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Panicked shoppers clear out grocery stores in flood-hit British Columbia

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Shoppers in Canada’s flood-hit province of British Columbia have emptied grocery shelves following catastrophic flooding, although the shortages are as much down to panic buying as disrupted supply chains, industry associations said on Thursday.

Even as flood waters start to recede, some parts of the province are expected to face to temporary shortages of dairy supplies, with retailers and officials calling for calm.

A police car escorted a convoy of four Save-On-Foods delivery vans through a roadblock on Highway 7, which was hit by mudslides during the storm, to reach the stranded town of Hope on Thursday afternoon, according to a Reuters witness.

Canada’s westernmost province declared a state of emergency on Wednesday after a phenomenon known as an “atmospheric river” brought a month’s worth of rain in two days. The rainfall washed out roads and railways, cutting off Vancouver and the lower mainland region from the rest of the country, and blocking access to some towns entirely.

Pictures on social media showed empty shelves and refrigerators in grocery stores, reminiscent of the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, as shoppers scrambled to stock up. Photos of one store’s produce section showed nothing left but lemons, limes and cranberries.

Save-On-Foods, western Canada’s largest grocery retailer, and part of the Jim Pattison Group, appealed to customers to avoid hoarding.

“We understand that this is a very stressful and challenging time for many of our communities,” the company said on Twitter. “Please – buy only what your family needs at this time.”

Some three-quarters of B.C.’s milk production was stranded for several days, amounting to a few million litres that farmers had to dump, said Holger Schwichtenberg, chair of the BC Dairy Association.

Collections are now resuming, but the region will see a temporary milk shortage before it can access supplies from other regions or provinces, he added.

Some of the worst-affected areas are in the Fraser Valley east of Vancouver, where 63 dairy farms were ordered to evacuate. The city of Abbotsford in the Fraser Valley supplies half of the dairy, eggs and poultry consumed in British Columbia, with many farms situated on the fertile soils of the low-lying Sumas Prairie, a former lake that was drained a century ago to make way for agriculture.

The mayor of Abbotsford estimated damage to his city alone could be up to C$1 billion ($793 million).

While some towns like Hope, 120 kilometres (75 miles) east of Vancouver, are facing food shortages because they were cut off by highway washouts and mudslides, others are seeing shelves picked clean by panic buying.

“In parts of the province, particularly the interior, there has been significant and not well-understood consumer panic,” said Greg Wilson, director of B.C. government relations for the Retail Council of Canada.

“There are highways open between B.C. and Alberta and there is capacity in Alberta to supply the interior of B.C.”

Wilson said Vancouver and the lower mainland can access more food supplies from Washington state to the south, and the rerouting of supply chains was already underway.

($1 = 1.2607 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by Nia Williams and Rod Nickel; Additional reporting by Jesse Winter in Agassiz, British Columbia; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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CIBC hikes dividend, plans buyback despite Q4 profit miss – BNN

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Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce joined its peers on Thursday in rewarding its shareholders for their patience.

The bank said its board authorized a dividend hike that will lift the quarterly payout to $1.61 per share from $1.46, effective with the Jan. 28 distribution. It also announced plans to repurchase up to 10 million of its common shares.

Like the other lenders that have made similar moves this week, CIBC was able to share its wealth after the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions recently lifted its pandemic-era ban on dividend hikes and share buybacks. 

CIBC also said on Thursday its full-year profit climbed to $6.4 billion from $3.8 billion in 2020. For the fiscal fourth quarter, which ended Oct. 31, earnings surged 42 per cent year-over-year to $1.44 billion. However, on an adjusted basis the bank fell short of expectations at $3.37 per share; the average analyst estimate was for $3.54. 

Unlike other banks this week whose profits got a boost from improved credit quality, CIBC set aside $78 million for loans that could go bad during the fourth quarter. In the prior quarter, the bank had benefitted from the release of $99 million that was previously set aside as provisions for its loan books. 

CIBC’s core Canadian personal and banking division saw profit stagnate in the final quarter of its fiscal year. Net income was $597 million, compared to $590 million a year earlier and $642 million in the prior quarter. The division’s provisions for credit losses jumped to $164 million from $67 million in the fiscal third quarter. In a release, CIBC attributed the provisioning in part due to what it calls “model parameter updates.”

The bank’s other divisions fared better in the quarter, as profit rose year-over-year in capital markets, Canadian commercial banking and wealth management, as well as in CIBC’s U.S. division where profit doubled year-over-year to US$204 million. 

“Against the backdrop of the ongoing global pandemic, our bank continued to invest for the future, including expanding our platform and capabilities in the U.S., accelerating the growth of our Canadian consumer franchise, and making foundational investments in cloud technology and other capabilities that will enable us to do more for clients in 2022 and beyond,” said CIBC President and Chief Executive Victor Dodig in a release.

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TD raising dividend, plans to buy back up to 50 million shares – BNN

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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.

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Tentative deal between union workers and beef producer Cargill struck | CTV News – CTV News Calgary

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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.

‘FAIR OFFER’

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.

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