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Manitoba’s new venture capital fund makes first investment

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Manitoba’s newly formed venture capital fund — Manitoba First Fund — has made its first investment of $25 million with the veteran Saskatchewan venture capital money manager, WestCap Management Ltd.

WestCap is forming a dedicated $60-million Manitoba fund, called Connect Manitoba Growth Fund, along with about $30 million of investment from four Manitoba credit unions, led by Access Credit Union.

The Manitoba fund will invest in later-stage growth companies that have market acceptance for their product or service.

Grant Kook, who has led WestCap for 25 years, out of Saskatoon, and whose five funds manage about $1 billion in assets, said his sweet spot will be investments of between $2 million and $6 million in Manitoba companies.

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“Our expertise is investing in those types of companies,” Kook said at a news conference at the site of Manitoba First Fund (MFF) offices in the southwest end of the city.

“It also aligns with the risk that the credit unions want to take,” Kook said.

It will invest in sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing and processing.

“We like innovative companies whose product has been proven out and have market acceptance, but need capital for accelerated growth to take their companies to the next level,” he said.

Premier Heather Stefanson attended the news conference. Her government announced an additional $50-million investment in the Manitoba First Fund in last week’s budget, bringing the province’s commitment to the fund to $100 million.

The province’s move into venture capital investing — which it has not done since the Crocus Investment Fund went into receivership 15 years ago — is to help Manitoba companies deal with the lack of access to capital — a sore point for many years.

Kook quoted recent data from the Canadian Venture Capital Association that said of the $7.2 billion of private equity invested in Canada in the first three quarters of 2022, only 0.3 per cent of it came to Manitoba.

“The Manitoba Connect Growth Fund is here to help change that stat,” he said.

The MFF — which is looking to hire a professional manager — will invest in professionally managed funds that will bring their own capital to leverage the impact of the province’s investment. Those independent funds will invest in specific Manitoba companies and MFF — which will have two of five board members chosen by the province — will only invest in professionally managed funds like WestCap.

While Connect Manitoba Growth Fund will not address capital needs of early stage or startup companies, Mike Pyle the chairman of the board of MMF, said other funds, which will handle every stage of capital needs, will come on.

Larry Davey, president and CEO of Access Credit Union, the largest in the province — which is finalizing mergers with Amaranth, Carpathia and Casera credit unions — said the move into this type of venture capital investing has been in the works for a few years.

Access has invested in Manitoba companies with WestCap in the past.

He said he expects more Manitoba credit unions will want to participate after the fund gets going. Fusion, Sunrise and Stride credit unions are joining Access as initial investors.

“At the end of the day, all credit unions are looking to determine the best way to support their members,” said Davey. “It’s frustrating when you can’t help members when they need the support. We definitely have members that will be able to take advantage of this fund.”

Kook said having credit unions as partners means the fund will have feet on the ground in communities across the province.

Connect Manitoba Growth Fund will set up an office in Winnipeg soon, with an initial staff of one or two people.

Kook and WestCap have a good perspective on the Manitoba economy. It already owns a stake in a few companies from this province, including Librestream and Fort Garry Brewing.

Kook said the deal flow is expected to be strong.

“It will be diversified in that respect because we will not have geographic diversification,” said Kook. “Every investment we make will be in only Manitoba companies.”

While it will focus on established companies, Pyle said the MFF has been in discussions with four or five other funds, including an early-stage technology fund out of Alberta, and another Saskatchewan fund.

“We have not finished our due diligence with them yet. That’s why the province stepped up with the second batch of capital,” he said. “There’s nothing worse than getting started and then running out of money right away.”

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Martin Cash

Martin Cash
Reporter

Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.

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IN FOCUS: 'No room for complacency' as fight for global investments heats up. What can Singapore do? – CNA

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Apart from the US Chips and Science Act, the US Inflation Reduction Act is another incentive programme “that will compete for the same sorts of investments that Singapore would be interested in”, EDB chairman Beh Swan Gin told reporters at a press conference in February.

The US Inflation Reduction Act comprises billions of dollars of subsidies for the purchase of electric cars and other eco-friendly products that are made in America. This has rattled many European nations who fear that companies may choose to relocate or at least prioritise investment in the US.

In response, the European Commission has presented a Green Deal Industrial Plan with higher levels of state aid to help Europe compete as a manufacturing hub for clean tech products.

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Then, there is BEPS 2.0 which is advocating a minimum effective tax rate of 15 per cent for multinational groups with annual group revenues of at least 750 million euros (US$818 million).

Currently, Singapore’s headline corporate tax rate is at 17 per cent but the effective tax rate of many businesses may be lower than that, or even the proposed global minimum, due to tax incentives given to those seen as beneficial to the country’s economic development.

Singapore has said it will implement a domestic top-up tax for these large multinational enterprises – about 1,800 of them currently meet the revenue threshold – from 2025. 

Already, these firms are having concerns about how the new global tax rules will erode their tax savings in Singapore and mulling whether they should be looking at relocating or making new investments in other countries, said Mr Baik.

“Certainly, tax is just one of the factors in this evaluation process but recent global tax developments have undoubtedly elevated the tax benefits consideration among the factors.”

Meanwhile, the cost of doing business in Singapore has crept up the list of concerns for businesses.

Beyond the inflationary push in operating expenses such as electricity, firms are increasingly mindful of the cost of living here, said Dr Lei Hsien-Hsien, chief executive officer of The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Singapore.

The Singapore International Chamber of Commerce (SICC) said global companies are most concerned about the elevated rental costs for residential and commercial premises.

The former, in particular, is “making living here much less viable for many expat executives and prohibitive for others”, and this impacts a company’s ability to relocate talent to Singapore.

While Singapore continues to stand out for having low risks of doing business, SICC said “there is no room for complacency” as its regional peers can now better manage risks than before.

“When combined with lower business costs, regional markets will remain attractive to investors based on their risk appetite and their specific business requirements,” the chamber said.

A separate survey, released this week by the European Chamber of Commerce Singapore, also showed that 69 per cent of companies are ready to relocate their staff out of Singapore if there is no relief from rising rental costs of residential and office spaces.

Mr Wong, who is also Finance Minister, has warned that multinational firms are “mobile and … have options” for their next investment projects. Already, firms are “making this clear” in consultation sessions with policymakers.

“Because of BEPS, they will no longer enjoy the same tax advantages in Singapore. Meanwhile, other countries in the region are cheaper, while their home countries are offering very generous incentive packages,” Mr Wong said in his Budget round-up speech on Feb 24.

“So they ask us: what else can Singapore offer to stay competitive?”

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Months after its launch, Canada's new investment industry regulator finally has a proposed name – The Globe and Mail

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Three months after the launch of Canada’s new investment industry self-regulatory body, the organization has proposed a moniker for itself: Canadian Investment Regulatory Organization.

The organization has been nameless since it was formed out of the amalgamation of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) and the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada (MFDA) on Jan. 1. It has been temporarily using the name New Self-Regulatory Organization of Canada.

Now, in a proxy circular distributed to the industry on Friday, the New SRO board is requesting that the organization’s members, who include investment and mutual fund dealers, vote for the name change on April 24. If approved, the name will become official on June 1.

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“We recognize the importance of establishing a new name and brand that reflects the values, purpose, and goals of New SRO,” New SRO chair Timothy Hodgson writes in the proxy. “Therefore, we have committed to an accelerated timeline to complete this important task and are confident that the chosen name will resonate with all stakeholders and foster a strong sense of confidence in the New SRO’s mission.”

The shift to a single self-regulatory organization happened after more than two years of industry consultation that began in 2019, when the Canadian Securities Administrators – an umbrella group for provincial and territorial securities regulators – announced it was considering an overhaul of the regulatory framework that governed IIROC and MFDA.

The two self-regulatory organizations had long been criticized by investor advocates and the investment industry for having overlapping areas of oversight, as wealth managers were increasingly serving customers buying both mutual funds, overseen by MFDA, and individual securities, which were IIROC’s responsibility.

In the fall of 2022, the merger was approved by the CSA, which also approved the combination of two investor protection funds – the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and the MFDA Investor Protection Corporation. The new single fund is independent from the new regulatory organization.

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Lefebvre announces new committee to help spur investment

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A new committee of Greater Sudbury city council is being set up to find the “best way of streamlining and of encouraging investment in Sudbury.”

So described Mayor Paul Lefebvre, who used Thursday’s Fireside Chat event with the Northeastern Ontario Construction Association to announce the new five-member committee.

“It’s a big exercise, but I think it’s a positive way of affecting change,” he told Sudbury.com after delivering his address at Verdicchio Ristorante, adding that his goal is for the committee to present recommended changes to municipal bylaws by the end of the year.

The committee would host five to seven meetings this year to learn from local industry leaders, with priority given to those with experience working for other municipalities.

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“What is going on elsewhere?” Lefebvre asked. “How are they doing things different from what’s going on here, and why is that the case, so we have a better understanding.”

Lefebvre said that with many regulations provincially mandated, he wants the committee to narrow in on what the municipality can actually accomplish.

In concert with the committee’s work, Lefebvre said an internal team at city hall will work with their counterparts in other municipalities to dig out best practices for Greater Sudbury to adopt.

Reflecting on Lefebvre’s address, Northeastern Ontario Construction Association executive director Mark Kivinen told Sudbury.com he is “very optimistic,” and that Lefebvre has “hit the ground running” since he was elected to head city council on Oct. 24, 2022.

“He is so engaged with the community and understands what the community wants and needs, and also has the ability to not stay stagnant, to open up and don’t be just locked in your little bubble,” Kivinen said, adding that the upcoming committee should aid in this effort.

“There are other municipalities that are doing things better than us, and we are doing some things better than them,” he said. “I think we understand now that if we’re going to promote growth, we’ve got to open up the city a little more.”

Thursday night’s speech and subsequent question and answer period highlighted an ongoing concern within the local construction industry of so-called “red tape” at city hall, which Lefebvre said city council’s upcoming committee will strive to suss out.

Ward 5 Coun. Mike Parent has also addressed “red tape” in a motion greenlit by city council in February, which will see the city partner with the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce to investigate ways of streamlining processes for businesses.

During his speech, Lefebvre cited recent progress on the Employment Land Strategy and a $1.25-million interim fix approved for Fielding Road, which services one of the city’s industrial hubs, as recent signs of city council support for tackling economic growth.

“We’re serious about this,” Lefebvre said, adding that the work on Fielding Road is a solid investment that will help ensure clients and those working in the area won’t have to wear a mouthguard while navigating the pothole-filled road.

Earlier this week, city council approved a public consultation plan for a new tax incentive called the Employment Land Community Improvement Plan, which Lefebvre cited as another recent move toward spurring economic activity. Sudbury.com will be publishing an in-depth report on the proposal soon.

Tapping into the value-added market when it comes to battery-electric vehicles, the city’s infrastructure deficit, its collection of aging facilities, a need for housing across the continuum, and a need for employees in a local economy in which there are approximately 3,500 unfilled jobs right now, were also hot topics during tonight’s speaking engagement.

Lefebvre said all of these issues and more will need to be dealt with to help meet his ultimate goal of increasing Greater Sudbury’s population to 200,000 within 20 years.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.

 

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