Loblaw faces fresh price hikes, signalling food inflation won't ease any time soon – CP24
Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, February 23, 2023 3:49PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 23, 2023 3:49PM EST
Loblaw Companies Ltd. says it’s facing fresh price hikes from suppliers, signalling food inflation won’t be easing any time soon, but Canada’s biggest grocer is still expecting its profits to rise this year.
The parent company of grocery chains like No Frills, Real Canadian Superstore and Fortinos said Thursday it expects to grow profits faster than sales in 2023, predicting adjusted net earnings per common share growth in the low double digits.
The outlook comes as inflation continues to squeeze Canadian household budgets, with Statistics Canada reporting this week that grocery prices rose 11.4 per cent in January compared with a year earlier.
“We still have over 1,000 supplier requests on our desks for significant cost increases,” Galen G. Weston, chairman and president of Loblaw, said during a call with analysts to discuss the company’s latest results.
“We continue to believe that these inflationary pressures are temporary and that they will ease with time, but predicting how long that will take is proving extremely challenging,” he said. “We will continue to push back on unjustified cost increases from suppliers.”
The parent company of grocery chains like Provigo, Zehrs and T&T as well as drugstores like Shoppers Drug Mart said its fourth-quarter profit amounted to $529 million or $1.62 per diluted share.
The result was down from $744 million or $2.20 per diluted share a year earlier when the quarter included a recovery of $301 million related to the Supreme Court’s decision on the Glenhuron Bank Ltd. tax case involving Loblaw Financial Holdings.
The grocer’s gross margins also dipped slightly in the quarter ended Dec. 31, with an adjusted gross profit of 30.6 per cent down from 30.9 per cent in the same quarter a year earlier.
The company said a decrease in its food retail margin – largely related to its No Name price freeze and increased promotional activity -was partially offset by growth in higher margin drug retail sales.
Yet Loblaw’s adjusted profit increased almost 12 per cent to $575 million, up from $515 million in the same quarter the year before.
The adjusted earnings amounted to $1.76 per diluted share in its latest quarter, compared with an adjusted profit of $1.52 per diluted share a year earlier. Analysts on average had expected a profit of $1.71 per share, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.
The supermarket giant has come under intense scrutiny amid rising food prices.
Critics have suggested the company is profiteering off inflation to pad profits, accusations that are unlikely to lose steam as the company forecasts profits will rise faster than sales this year even as food inflation continues its increase at a staggering pace.
The company has said its profit margin on food has remained flat since inflation set in – or even edged down in the latest quarter – though it doesn’t break down food margins from other retail sales in its financial reporting.
Meanwhile, the company’s revenue rose nearly 10 per cent compared with a year ago.
Revenue totalled $14.0 billion, up from $12.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 2021.
The increase in revenue came as food retail same-store sales gained 8.4 per cent, with discount grocery stores continuing to outperform conventional chains, while drug retail same-store sales rose 8.7 per cent on strong demand for cough and cold products and beauty and cosmetics.
“Our strong sales and market share performance this quarter are a clear indication that our efforts resonate with customers,” Loblaw chief financial officer Richard Dufresne said during the call.
Statistics Canada said this week that butter prices soared 19.1 per cent year over year in January. Bread prices climbed 18.1 per cent, eggs were up 15.6 per cent and fresh or frozen chicken increased 14 per cent, according to the federal agency.
In Loblaw grocery stores, shoppers continued to “trade down” to cheaper food items to save money, Weston said.
“We’re seeing customer price sensitivity really across the board,” he said.
Shoppers are increasingly seeking out deals and promotions and opting for the company’s in-house brand No Name, which Galen said is on average 25 per cent less than national brand names.
Customers are also using the company’s PC Optimum loyalty program more actively, with an increase in the redemption of points to buy groceries, he said.
In its outlook for 2023, Loblaw said it expects net capital expenditures of $1.6 billion for the year including gross capital investments of about $2.1 billion offset by $500 million in proceeds from real estate sales.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2023.
What every Canadian investor needs to know today – The Globe and Mail
Key indexes in both Canada and the U.S. opened down Friday as concerns about the global banking system continuing to ripple through markets.
At 9:34 a.m. ET, the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was down 100.75 points, or 0.52 per cent, at 19,359.17.
In the U.S., the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 67.03 points, or 0.21 per cent, at the open to 32,038.22. The S&P 500 opened lower by 9.51 points, or 0.24 per cent, at 3,939.21, while the Nasdaq Composite dropped 39.78 points, or 0.34 per cent, to 11,747.62 at the opening bell.
“The new market game is being played between two camps: ‘the financial stress and how the authorities are dealing or promising to deal with potential renewed turmoil’ camp, and ‘the recession worries’ camp,” Swissquote senior analyst Ipek Ozkardeskaya said in an early note.
“While the recession worries are not entirely bad for the stock valuations – at least in the immediate term, as they pull the yields lower, the financial stress is much less welcome, and there is a much stronger consensus among investors that… financial stress is bad.”
Markets drew some support on Thursday from comments by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen who said the United States has more tools available to battle contagion in the banking sector if necessary.
“As I have said, we have used important tools to act quickly to prevent contagion. And they are tools we could use again,” Ms. Yellen said in prepared remarks to the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations subcommittee hearing.
Meanwhile, shares of Deutsche Bank were under pressure after a sharp jump in the cost of insuring against the risk of default again fuelled worries about Europe’s banks. Shares were down more than 10 per cent in morning trading in Europe. U.S.-listed shares were down more than 6 per cent shortly after the start of trading in New York.
In Canada, markets got a much stronger-than-expected reading on retail sales in January. Statistics Canada says sales rose by 1.4 per cent for the month. Economists had been expecting an increase of 0.7 per cent. Statscan says sales were up in seven of nine subsectors, led by motor vehicles and gas stations.
The government agency also said early indications suggest a decline of 0.6 per cent in February. That figure is subject to revision.
On the corporate side, Magnet Forensics Inc. shareholders voted in favour of U.S. private equity firm Thoma Bravo’s $1.8-billion takeover of the cybersecurity company. The Waterloo, Ont.-based technology company announced the approval during a shareholders’ meeting on Thursday afternoon.
Overseas, the pan-European STOXX 600 was down 1.84 per cent by midday with bank stocks sliding. Britain’s FTSE 100 lost 1.80 per cent. Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 slid 2.44 per cent and 2.32 per cent, respectively.
In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei finished down 0.13 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.67 per cent.
Crude prices were weaker but on track for a weekly gain.
The day range on Brent was US$74.60 to US$76.32 in the predawn period. The range on West Texas Intermediate was US$68.63 to US$70.38.
Both benchmarks closed down about 1 per cent yesterday but are still up between 3 per cent and 4 per cent for the week so far, recouping some of the previous week’s losses amid heightened market volatility.
“The bears have been in control as many energy traders remain unconvinced that the demand will be improving enough to bring down stockpiles,” OANDA senior analyst Ed Moya said.
“The key takeaway from the FOMC meeting for energy traders is that the Fed is probably going to send this economy into a recession. China’s reopening story remains subdued and that is keeping oil grounded around the low US$70s.”
Prices saw some downward pressure after U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said refilling the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve could take years. The White House said in October it would buy back oil for the SPR when prices were at or below about $67-$72 per barrel.
Ms. Granholm told lawmakers that it would be difficult to take advantage of the low prices this year to add to stockpiles, which are currently at their lowest level since 1983 following sales directed by President Joe Biden last year, Reuters reported.
In other commodities, spot gold was down 0.4 per cent at US$1,986.40 per ounce early Friday morning, after two strongly positive sessions. U.S. gold futures also fell 0.4 per cent to US$1,988.90. Gold topped US$2,000 an ounce earlier this week, hitting its best level in more than a year, on safe-haven demand.
“A run to record territory is not that far away and could happen if financial stability concerns do note ease,” Mr. Moya said.
The Canadian dollar was weaker while its U.S. dollar edged up after touching its lowest level in more than a month during the previous session.
The day range on the loonie was 72.66 US cents to 72.96 US cents early Friday morning. The Canadian dollar is down 0.15 per cent against the greenback over the last five days and off more than 1 per cent for the year so far.
“The CAD is a moderate out-performer on the session, gaining a little ground against the EUR, GBP and AUD among the majors but it really can’t hold a bid against the USD,” Shaun Osborne, chief FX strategist with Scotiabank, said.
On world markets, the U.S. dollar index, which weighs the greenback against a selection of currencies, was up 0.39 per cent at 102.93 in the early premarket period.
The index touched a seven-week low of 101.91 on Thursday but managed to finish the session with a small gain, its first in six trading days, according to figures from Reuters.
Britain’s pound was flat at US$1.2285, having touched a seven-week high of $1.2341 on Thursday in volatile trading. The euro was up 0.03 per cent at US$1.0833, slightly below the seven-week high of US$1.0930 seen on Thursday.
In bonds, the yield on the U.S. 10-year note was lower at 3.343 per cent ahead of the North American opening bell.
More company news
The Globe’s Irene Galea reports Canada’s telecom regulator has asked Rogers Communications Inc. to disclose the details of its network-sharing agreements with Quebecor Inc.’s Videotron as part of its takeover of Shaw Communications Inc., in response to allegations that the agreements violate the Telecommunications Act and could stifle competition through price discrimination. The network-sharing agreements are a key issue with Rogers Communications Inc.’s proposed $20-billion takeover of Shaw Communications Inc.
Shares of Obsidian Energy Ltd fell as much as 4% pre-market on Friday after Alberta’s energy regulator said the Canadian oil and gas producer triggered a series of earthquakes in the province between November and March. The Alberta Energy Regulator’s (AER) environmental protection order against Obsidian came late on Thursday, following a separate study published by Stanford University and University of Alberta that said injection of wastewater from oil sands operations in the area caused one of the strongest earthquakes in the history of the region. –Reuters
Euro area manufacturing and services PMIs. UK consumer confidence, retail sales, and PMIs.
830 am ET: Canada retail sales for January.
830 am ET: U.S. durable orders for February. Consensus is for a 1.5% rise.
830 am ET: U.S. global PMIs
With Reuters and The Canadian Press
Shares in Deutsche Bank drop as global banking worries persist – Al Jazeera English
Tumbling stocks dragged down other major banks across Europe, fuelling fears about a banking sector crisis.
Shares in Deutsche Bank have fallen sharply, dragging down other major European banks and reigniting fears about a widening banking sector crisis.
Germany’s biggest lender dropped more than 14 percent on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in Friday morning trading before clawing back ground in the afternoon to trade 9.5 percent lower, at 8.43 euros ($9.07) a share.
Tumbling bank stocks dragged down markets across Europe on Friday with Germany’s Commerzbank down 7.5 percent, France’s Societe Generale off 5.9 percent and Austria’s Raiffaisen down 5.9 percent.
Deutsche Bank is one of 30 banks considered globally significant financial institutions, so international rules require it to hold higher levels of capital reserves because its failure could cause widespread losses.
The long-troubled bank has become the focus of investor concerns after the collapse of three regional US lenders and the Swiss government-brokered takeover of Credit Suisse by rival UBS triggered market turmoil this month.
The cost of insuring the bank’s debt against a risk of defaulting, known as credit default swaps, has surged as investors fret about the banking sector’s health.
Rising costs on insuring debt were a prelude to Credit Suisse‘s rescue by UBS. That hastily arranged takeover on Sunday and jitters about Credit Suisse’s long-running troubles led its shares to tank and customers to pull out their money.
Asked whether Deutsche Bank could be the next Credit Suisse, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said, “There is no reason to be concerned.”
Scholz expressed confidence in Deutsche Bank, saying it had “modernised and organised the way it works. It’s a very profitable bank.”
Speaking in Brussels after a summit of EU leaders, he also said the European banking system was “stable” with strict rules and regulations.
Deutsche Bank said on Friday that it would redeem $1.5bn in tier 2 bonds early. Such a move is normally aimed at boosting confidence in a bank although its shares plunged regardless.
The bank was hit by a string of problems linked to its attempts before the 2008 global financial crisis to compete with Wall Street investment banking giants.
But it launched a major restructuring, which involved thousands of job cuts and a greater focus on Europe, and has returned to financial health. Last year, it booked its highest annual profit since 2007.
European officials said banks in the European Union’s regulatory system, which does not include Credit Suisse, are resilient and have no direct exposure to the failed California-based Silicon Valley Bank and little to Credit Suisse.
Efforts to strengthen banking regulation in recent years “puts us all in a position to say that European banking supervision and the financial system are robust and stable and that we have resilient capitalisation of European banks”, Scholz said.
European leaders, who played down any risk of a possible banking crisis at their summit on Friday, said the financial system is in good shape because they require broad adherence to tougher requirements to keep ready cash on hand to cover deposits.
International negotiators agreed to those rules after the 2008 financial crisis, triggered by the failure of US investment bank Lehman Brothers. US regulators exempted midsized banks, including Silicon Valley Bank, from those safeguards.
Restaurants and bars brace for biggest alcohol tax jump in 40 years – Ottawa.CityNews.ca
Canada’s restaurant industry is bracing for the biggest jump in the country’s alcohol excise duty in more than 40 years, spurring warnings the tax hike could force some bars and restaurants out of business.
“Any increase at this very vulnerable time for our industry is just another blow while we’re down,” said Brenda O’Reilly, the owner of multiple restaurants and a brewery in St. John’s, N.L.
“It’s like death by a thousand cuts.”
Bar and eatery operators across Canada have endured lockdowns, labour shortages, supply chain mayhem and soaring costs for everything from payroll to cooking oil. Rising inflation has also softened demand as some consumers stay home to save money.
“Many of us haven’t recovered from the pandemic and now they want to raise this tax,” she said. “It’s hard to get blood out of a turnip. We’ll see more restaurant closures if this goes ahead.”
The federal beverage alcohol duty is set to increase 6.3 per cent on April 1.
Alcohol excise duties are imposed at the manufacturing level and adjusted annually based on inflation.
While the duty is separate from provincial liquor board fees and sales taxes, it ultimately filters down to higher prices for consumers, said CJ Hélie, the president of Beer Canada.
“It’s imposed at the point of production and paid by the manufacturer, which means it’s built into the price of the product and magnified as it goes through the supply chain from the distributor to the retailer,” he said.
The automatic annual tax increase is a long-standing irritant for the beverage industry, but was “digestible” when inflation was around two per cent, Hélie said.
But this year’s adjustment is more than triple the usual increase and should be reconsidered given the state of the industry, he said.
“When inflation is through the roof, we need to rethink this automatic formula,” Hélie said. “The industry is already in dire straits. Using a rigid formula in a time like this is unacceptable.”
Some brewers may try to absorb the higher cost by delaying investment plans like new hiring but he said there’s only so much they can do before passing the tax hike along.
“They’ll try to recoup what they can through the wholesale price but it could impact demand and end up costing them in lower sales volumes anyway,” Hélie said.
Alcohol excise duty rates are adjusted by law on an annual basis to account for inflation, Adrienne Vaupshas, press secretary of Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, said in an email.
The increase next month works out to less than a penny on a can of beer, she added.
On a litre of wine, the excise duty rate is increasing to $0.731 from $0.688, or a little over four cents, according to figures provided by the Canada Revenue Agency. For a 750 ml bottle of wine, the increase would be closer to three cents.
But industry group Restaurants Canada said it will cost Canada’s food-service industry about $750 million a year, with the average casual dining restaurant expected to pay an extra $30,000 towards alcohol.
At the retail level, the impact may be more subtle. Though added on top of other price increases, consumers may notice higher prices.
The Liquor Control Board of Ontario said customers may experience a price increase on select products by the end of April if manufacturers pass along the federal excise tax increase.
For example, a 750ml bottle of wine or an imported six-pack of beer may increase by five to 10 cents, while a 750ml spirit of 40 per cent alcohol may increase by 70 cents, the LCBO said in an email.
A spokeswoman for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. said beverage alcohol prices are increasing by just over three per cent overall next month.
But these increases are due to a number of factors, including higher excise taxes and the rising cost of raw goods such as bottles, cans, barley, and labels, NSLC spokeswoman Allison Himmelman said in an email.
In British Columbia, a spokesperson for the BC Liquor Distribution Branch said it’s not possible to confirm what level of price increase consumers may or may not see.
“Each liquor supplier will decide whether or not to increase its wholesale price to account for the increase it must pay in excise duty,” Robin Fraser said in an email.
“Then retailers will make the decision on whether to adjust the prices for consumers for those products,” Fraser said. “It is up to each retailer to determine if, and by how much, to raise its prices.”
Alcohol beverage prices rose 5.7 per cent in February compared with a year before, according to Statistics Canada.
While that’s only slightly higher than the overall inflation rate of 5.2 per cent last month, the tax hike in April along with other increases could see the alcohol inflation rate rise faster than general inflation later this spring.
“Our industry is struggling and we can’t absorb more increases,” said Olivier Bourbeau, vice-president of federal affairs with Restaurants Canada. “Restaurant margins are always thin but right now they’re around two to three per cent.”
A recent Restaurants Canada survey found about half of Canadian licensed restaurants are operating just at or below profitability levels.
This is in part because restaurants are absorbing some of the higher costs due to inflation, Bourbeau said.
Indeed, while grocery prices recorded a 10.6 per cent year-over-year increase in February, restaurant food prices only rose 7.7 per cent, Statistics Canada figures show.
Also, alcohol beverages purchased from stores rose 6.0 per cent in February, while alcoholic beverages served in licensed establishments increased only 4.3 per cent, the agency said.
“Restaurants can’t absorb any more price increases,” Bourbeau said. “But if they pass those costs to customers it could hurt their business.”
“At the end of the day, consumers will only pay so much before they start to cut back.”
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