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Power to the Beeple: Digital art fetches $69.3M at auction – Al Jazeera English

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American artist Beeple became the first to sell a purely digital piece of artwork at auction, fetching more than $69.3m for “Everydays – The First 5000 Days”, a stunning collage comprised of artwork he created every day for the past 13 years.

The sale also catapulted Beeple, whose name is Mike Winkelmann, to become one of the top three most valuable living artists, auction house Christie’s announced, calling it a “watershed moment in the development of digital art”.

To prove its authenticity, the work features what is known as a non-fungible token that digitally attaches the artist’s signature to it and can’t be altered, Christie’s said.

Bidding started at $100 in the online auction, which ran from February 25 until Thursday, and ultimately the piece sold for $69,346,250. Beeple’s work also brought a new class of collector to the centuries-old auction house: of the 33 active bidders, 91 percent were new to Christie’s and millennial and Generation X buyers made up the majority, Christie’s said in a press release. Most bidders were in the Americas, followed by Europe and Asia.

Beeple is a graphic designer who lives in Charleston, South Carolina in the United States. The idea behind the “Everydays” project is to create art daily, no matter how complex or simple, he said.

“These pictures are all done from start to finish every day,” he wrote on his website. “The purpose of this project is to help me get better at different things.”

Some of the early pieces in the collage are simple drawings, while others are more complex, three-dimensional renderings.

A Christie’s press release highlighted some of the milestones in the work, including the first piece in the series, which Beeple made on May 1, 2007.

“This was my very first everyday. It’s a picture of my Uncle Jim, who I nicknamed Uber Jay. I probably would have spent more time on this, had I known it would eventually be part of a piece auctioned by Christie’s!” Beeple wrote.

There is also a figure he created “very quickly, in about three minutes at 5am, right before driving my wife to the hospital to have our first child” on September 18, 2013, he said.

While digital art has been around for decades, concerns about how to verify its authenticity meant it wasn’t as valued by collectors as more traditional works.

But, Christie’s said, the “recent introduction of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and blockchain technology has enabled collectors and artists alike to verify the rightful owner and authenticity of digital artworks.”

“Everydays: The First 5000 Days will be delivered directly from Beeple to the buyer, accompanied by a unique NFT encrypted with the artist’s unforgeable signature and uniquely identified on the blockchain,” the auction house added.

Blockchain technology is also used in the cryptocurrency world to verify transactions, and NFTs have made headlines recently as celebrity investors flock to them.

“NFTs are really an interesting phenomenon here in the art world, because digital art has been something that the traditional art world has had a hard time selling, and frankly, has not had that much interest in selling traditionally,” Tim Schneider, art business editor at Artnet news, told Al Jazeera. “That has really gone around this whole issue of how do you make something that is infinitely replicable actually function more like paintings and sculptures, which are scarce objects that you can create an air of exclusivity around?”

“NFTs are a mechanism that basically allows you to treat digital files like traditional artworks, and I think that that makes the art world a lot more comfortable with them, at least on one level,” Schneider added.

The sale of Beeple’s artwork also made headlines after Christie’s announced it would accept the cryptocurrency Ether as payment for the artwork. The auction house hasn’t said whether the winning bidder paid in crypto, however.

Schneider said the rise of NFTs has been driven by a new class of collector.

“The people who are driving these prices are the quote-unquote ‘crypto wealthy,’ people who have holdings in bitcoin, in Ether, in cryptocurrencies, and see this particular type of digital asset as being something that they’re interested in and understand and are willing to spend money on much more so than, say, a Jeff Koons sculpture or something like that,” he explained.

Beeple has worked with a number of high-profile brands and artists over the course of his career, including SpaceX, Apple, Nike and Louis Vuitton, as well Eminem, Nicki Minaj, One Direction, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry, among others.

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Canadian National challenges Canadian Pacific with $33.7 billion Kansas City bid

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By Shreyasee Raj

(Reuters) -Canadian National said on Tuesday it had offered to buy Kansas City Southern railroad for about $33.7 billion, and shares of U.S. company soared as investors anticipated a potential bidding war with Canadian Pacific.

Canadian Pacific had agreed a deal to acquire Kansas City Southern for about $25 billion last month. Either combination would create a North American railway spanning the United States, Mexico and Canada as supply chains recover from being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The acquisition interest in Kansas City Southern also follows the ratification of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement last year, that removed the threat of trade tensions which had escalated under former U.S. President Donald Trump.

Kansas City said it would evaluate Canadian National’s offer. If it found it could lead to a better deal, Canadian Pacific will be given the opportunity to raise its bid.

Canadian National’s cash-and-stock offer, worth $325 per share, is at a 26.8% premium to Kansas City Southern’s offer as of Monday’s trading close.

“We are surprised by this move given the healthy valuation Canadian Pacific had already offered to Kansas City Southern shareholders,” Stephens analyst Justin Long wrote in a note to clients.

Kansas City Southern shares rose 15.8% to $297.12, indicating most investors deemed it unlikely the company would stick with Canadian Pacific’s offer.

One investor that took a different view is Chilton Investment Co, which has a less than 1% stake in Kansas City Southern. Citing regulatory hurdles, it said it preferred a deal with Canadian Pacific.

“There’s more overlap with Canadian National deal which makes it harder to get (regulatory) approval. The Surface Transportation Board (STB) doesn’t like overlap,” Chilton CEO Richard Chilton said.

Canadian National CEO Jean-Jacques Ruest said his network and that of Kansas City Southern are “highly complementary networks with limited overlap.” They only run parallel for 65 miles, between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Kansas City Southern has domestic and international rail operations in North America, focused on the north-south freight corridor connecting commercial and industrial markets in the central United States with industrial cities in Mexico. Calgary-based Canadian Pacific is Canada’s No. 2 railroad operator, behind Canadian National.

The STB updated its merger regulations in 2001 to introduce a requirement that Class I railways have to show a deal is in the public interest. Yet it provided an exemption to Kansas City Southern given its small size, potentially limiting the scrutiny that its acquisition will be subjected to.

Canadian Pacific agreed in its negotiations with Kansas City Southern to bear most of the risk of the deal not going through. It will buy Kansas City Southern shares and place them in an independent voting trust, insulating the acquisition target from its control until the STBLatest clears the deal. Were the STB to reject the combination, Canadian Pacific would have to sell the shares of Kansas City Southern, but the current Kansas City Southern shareholders would keep their proceeds.

Canadian National said it was willing to match these terms. It said its offer does not require approval from its own shareholders because of how much cash it has, eliminating a condition in Canadian Pacific’s offer.

Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment, which is Canadian National’s biggest investor with a 14.25% stake, said it fully supports the combination.

A private equity consortium led by Blackstone Group Inc and Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) made an unsuccessful offer last year to acquire Kansas City Southern. But it was Canadian Pacific’s announcement of a deal with Kansas City Southern that spurred Canadian National into action, as it raised the prospect of losing out to its rival, according to people familiar with the matter.

(Reporting by Shreyasee Raj and Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli, Anil D’Silva and David Gregorio)

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CEO shake-up at Canada’s Nutrien could pave way to M&A: shareholders

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By Rod Nickel and Maiya Keidan

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) – Investors expect the new chief executive of Canada‘s Nutrien Ltd to swing deals as part of a more aggressive growth strategy, after an abrupt shake-up at Canada‘s biggest agriculture company.

Nutrien, the world’s biggest fertilizer producer by capacity, surprised shareholders on Sunday by promoting its chairman, Mayo Schmidt, to CEO, replacing Chuck Magro, who had led the company since it formed from Agrium’s 2018 merger with Potash Corp.

Schmidt, raised on a Kansas farm, is best known for leading the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool grain cooperative’s acquisition of competitor Agricore United in 2007, creating Viterra Inc, one of Canada‘s biggest grain handlers. He subsequently bought Australia’s ABB Grain before leading the sale of Viterra to commodity trader Glencore PLC in 2012.

“Acceleration of M&A is a natural progression as we enter the next commodity supercycle,” said Michael Underhill, chief investment officer at Capital Innovations LLC, which owns Nutrien shares. “I would not bet against him.”

Nutrien shares were down 1.3% on Tuesday, after falling 3.5% on Monday. They have risen about 35% year over year, riding soaring corn prices, but gained only 2% since they began trading in 2018.

Some investors had grown uncertain about Nutrien’s growth strategy under Magro, said Mike Archibald, vice-president and portfolio manager at AGF Investments, which owns C$136 million ($109 million) worth of the company’s stock.

Archibald said now the strategy looks likely to shift to deals.

“The incoming CEO does have a history as a deal-maker so, to the extent he lives up to what he’s done in the past, we should expect sometime in the next 12 months that we’ll get something happening on the M&A front,” Archibald said.

POTENTIAL DEALS

Nutrien could try to acquire U.S. nitrogen fertilizer rival CF Industries, which has a $10-billion market capitalization, or accelerate the company’s roll-up of smaller farm retail stores, Archibald said. A CF spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Conversely, Schmidt could sell off the retail business to focus on fertilizer production, Archibald said.

Nutrien declined an interview request for Schmidt. A company spokeswoman said Schmidt’s plans include following the company’s climate change initiatives, which Magro unveiled this month.

Schmidt may also eye selling Nutrien’s phosphate fertilizer business, even though it recently got a boost from U.S. duties against Russian and Moroccan imports, said Brian Madden, senior vice-president at Goodreid Investment Counsel, a Nutrien shareholder.

The CEO change is positive, as Schmidt has an exceptional record of creating shareholder value, said Scotiabank analyst Ben Isaacson. He added that Nutrien could look to consolidate the nitrogen industry.

Schmidt would find it difficult to sell Nutrien itself, Madden said. There is no obvious domestic acquirer and the Canadian government rejected a foreign bid for Potash Corp in 2010.

“Schmidt has got cred in the ag world,” Madden said. But he added that abruptly changing chief executives is not how successions should occur at large companies.

 

 

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Maiya Keidan in Toronto; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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Canadian Business During the Pandemic

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In 2019 the world was hit by the covid 19 pandemic and ever since then people have been suffering in different ways. Usually, economies and businesses have changed the way they work and do business. Most of which are going towards online and automation.

The people most effected by this are the laymen that used to work hard labors to make money for there families. But other then them it has been hard for most business to make such switch. Those of whom got on the online/ e commerce band wagon quickly were out of trouble and into the safe zone but not everyone is mace for the high-speed online world and are thus suffering.

More than 200,000 Canadian businesses could close permanently during the COVID-19 crisis, throwing millions of people out of work as the resurgence of the virus worsens across much of the country, according to new research. You can only imagine how many families these businesses were feeding, not to mention the impact the economy and the GDP is going to bear.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said one in six, or about 181,000, Canadian small business owners are now seriously contemplating shutting down. The latest figures, based on a survey of its members done between Jan. 12 and 16, come on top of 58,000 businesses that became inactive in 2020.

An estimate by the CFIB last summer said one in seven or 158,000 businesses were at risk of going under as a result of the pandemic. Based on the organization’s updated forecast, more than 2.4 million people could be out of work. A staggering 20 per cent of private sector jobs.

Simon Gaudreault, CFIB’s senior director of national research, said it was an alarming increase in the number of businesses that are considering closing.

We are not headed in the right direction, and each week that passes without improvement on the business front pushes more owners to make that final decision,”

He said in a statement.

The more businesses that disappear, the more jobs we will lose, and the harder it will be for the economy to recover.

In total, one in five businesses are at risk of permanent closure by the end of the pandemic, the organization said.

The new sad research shows that this year has been horrible for the Canadian businesses.

 

The beginning of 2021 feels more like the fifth quarter of 2020 than a new year,” said Laura Jones, executive vice-president of the CFIB, in a statement.

She called on governments to help small businesses “replace subsidies with sales” by introducing safe pathways to reopen to businesses.

There’s a lot at stake now from jobs, to tax revenue to support for local soccer teams,”

Jones said.

Let’s make 2021 the year we help small business survive and then get back to thriving.”

The whole world has suffered a lot from the pandemic and the Canadian economy has been no stranger to it. We can only pray that the world gets rid of this pandemic quickly and everything become as it used to be. Although I think it is about time, we start setting new norms.

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