kansas City Southern shareholders,” Stephens analyst Justin Long wrote in a note to clients.

Kansas City Southern shares rose 15.8% to $297.12, indicating most investors deemed it unlikely the company would stick with Canadian Pacific’s offer.

One investor that took a different view is Chilton Investment Co, which has a less than 1% stake in Kansas City Southern. Citing regulatory hurdles, it said it preferred a deal with Canadian Pacific.

“There’s more overlap with Canadian National deal which makes it harder to get (regulatory) approval. The Surface Transportation Board (STB) doesn’t like overlap,” Chilton CEO Richard Chilton said.

Canadian National CEO Jean-Jacques Ruest said his network and that of Kansas City Southern are “highly complementary networks with limited overlap.” They only run parallel for 65 miles, between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Kansas City Southern has domestic and international rail operations in North America, focused on the north-south freight corridor connecting commercial and industrial markets in the central United States with industrial cities in Mexico. Calgary-based Canadian Pacific is Canada’s No. 2 railroad operator, behind Canadian National.

The STB updated its merger regulations in 2001 to introduce a requirement that Class I railways have to show a deal is in the public interest. Yet it provided an exemption to Kansas City Southern given its small size, potentially limiting the scrutiny that its acquisition will be subjected to.

Canadian Pacific agreed in its negotiations with Kansas City Southern to bear most of the risk of the deal not going through. It will buy Kansas City Southern shares and place them in an independent voting trust, insulating the acquisition target from its control until the STBLatest clears the deal. Were the STB to reject the combination, Canadian Pacific would have to sell the shares of Kansas City Southern, but the current Kansas City Southern shareholders would keep their proceeds.

Canadian National said it was willing to match these terms. It said its offer does not require approval from its own shareholders because of how much cash it has, eliminating a condition in Canadian Pacific’s offer.

Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment, which is Canadian National’s biggest investor with a 14.25% stake, said it fully supports the combination.

A private equity consortium led by Blackstone Group Inc and Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) made an unsuccessful offer last year to acquire Kansas City Southern. But it was Canadian Pacific’s announcement of a deal with Kansas City Southern that spurred Canadian National into action, as it raised the prospect of losing out to its rival, according to people familiar with the matter.

(Reporting by Shreyasee Raj and Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli, Anil D’Silva and David Gregorio)

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CEO shake-up at Canada’s Nutrien could pave way to M&A: shareholders



By Rod Nickel and Maiya Keidan

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) – Investors expect the new chief executive of Canada‘s Nutrien Ltd to swing deals as part of a more aggressive growth strategy, after an abrupt shake-up at Canada‘s biggest agriculture company.

Nutrien, the world’s biggest fertilizer producer by capacity, surprised shareholders on Sunday by promoting its chairman, Mayo Schmidt, to CEO, replacing Chuck Magro, who had led the company since it formed from Agrium’s 2018 merger with Potash Corp.

Schmidt, raised on a Kansas farm, is best known for leading the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool grain cooperative’s acquisition of competitor Agricore United in 2007, creating Viterra Inc, one of Canada‘s biggest grain handlers. He subsequently bought Australia’s ABB Grain before leading the sale of Viterra to commodity trader Glencore PLC in 2012.

“Acceleration of M&A is a natural progression as we enter the next commodity supercycle,” said Michael Underhill, chief investment officer at Capital Innovations LLC, which owns Nutrien shares. “I would not bet against him.”

Nutrien shares were down 1.3% on Tuesday, after falling 3.5% on Monday. They have risen about 35% year over year, riding soaring corn prices, but gained only 2% since they began trading in 2018.

Some investors had grown uncertain about Nutrien’s growth strategy under Magro, said Mike Archibald, vice-president and portfolio manager at AGF Investments, which owns C$136 million ($109 million) worth of the company’s stock.

Archibald said now the strategy looks likely to shift to deals.

“The incoming CEO does have a history as a deal-maker so, to the extent he lives up to what he’s done in the past, we should expect sometime in the next 12 months that we’ll get something happening on the M&A front,” Archibald said.


Nutrien could try to acquire U.S. nitrogen fertilizer rival CF Industries, which has a $10-billion market capitalization, or accelerate the company’s roll-up of smaller farm retail stores, Archibald said. A CF spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Conversely, Schmidt could sell off the retail business to focus on fertilizer production, Archibald said.

Nutrien declined an interview request for Schmidt. A company spokeswoman said Schmidt’s plans include following the company’s climate change initiatives, which Magro unveiled this month.

Schmidt may also eye selling Nutrien’s phosphate fertilizer business, even though it recently got a boost from U.S. duties against Russian and Moroccan imports, said Brian Madden, senior vice-president at Goodreid Investment Counsel, a Nutrien shareholder.

The CEO change is positive, as Schmidt has an exceptional record of creating shareholder value, said Scotiabank analyst Ben Isaacson. He added that Nutrien could look to consolidate the nitrogen industry.

Schmidt would find it difficult to sell Nutrien itself, Madden said. There is no obvious domestic acquirer and the Canadian government rejected a foreign bid for Potash Corp in 2010.

“Schmidt has got cred in the ag world,” Madden said. But he added that abruptly changing chief executives is not how successions should occur at large companies.



(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Maiya Keidan in Toronto; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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Canadian Business During the Pandemic



In 2019 the world was hit by the covid 19 pandemic and ever since then people have been suffering in different ways. Usually, economies and businesses have changed the way they work and do business. Most of which are going towards online and automation.

The people most effected by this are the laymen that used to work hard labors to make money for there families. But other then them it has been hard for most business to make such switch. Those of whom got on the online/ e commerce band wagon quickly were out of trouble and into the safe zone but not everyone is mace for the high-speed online world and are thus suffering.

More than 200,000 Canadian businesses could close permanently during the COVID-19 crisis, throwing millions of people out of work as the resurgence of the virus worsens across much of the country, according to new research. You can only imagine how many families these businesses were feeding, not to mention the impact the economy and the GDP is going to bear.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said one in six, or about 181,000, Canadian small business owners are now seriously contemplating shutting down. The latest figures, based on a survey of its members done between Jan. 12 and 16, come on top of 58,000 businesses that became inactive in 2020.

An estimate by the CFIB last summer said one in seven or 158,000 businesses were at risk of going under as a result of the pandemic. Based on the organization’s updated forecast, more than 2.4 million people could be out of work. A staggering 20 per cent of private sector jobs.

Simon Gaudreault, CFIB’s senior director of national research, said it was an alarming increase in the number of businesses that are considering closing.

We are not headed in the right direction, and each week that passes without improvement on the business front pushes more owners to make that final decision,”

He said in a statement.

The more businesses that disappear, the more jobs we will lose, and the harder it will be for the economy to recover.

In total, one in five businesses are at risk of permanent closure by the end of the pandemic, the organization said.

The new sad research shows that this year has been horrible for the Canadian businesses.


The beginning of 2021 feels more like the fifth quarter of 2020 than a new year,” said Laura Jones, executive vice-president of the CFIB, in a statement.

She called on governments to help small businesses “replace subsidies with sales” by introducing safe pathways to reopen to businesses.

There’s a lot at stake now from jobs, to tax revenue to support for local soccer teams,”

Jones said.

Let’s make 2021 the year we help small business survive and then get back to thriving.”

The whole world has suffered a lot from the pandemic and the Canadian economy has been no stranger to it. We can only pray that the world gets rid of this pandemic quickly and everything become as it used to be. Although I think it is about time, we start setting new norms.

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