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Mounties in southern Alberta help owner round up ostriches that escaped from a pen

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TABER, Alta. — RCMP in southern Alberta had an unusual chase this morning after 20 ostriches escaped their pen.

Mounties say in a statement that they started receiving reports just before 8 a.m. about the birds on the road near Taber, Alta.

They say one of the 20 ostriches was hit and killed on the road.

With the help of the farmer, officers were able to locate and capture most of the other loose birds.

Mounties say a video taken by a local resident shows an RCMP vehicle with the ostrich owner on the passenger side trying to grab one of the birds by the neck.

Taber police say on social media that some of the birds made it into town and created traffic hazards, so its officers helped RCMP confine the birds to allow the owners to safely capture them.

The RCMP say all but a couple of the birds had been captured by 12:30 p.m. local time, and officers were still helping the owner to locate and capture those that are still running wild.

 

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Sleep Country to be acquired by Fairfax Financial for $1.7 billion

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TORONTO – After fielding calls from private equity firms looking to buy Sleep Country Canada Holdings Inc. over the years, CEO Stewart Schaefer has chosen to sell to Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. for $1.7 billion in a deal he says will “unleash” its true value.

The deal announced Monday would see a subsidiary of the Toronto-based financial holding company acquire all issued and outstanding common shares of Sleep Country for $35 per share, a 28 per cent premium to Friday’s closing share price.

While the press release announcing the agreement did not detail Fairfax’s plans for the mattress retailer, Schaefer said Fairfax doesn’t plan to change anything.

“One of the things that was the most appealing to us is they said ‘Nothing’ (when asked about potential changes),” Schaefer said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“It appears as though they have an enormous amount of respect for the brand that has been built.”

That mean’s Schaefer, who is staying on to run Sleep Country, doesn’t anticipate job cuts nor store closures under new ownership.

“If anything, it’s the opposite,” he said. “Maybe this will even accelerate our growth.”

Schaefer’s remarks come as Sleep Country marks its 30th anniversary year. The chain began with a single mattress store in Vancouver that opened in 1994, but eventually becamea household name in Canada alongside co-founder Christine Magee who starred in a steady stream of company advertisements.

The company now counts 307 stores and 18 warehouses across its collection of brands. Those brands include retailers Sleep Country and Dormez-vous, bed-in-a-box companies Endy, Casper Canada and Silk & Snow, premium bedding chain The Rest and blanket company Hush.

In recent years, the company has faced increased competition with the growth of online companies selling boxed mattresses they deliver to homes. Shoppers have also been putting off big-ticket purchases like mattresses lately because of high inflation, borrowing costs and mortgage rates.

Despite the headwinds, Schaefer said Sleep Country wasn’t looking to sell itself, though private equity suitors always lurked, especially when the stock sagged.

“You always get that type of phone call that someone thinks they can maximize value, but not necessarily at the value we believe that this company is,” he said. “So it was never really a true interest for us.”

That is until late last year.

Around that time, Schaefer recalls sitting in the Ottawa airport and receiving a message from Sleep Country’s chief financial officer, who said an investor group was keen to have a call.

Schaefer only later learning of the Fairfax connection. Talks between the pair ebbed and flowed. Sometimes they’d go months without a development.

Yet he had a good feeling about Fairfax. He liked its Canadian origins and admired founder Prem Watsa, who reportedly sold air conditioners and furnaces to finance his university education.

Watsa is now a billionaire businessman dubbed the “Canadian Warren Buffet” because of Fairfax, a purveyor of reinsurance and property and casualty insurance.

However, Fairfax is also known to dabble in retail deals.

The company once owned Toys “R” Us Canada and has had majority stakes in Sporting Life and Golf Town. It has also purchased and taken private Recipe Unlimited Corp., a Vaughan, Ont., company behind more than 20 restaurant brands including Swiss Chalet, Harvey’s and The Keg.

Watsa, chairman and chief executive of Fairfax, said in a press release that his company looks forward to working with Schaefer and Sleep Country “to further develop this remarkable Canadian success story over the long term.”

Schaefer said Sleep Country went for Fairfax’s deal because the company “respected” the bedding giant’s business and 1,700 workers and realized its share price was “undervalued.”

The Friday before the deal was announced, Sleep Country’s share price closed at $27.28. News of the deal pushed Sleep Country’s share price up about 27 per cent, or $7.39, to close at $34.67 on Monday. Fairfax’s share price closed less than one per cent higher to $1,598.14.

Martin Landry, Stifel’s managing director of equity research, thinks the valuation attached to the Fairfax deal is “slightly opportunistic” considering Sleep Country is a prominent player in the Canadian mattress industry with an estimated 40 per cent market share.

“The company is well entrenched, allowing it bargaining power with mattress manufacturers,” he wrote in a note to investors. “This translates into much higher profitability than other North American retailers in the bedding industry.”

Asked about Landry’s views, Schaefer said “we don’t manage the business based on the stock price, obviously because it could be frustrating.”

Schaefer pointed out that only twice in Sleep Country’s history has its share price traded above $35 — in 2017 and at the peak of COVID in 2021 — and even as the business has grown, that hasn’t always shown up in its valuation “for whatever reason.”

Magee, who chairs a special committee of independent directors, appears to agree, saying in a press release she feels the transaction will provide “immediate value to shareholders.”

Sleep Country, however, has left the door open to other offers. It says it can terminate the agreement and accept a superior proposal in some unspecified circumstances, though Fairfax will have the right to match any offer.

In the event Sleep Country finds a better suitor, it will pay Fairfax a termination fee of $36.5 million.

“We believe that there are only a limited number of strategic players capable and interested in acquiring Sleep Country,” Landry wrote in his note.

“Tempur Sealy is the obvious strategic player that comes to mind. However, the timing for Tempur Sealy is not optimal as the company is dealing with antitrust concerns while trying to close the acquisition of Mattress Firm.”

Should Sleep Country move forward with Fairfax, it expects the deal to close in the fourth quarter of 2024. The agreement is subject to court approval and other customary conditions, including a shareholder vote.

Once completed, Sleep Country will apply to delist from the Toronto Stock Exchange.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2024.

Companies in this story: (TSX:ZZZ, TSX:FFH)



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Canfor Corp. CEO Don Kayne to step down at the end of 2024

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VANCOUVER – Canfor Corp. says its president and CEO is retiring at the end of the year.

The Vancouver-based company says Don Kayne has held the role since 2011, and has been with the company for 46 years.

Canfor says the company has grown and transformed into a global entity under Kayne’s leadership.

Current senior vice-president of business development Susan Yurkovich will take the top job upon Kayne’s departure.

Canfor says Yurkovich has been with Canfor for 12 years.

The company thanked Kayne for his contributions and said he will continue in an advisory capacity through 2025.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2024.

Companies in this story: (TSX:CFP)

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Man accused of killing fellow student in class wanted tarot cards back, court hears

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WETASKIWIN – A man on trial for stabbing a fellow student to death in their high school classroom three years ago had wanted her to return his tarot cards, court heard Monday.

Kathryn Pountney made the comments at the first-degree murder trial of her grandson Dylan Pountney at Court of King’s Bench in Wetaskiwin, Alta.

Crown prosecutor Jeff Rudiak asked her if Dylan Pountney, 21, ever talked to her about the victim, Jennifer Winkler.

“Just a couple of times. That he had seen her at school, and she has some cards that he had wanted back,” said Kathryn Pountney.

“They were tarot cards” and “they were his mother’s,” she added.

“Did she not give the cards back?” Rudiak asked.

“No, she didn’t.”

“Did this make Dylan angry?”

Kathryn Pountney replied, “(Dylan) said, ‘Maybe she doesn’t have them’ or he said ‘Maybe her father has them.’”

Court has heard Winkler, 17, died after being stabbed multiple times in her social studies class in front of peers and a teacher at Christ the King School in Leduc, Alta., just south of Edmonton, on March 15, 2021.

A chief medical officer has testified Winkler died from massive blood loss from five wounds near her neck and shoulder.

Court has heard the two were in the class together that morning and, during a break, Dylan left the classroom only to rush back in and begin slashing at Winkler while she was sitting at her desk.

Kathryn said she dropped Dylan off at school that morning and said he appeared fine and did not seem intoxicated.

She said he had showered and he had cologne on.

Kathryn said she had also had dinner the night before with Dylan and Dylan’s father and said Dylan seemed “happy.”

Kathryn said she remains close to Dylan, who had dreams to join the military, and she helped his parents raise him. She said his parents separated when he was around 13. She said he began living with his father and developed a temper.

The parents’ separation “bothered Dylan quite a bit,” she said, adding he didn’t stay close to his mother.

The trial before Justice Eric Macklin has been adjourned until Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2024.

— by Fakiha Baig in Edmonton

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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