A financial industry group warned on Monday that Hong Kong‘s zero-COVID policy and strict quarantine requirements for international travellers threatens to undermine the city’s status as a financial hub.
The Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (ASIFMA) said a survey of members, including some of the world’s largest banks and asset managers, showed 48% were contemplating moving staff or functions away from Hong Kong due to operational challenges, which included uncertainty regarding when and how travel and quarantine restrictions will be lifted.
Hong Kong has some of the most stringent travel restrictions in the world and is virtually COVID-19 free, however unlike regional rival Singapore, which is slowly re-opening its borders, the Chinese-ruled city has no public plan for opening up to international travellers.
Local leaders say their focus is removing restrictions on travel from Hong Kong to mainland China, which also has strict entry restrictions. At present travellers from Hong Kong to the mainland must still undergo quarantine.
“Hong Kong’s status as an (international financial centre) is increasingly at risk along with its long-term economic recovery and competitiveness as a premier place to do business,” Mark Austen chief executive of Asifma wrote in open letter to Hong Kong’s financial secretary Paul Chan.
The letter made a series of recommendations including publishing “a roadmap for exiting Hong Kong’s ‘zero-case’ based COVID-19 strategy beyond solely the immediate goal of opening borders with China”, as well as prioritising vaccinations.
Hong Kong has reported just over 12,300 cases since the start of the pandemic, mostly imported, and 213 deaths.
Regional rival Singapore is expanding quarantine-free travel to nearly a dozen countries, but authorities are grappling with how to do so while averting a surge of Covid-19 cases among older people and those with weak immune systems.
(Reporting by Alun John; Editing by Michael Perry)
TD raising dividend, plans to buy back up to 50 million shares – BNN
TD Bank Group kept pace with its peers in dishing out rewards to its shareholders on Thursday.
The bank announced it will raise its quarterly dividend 13 per cent to $0.89 per share, effective Jan. 31. It also said it’s seeking regulatory approval to repurchase up to 50 million of its shares.
All five of the big Canadian lenders that have reported this week announced similar moves after the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions recently ended its ban on buybacks and dividend hikes. Bank of Montreal, the last of the Big Six banks to report earnings, will announce its results on Friday.
TD’s full-year profit climbed to $14.3 billion compared to $11.9 billion in 2020, the bank also announced on Thursday. In the fiscal fourth quarter, which ended Oct. 31, net income fell to $3.8 billion from $5.1 billion a year earlier when it got a $1.4-billion lift from the sale of its stake in TD Ameritrade.
On an adjusted basis, TD earned $2.09 per share in the most recent quarter. Analysts, on average, were expecting $1.96.
TD’s American unit was the primary driver in the fiscal fourth quarter, as the division’s net income surged 66 per cent year-over-year to US$1.09 billion. Stripping out an investment in Charles Schwab, profit for the core U.S. retail banking operations soared 123 per cent to US$897 million as revenue climbed and US$62 million was freed up after previously being set aside for loans that could go bad.
In Canada, TD’s retail banking division saw profit rise 19 per cent year-over-year to $2.14 billion. Similar to the U.S., revenue rose year-over-year and credit quality improved. However, those factors were partially offset by an eight per cent rise in expenses — which TD said was due to higher variable compensation and investments in technology.
Meanwhile, the bank’s wholesale division — which comprises activities like capital markets and investment banking — was a drag on profit as net income from that unit slid 14 per cent to $420 million. TD said its trading revenue in the quarter fell to $510 million from $761 million a year earlier.
“We ended the year in a position of strength, with a growing base of customers across highly competitive and diversified businesses and a robust capital position, enabling us to increase our dividend and providing us with a strong foundation upon which to continue building our business in 2022,” said TD President and Chief Executive Bharat Masrani in a release.
Editor’s note: The original version of this story incorrectly presented the dividend increase as being 11 per cent. We regret the error.
Tentative deal between union workers and beef producer Cargill struck | CTV News – CTV News Calgary
With less than a week to go before workers were set to go on strike at Cargill’s High River, Alta. beef processing plant, the company says a tentative deal has been reached.
The company announced the development on Wednesday and says it is “encouraged by the outcome” of recent talks.
“After a long day of collaborative discussion, we reached an agreement on an offer that the bargaining committee will recommend to its members. The offer is comprehensive and fair and includes retroactive pay, signing bonuses, a 21 per cent wage increase over the life of the contract and improved health benefits,” Cargill wrote in a statement to CTV News via email.
The company adds it also “remains optimistic” a deal can be finalized before the strike deadline.
“(We) encourage employees to vote on this offer which recognizes the important role they play in Cargill’s work to nourish the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way. While we navigate this negotiation, we continue to focus on fulfilling food manufacturer, retail and food service customer orders while keeping markets moving for farmers and ranchers,” it wrote.
The United Food and Commercial Workers’ Union (UFCW) Local 401 was expected to go on strike on Dec. 6.
It rejected the most recent attempt at a deal on Nov. 25 by a 98 per cent margin.
According to a statement from UFCW Local 401, the negotiating team engaged in “a marathon day” of talks with the company on Tuesday.
“Late in the evening, our bargaining committee concluded that they were in receipt of a fair offer and that they were prepared to present that offer to their coworkers with a recommendation of acceptance,” it wrote in a statement.
The union says the tentative deal will “significantly improve” the lives of Cargill workers and will be the ‘best food processing contract in Canada.”
Highlights from the deal include:
- $4,200 in retroactive pay for many employees;
- $1,000 signing bonus;
- $1,000 COVID-19 bonus;
- More than $6,000 total bonuses for workers three weeks before Christmas;
- $5 wage increase for many employees;
- Improved health benefits; and
- Provisions to facilitate a new culture of health, safety, dignity and respect in the workplace
While UFCW Local 401 president Thomas Hesse calls the deal “fair,” he will support workers on the picket line if they decide to reject the proposal.
“If they do accept it, I’ll work with them every day to make Cargill a better workplace,” Hesse said in a statement. “I will do as our members ask me to do.
“I respect all of the emotions that they feel and the suffering that they have experienced.”
Employees are expected the vote on the new deal between Dec. 2 and 4.
Afterpay delays vote on $29 billion buyout as Square awaits Spain’s nod
Afterpay Ltd will delay a shareholder meet to approve Square Inc’s $29-billion buyout of the Australian buy now, pay later leader, as the Jack Dorsey-led payment company awaits regulatory nod in Spain.
The investor meet was set for Dec. 6, but Afterpay said it would likely take place next year as Square, which has rebranded itself to Block Inc, is likely to get an approval from the Bank of Spain only in mid-January.
The delay is unlikely to impact the completion of Australia‘s biggest deal, which is set for the first quarter of 2022, Afterpay said.
“We continue to believe the risks of the transaction closing are minimal,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Chami Ratnapala said in a brief client note.
Meanwhile, Twitter Inc co-founder Dorsey is expected to focus on Square after stepping down as chief executive of the social media platform as it looks to expand beyond its payment business and into new technologies like blockchain.
Afterpay shares fell more than 6%, far underperforming the broader Australian market, tracking Square’s 6.6% drop overnight in U.S. market on worries over the Omicron variant.
(Reporting by Nikhil Kurian, Sameer Manekar and Indranil Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva, Rashmi Aich and Arun Koyyur)
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