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Hexo to buy Zenabis in latest tie-up in cannabis sector that's seeing a burst of M&A activity – MarketWatch

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Canadian cannabis company Hexo Corp. is acquiring Zenabis Global Inc. in an all-stock deal valued at about C$235 million ($185.2 million), in the latest tie-up in a sector that has been experiencing a burst of M&A activity.

Under the terms of the deal, Ottawa-based Hexo will pay the shareholders of Vancouver-based Zenabis 0.01772 of a Hexo share
HEXO,
+22.58%

HEXO,
+22.16%

for each Zenabis share
ZBISF,
+18.25%

ZENA,
+16.13%

owned, equal to a premium of about 19% based on the 20-day volume-weighted average price of Zenabis common shares and HEXO common shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange, as of February 12, 2021.

The deal has been approved by the boards of both companies and will be put to Zenabis shareholders at a special meeting. Zenabis will face a C$6 million termination fee if the deal is called off.

Once the deal has closed, Hexo shareholders will own 87.43% of the combined company and Zenabis shareholders will hold the remaining 12.57%.

Read: Cannabis stocks nosedive as rally driven by hopes for U.S. legal reforms comes to a screeching halt

The new entity will be a top three licensed producer in Canada’s legal recreational market by sales. It will also offer Hexo a foothold in the European medical cannabis market via Zenabis’ local partner in Malta, with an established facility supplying pharmaceutical products to the European Union market.

The companies are expecting the deal to generate annual synergies of about C$20 million within one year of closing. Hexo will have an additional two indoor grow facilities of about 635,000 square feet, and access to a 2.1 million sq. ft. greenhouse facility, for a total of about 2.735 million sq. ft.

Read now: Aurora Cannabis stock slides as analysts weigh in on weak quarterly earnings and one downgrades to sell

“We are proceeding with this transaction because we believe it should be accretive for our shareholders, and it also positions HEXO for accelerated domestic and international growth while supporting near-term requirements for additional licensed capacity,” Hexo Chief Executive and co-Founder Sebastien St-Louis said in a statement.

Jefferies analyst Owen Bennett said that while the deal shouldn’t surprise, given recent moves by Hexo to consolidate its stock and looks to be accretive, “we do wonder if this has been overly driven by short termism, and from a strategic perspective it does not really get us excited.”

In the Canadian market, Hexo is not acquiring any brands of value, and Zenabis’s main brands are value/discount, as are Hexo’s. The addition of a European presence while broadly positive, is really just a joint venture, Bennett wrote in a note.

“We think Hexo would have been much better placed looking to do something in the US. After all, it is US optionality which will be critical to maintaining current Canadian sector multiples, not Canada and Europe,” he wrote.

Jefferies rates Hexo at underperform.

The deal comes after two recent transactions that made a splash., the Feb. 4 news that GW Pharmaceuticals Ltd.
GWPH,
-0.20%
,
the first company to win U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for a cannabis-based drug, is being taken over by Jazz Pharmaceuticals PLC.
JAZZ,
-0.61%

in a $7 billion deal. That came after the December announcement of a $3.9 billion reverse merger deal between Tilray Inc.
TLRY,
+19.41%

and Aphria Inc.
APHA,
+28.28%

APHA,
+27.61%
,
to form the world’s biggest cannabis company measured by revenue.

Read now: To profit from planned merger of Tilray and Aphria, buy Aphria, says this analyst

It also comes after a broad-based rally in the cannabis sector spurred on by the new U.S. administration with President Joe Biden viewed as in favor of reforming the U.S.’s strict cannabis laws, which continue to classify the plant as a Schedule 1 drug, alongside heroin.

That classification has hampered the development of the sector, which is confined to those states that have legalized cannabis for medical or recreational use and kept companies mostly locked out of the federally insured banking system and capital markets. A change in the law is expected to free up capital and bring many new investors to the space.

See: New York is finally expected to legalize cannabis in 2021 as Gov. Cuomo goes all in

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has pledged to make reform a key part of the current Congress. While most Canadian companies are unlikely to profit from U.S. legalization immediately, it will greatly expand the legal market and the stocks have been swept up in the euphoria.

Read now: Cannabis stocks rally after Chuck Schumer leads drive for reforms that may end federal prohibition

Shares of both companies were higher on the news. Hexo was up 14.6%, while Zenabis was up about 10%.

The Cannabis ETF
THCX,
+5.70%

was up 5% and the S&P 500
SPX,
-0.06%

was flat.

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Sask. top doctor urges public to accept whichever vaccine is available, regardless of brand – Yahoo News Canada

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CBC

Why the rise of bitcoin could be the first shot in a currency revolution

Oliver Dobson lives in a town outside of Canada’s financial nerve centre, a nearly three-hour drive from Toronto. How he earns his living is worlds apart from the traditional business of Bay Street. For the past few years, Dobson has been trading in cryptocurrencies, stockpiling a horde of digital coins that have suddenly skyrocketed in price. In the real world, he lives off of cash savings, but on the Internet, he works in myriad ways to harvest these tokens. He considers it his full-time job. “I’m very frugal with my money,” Dobson said. “I focus my time stocking up on these coins, so that when they explode [in price], I can take advantage of it.” Prices for these cryptocurrencies, which have less familiar names like ether and nano, are exploding because they’re riding on the coattails of bitcoin, which has been on a feverish run. The going rate has catapulted from about $9,000 per bitcoin a year ago to a peak of roughly $58,000 in late February, according to CoinDesk. The tidal wave has showered digital wealth on Dobson and other Canadians with a stake in the game, while attracting large players from Wall Street like never before. Bitcoin’s flirtation with mainstream acceptance and the gravity-defying climb in the price — along with some white-knuckle dips — have made headlines around the world and even captured the attention of the doubters. Underneath the mania is a potential sea change in the world of finance that observers say was made possible by a global pandemic. And what’s at stake is nothing less than a war for the future of money. But there are plenty of skeptics. They warn bitcoin is a highly speculative investment play with no real value backing it up and that investors run the risk of crushing losses. Oliver Dobson estimates banks handle only 10 or 20 per cent of his finances. He says he manages the rest in crypto networks. (Submitted by Oliver Dobson) Create money out of thin air’ The rally has made Dobson’s seemingly bizarre occupation all the more lucrative. Among other methods, he said he uses bitcoin to buy other digital coins on crypto exchanges and sell them when they rise in price. He also keeps his eye out for so-called airdrops, where crypto startups release free tokens or coins as part of a marketing stunt. “If you’re asking me, how do you make your money? I guess in a way, you just go try random stuff and they might just create money out of thin air and hand you some.” The new wave of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies has its share of colourful characters. It also has some heavy hitters from legacy finance. Wealthy investors and big institutions, such as PayPal Holdings Inc., Mastercard Inc., Visa Inc. and Tesla Inc., are embracing bitcoin in various ways, signalling broader approval of crypto for the first time. The 2018 rout To understand how this happened, and what it all means, it’s helpful to look back at the last bitcoin wave, which ended when investors watched vast sums of wealth get wiped out in a brutal crash. Invented as an alternative to national currencies in the depths of the financial crisis in 2009, bitcoin enjoyed one of its sharpest climbs almost a decade later, in 2017. The going rate escalated from less than $3,000 per coin to nearly $20,000 in six months. This bitcoin boom was driven not by big institutions like banks and pension funds, but by amateur, regular investors making a bet on new technology, said Alex McDougall, the managing director of portfolio management at the bitcoin and digital asset fund manager 3iQ in Toronto. People were drawn to an alternative to the legacy banking system, McDougall said. Bitcoin and its underlying technology presented a possible end-run around these gatekeepers, allowing people to do their own banking without a large financial institution. “We saw this potential move towards a radically open world and an entire new generation of wealth could be created in an entirely different type of market participant,” McDougall said. Monty Kohli, a 25-year-old cryptocurrency investor, says he believes in the ethos of decentralized finance and continues to have money tied up in digital coins. (Submitted by Monty Kohli) “We also saw a ton of scams and fraud and a bunch of, quite frankly, B.S. that sprung up around the market.” The price of bitcoin ultimately crashed in 2018, dropping more than 80 per cent in a year. Left in the ashes were people who lost their life savings. Monty Kohli, a cryptocurrency investor in his early 20s at the time, didn’t face catastrophic losses, but still watched up to $8,000 in wealth disappear. Despite the setback, he believes in the ethos of decentralized finance and continues to have money invested in digital coins, but it’s money he said he can afford to lose. Now 25, Kohli said he’s a bitcoin banker. He said he loans out tokens in a secondary, crypto market where he collects interest, though he maintains a day job working in the finance department of a Toronto company. “My time horizon for investing is quite long and so that’s where I can also afford to take some risk in my portfolio,” he said. While long-time core believers like Kohli remain in the game, some bigwigs on Wall Street are suddenly stepping in from the sidelines. And that’s part of what makes this latest bitcoin wave so different. COVID-19 fuelling the latest bitcoin rally “There is relentless demand,” said Edward Moya, a New York-based senior market analyst with the currency trading company Oanda Corp. “What we’re starting to see is Wall Street, Main Street are really embracing the crypto world. Even when we have significant sell-off days, there is still strong demand, and it’s global.” Moya said the arguments in favour of an alternative to government-issued currency haven’t changed all that much, but critical conditions have shifted in the past year, making that case more persuasive. “If we did not have COVID, we would not be talking about bitcoin right now,” he said. Central banks around the world have been pumping trillions of dollars into their economies to help them survive crippling lockdowns and various restrictions meant to control the spread of COVID-19. A major concern with all the pandemic-related stimulus is that it threatens to ‘devalue or debase’ national currencies, said Gavin Brown, a senior lecturer and associate professor of financial technology at the University of Liverpool. (Gavin Brown) A major concern with all of that stimulus is that it threatens to “devalue or debase” national currencies, said Gavin Brown, a senior lecturer and associate professor of financial technology at the University of Liverpool. “The purchasing power is less because, quite simply, there’s more of it and therefore it’s worth less.” Bitcoin, on the other hand, is “not controlled by a central bank; it doesn’t have any domicile; doesn’t have any formal governance structure like you would expect with a company or a nation state,” Brown said. “Instead, the supply of bitcoins is controlled by mathematical code and computer code, which means that the supply side of bitcoin is known at all times. It will never be more than 21 million [coins in circulation].” Critical infrastructure allows for big investments Cash was already on the decline for years, while the pandemic has accelerated demand for fast and convenient digital payments, analysts at the investment bank J.P. Morgan said in a recent report. “The pandemic has boosted demand for digital services and also for ‘alternative’ currencies as multiple rounds of stimulus, accommodative monetary policy, and excess savings have boosted money supply, leading to record inflows into bitcoin investment vehicles.” Critical storage infrastructure is one development making cryptocurrency more accessible to institutional investors. Here, an illustration of bitcoin’s logo stands on a PC motherboard.(Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters) Another important change is that critical storage infrastructure required to hold large sums of bitcoin for institutional investors is now available. Tesla revealed in early February it had bought $1.5 billion US in bitcoin, something that “would have been almost impossible just a couple of years ago due to the lack of institutional controls and infrastructure at play,” Brown said. It’s not only easier for some large institutions to invest, the academic said, it’s also more publicly acceptable — entirely different than the 2017 surge. A bet or an investment? Some bright minds in finance don’t buy all of the enthusiasm. Stephen Poloz, the former governor of the Bank of Canada, said in an interview that bitcoin is more of a speculative investment play than it is a currency. “Even the pros who deal in bitcoin often use the word ‘bet’ rather than ‘invest,’ which suggests in our minds it’s sufficiently volatile; it really is close to gambling as opposed to actual investment, since the asset itself has no intrinsic value,” said Poloz, a special advisor at the law firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt. “But that doesn’t mean that it can’t become mainstream.” Stephen Poloz, a special advisor at the law firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt and a former governor of the Bank of Canada, says bitcoin trading is akin to gambling. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press) Poloz said the Toronto Stock Exchange took important steps in this direction by listing two bitcoin exchange-traded funds. It means investors can put money into bitcoin under a regulated system of controls that ensure those investments are backed by the coins. Dobson, the crypto token trader, said the funds traded on the stock market and other developments, such as PayPal’s foray into bitcoin, represent the antithesis of why cryptocurrencies exist in the first place. “Would you appreciate it if you agreed yesterday to buy a car paying in bitcoin and then you go to pick it up today and it cost you 16 percent more today than yesterday? – Stephen Poloz, former governor of the Bank of Canada “The whole point of cryptocurrency is that it’s peer-to-peer, decentralized digital currency; it’s immutable, it’s uncensorable, and it’s yours, purely yours,” he said. “They don’t give you access to withdraw your coins, so you never actually own them.” Dobson estimates that banks handle only 10 or 20 per cent of his finances and he manages the rest in crypto networks. “Dollars don’t make more dollars,” he said, meaning he can make higher returns holding onto cryptos than national currencies, “so I keep basically everything I possibly can out of dollars. I do everything in my power to make sure that the amount of Canadian dollars that I’m holding is the smallest amount that I can get away with.” But Poloz argues bitcoin can’t replace national currencies in part because it takes far longer to process transactions. If, for example, someone used bitcoin to buy a cup of coffee, the drink would likely be cold by the time the payment cleared. While the technology could theoretically improve to make payments faster, he said there is no fundamental value behind the coins, leaving the price vulnerable to wild swings. “Would you appreciate it if you agreed yesterday to buy a car paying in bitcoin and then you go to pick it up today and it cost you 16 per cent more today than yesterday?” he said. “That’s not the kind of volatility that you can endure in something that is being used for payments.” ‘A real seismic shift’ There is no shortage of predictions of where bitcoin’s latest wave is headed. The financial services firm UBS Wealth Management reportedly warned investors there is little stopping cryptocurrency prices from falling to zero. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she worries about potential investor losses. People pass in front of a crypto currency ‘Bitcoin Change’ shop near the Grand Bazaar on December 17, 2020 in Istanbul. (Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images) Brown, the fintech academic from the U.K., said there probably will be a correction, or drop, in the price of bitcoin over the coming weeks and months, but he expects the appeal of a decentralized currency won’t disappear. “It allows them to move money without a payment intermediary,” he said. “The idea of doing banking without a bank … that is a paradigm that flies in the face of not just centuries of financial development but millennia. That’s a real seismic shift.” Still, Brown doesn’t believe bitcoin will someday dominate global finance. Where this is ultimately headed, he predicts, is a digital currency war. There are three groups that Brown believes will be competing for supremacy: decentralized coins, like bitcoin; corporate coins, such as one launched by J.P. Morgan and the currency Facebook proposes; and, finally, future digital currencies backed by central banks. “There’s a three-way fight for the future of money.”

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As more COVID-19 vaccines arrive, provinces look to revise vaccination timeline – Global News

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Armed with four approved COVID-19 vaccines and possible dosing gaps, Canadian provinces are now aiming to review their vaccination timelines and get more people immunized earlier than projected.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the newest to be approved by Health Canada, which unlike the others, requires just a single dose.

Canada has pre-purchased 10 million doses, and has options to buy another 28 million doses. Additionally, the country is expected to receive 12.8 million doses between April to June, from Pfizer alone.

Read more:
Extended gap between COVID-19 vaccine shots could fast-track vaccination: feds

From a logistical standpoint, this could imply faster vaccination across all provinces.

The Manitoba government has already announced that it’s possible everyone in the province 18 and older who wants to get a COVID-19 vaccination may have the chance to do so by May 18.

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The numbers for Manitoba, released in a technical briefing to the media Friday, say if vaccine supplies are steady, it will move up first-dose vaccinations by months.

Some 18,000 doses of the newly-approved Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are expected to arrive in the province next week, and will immediately be distributed to eligible clinics and pharmacies, Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province’s vaccine task force, said Friday.


Click to play video 'Manitoba moves to delay second dose of coronavirus vaccine'



1:48
Manitoba moves to delay second dose of coronavirus vaccine


Manitoba moves to delay second dose of coronavirus vaccine

“We’re very confident in the data that we’ve seen so far regarding the effectiveness in the real world of the first dose,” Reimer said.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

Federal authorities said Friday that the four vaccines that have been approved in Canada may have different efficacy rates, but data shows they all are safe and can prevent severe illness and impact hospitalization from COVID-19.

Read more:
Canada approves Johnson & Johnson’s 1-shot COVID-19 vaccine

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The Ontario government too has declared that it is now looking to have all eligible residents who wish to get a vaccine, have their first shot completed by June 20.

“We’ve had a seismic shift in our vaccination opportunities and the program to roll it out,” said retired general Rick Hillier, the head of the province’s vaccine task force.


Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Canada approves single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine'



0:38
Coronavirus: Canada approves single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine


Coronavirus: Canada approves single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine

The recent approval of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines and the extended gap between first and second doses will allow the province to “crush those timelines really tightly.”

Read more:
Ford government aims to have all eligible Ontarians receive 1st COVID-19 vaccine shot by June 20

“Our aim would be to allow the province of Ontario to have a first needle in the arm of every eligible person who wants it by the first day of summer,” Hillier said. “Please be patient a little while longer.”

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The province is currently nearing the end of Phase 1, in which those living in long-term care homes, retirement homes, as well as staff and front-line workers were targeted.

More than 820,000 doses have been administered and at least 269,000 Ontarians have been fully immunized with two shots.

Earlier this week, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended that provinces and territories extend the interval between first and second COVID-19 vaccine doses up to four months.

“Extending the dose interval to four months allows NACI to create opportunities for protection of the entire adult population within a short timeframe,” the committee said.


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Coronavirus: Health officials urge people to take whichever vaccine available regardless of efficacy rate


Coronavirus: Health officials urge people to take whichever vaccine available regardless of efficacy rate

Following the advisory, Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin announced that everyone in the province could get their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of June.

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British Columbia too, is expecting all adults in the province to have the option to receive their first dose before the end of July.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Monday that the gap between the first and second doses of the vaccine will be extended to 112 days.

Read more:
Canada getting 1.5M additional Pfizer vaccine doses in March

Efficacy studies of the vaccine have shown that receiving a first shot of the vaccine is more than 90 per cent effective for at least a few months, Henry said.

“That is why I am so confident that the decision we made, over this weekend, to extend that interval is the best one based on all of the science and the data that we have to maximize the benefit to everybody in our community here in B.C.,” Henry added.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe also said Thursday that the prairie province would also follow suit and extend the gap between doses. Other provinces, such as Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador have suggested they plan to do the same.

— With files from The Canadian Press and Global News

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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32 new COVID cases reported in Lethbridge Saturday, 341 province-wide – Lethbridge News Now

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In total, 1,834,591 people have been tested in Alberta. The 8,142 tests completed on Friday saw a positivity rate of 4.1 per cent.

247 people are in hospital, with 42 in intensive care (ICU).

As of Friday, 282,674 doses of COVID vaccine have been administered in the province, with 90,824 Albertans fully immunized (two doses). More details on the province’s vaccine program and distribution can be found here.

Below is a breakdown of cases per regional health zone in Alberta:

  • Edmonton Zone – 54,266 cases, 1,154 active
    • 70 in hospital, 13 in ICU
    • 976 deaths (one new)
  • Calgary Zone – 51,842 cases, 1,659 active
    • 81 in hospital, 14 in ICU
    • 591 deaths
  • North Zone – 12,280 cases, 958 active
    • 32 in hospital, one in ICU
    • 140 deaths
  • Central Zone – 10,365 cases, 511 active
    • 34 in hospital, eight in ICU
    • 115 deaths
  • South Zone – 6,677 cases, 353 active
    • 30 in hospital, six in ICU
    • 92 deaths

There are also 107 cases (14 active) in zones that are unknown.

Below is a graph illustrating how COVID-19 cases have trended since the start of the pandemic. More details can be found here.

The province reported 36 cases of COVID variants, bringing the total of variant cases in Alberta to 599. None of those cases are currently in the South Zone.

Below is a breakdown of cases in the South Health Zone:

  • Brooks – 1,363 cases (one new), one active, 14 deaths
  • Lethbridge – 2,252 cases (32 new), 258 active, 20 deaths
    • South Lethbridge – 755 cases, 72 active, 16 deaths
    • West Lethbridge – 750 cases, 66 active, two deaths
    • North Lethbridge – 746 cases, 120 active, two deaths
  • Cardston County – 626 cases (five new), 50 active, 12 deaths
  • Medicine Hat – 559 cases (one new), 13 active, 17 deaths
  • Lethbridge County – 549 cases, 16 active, seven deaths
  • M.D. of Taber – 340 cases, four active, six deaths
  • M.D. of Pincher Creek – 218 cases, three active, five deaths
  • County of Warner – 162 cases (one new), zero active, three deaths
  • County of Newell – 160 cases, one active, two deaths
  • Cypress County – 145 cases, one active, zero deaths
  • County of Forty Mile – 117 cases, zero active, two deaths
  • Fort Macleod – 102 cases (one new), five active, four deaths
  • Crowsnest Pass – 24 cases, zero active, zero deaths

The next live update from the province will be on Monday, March 8.

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