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Rogers takeover of Shaw a step closer after appeal shot down

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OTTAWA –

The Federal Court of Appeal has dismissed the Competition Bureau’s effort to overturn a key approval of Rogers Communications Inc.’s takeover of Shaw Communications Inc.

Court of Appeal Justice David Stratas said Tuesday the bureau’s arguments don’t meet the threshold of an overriding error going to the core of the case that would be required to overturn the decision by the Competition Tribunal to approve the $26-billion deal.

“This is a high threshold. It is not enough to pull at leaves and branches and leave the tree standing; rather the entire tree must fall,” he said, delivering a decision from the bench before the companies involved had given their oral arguments.

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The Competition Tribunal, in its Dec. 30 approval, made it clear the transaction would not likely prevent or substantially lessen competition, supported by ample evidence, said Stratas.

“Even if the Competition Tribunal erred on the narrow legal points the commissioner now raises in this court, we are not persuaded that the result could have been different. Thus it would be pointless to send this case back to the Competition Tribunal.”

The Competition Bureau’s arguments had focused on what they said were four key legal errors that focused especially on how the proposed sale of Shaw’s Freedom Mobile to Videotron factored into the tribunal’s decision.

Bureau lawyer Alexander Gay argued that the tribunal should have assessed the deal as initially proposed, before the addition of the sale of Shaw’s Freedom Mobile to Quebecor-owned Videotron Ltd.

Had the deal been assessed as a remedy to competition concerns, rather than an integral part of the deal, it wouldn’t have stood up, said Gay.

“It’s almost entirely a series of service agreements between competitors. Those couldn’t have been considered,” said Gay.

“That is a huge error. And that I think gives enough doubt in this case that really it should be sent back for that very reason.”

Justice Strata said that examining the merger alone, which couldn’t go forward without the divestiture of Freedom Mobile, would be a “foray into fiction and fantasy,” and that the tribunal is not shackled to the earlier structure of the transaction.

The deal, which Rogers hopes to close by Jan. 31, still requires approval from Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.

Champagne said in a statement that he was reviewing the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision and will be making a decision on the deal in due course.

“Promoting competition and affordability in the telecom sector has been — and remains — my top priority,” he said.

Rogers Communications, Shaw Communications and Quebecor applauded Tuesday’s court ruling.

“We welcome this clear, unequivocal, and unanimous decision by the Federal Court of Appeal,” they said in a joint release.

“We continue to work with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada to secure the final approval needed to close the pro-competitive transactions and create a stronger fourth wireless carrier in Canada and a more formidable wireline competitor.”

Advocacy group OpenMedia said in a statement that the deal as it stands means less choice and more expensive prices.

“The deal the Tribunal accepted is still terrible for ordinary Canadians,” said OpenMedia campaigns director Matt Hatfield.

He urged Champagne to block the deal and instead set lower rates for internet service providers to access internet infrastructure.

The House of Commons industry and technology committee, which previously recommended against the deal, is set to meet Wednesday to look again at the transaction.

Matthew Boswell, Commissioner of Competition, said he was disappointed with the ruling.

“Although today’s developments are discouraging, we stand by the findings of our investigation and the decision to challenge the merger,” he said Tuesday night in a release.

“We brought a strong, responsible case to the Tribunal after conducting a thorough examination of the facts.”

Boswell said while they continue to disagree with the Tribunal’s findings, they accept the decision and will not pursue a further appeal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2023.

 

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India’s Adani Group loses $48bn in stocks over fraud claims

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Hindenburg Research claimed Adani Group had committed ‘brazen’ corporate fraud but Adani Group dismissed the report.

Shares of Asia’s richest man Gautam Adani’s business empire plunged, leading to losses of $48bn after a US investment firm claimed it had committed “brazen” corporate fraud.

Seven listed companies of the Adani conglomerate lost a combined $48bn in market capitalisation after Hindenburg Research flagged concerns in a January 24 report about debt levels and the use of tax havens.

Adani who was the world’s third-richest person at the start of the week is now ranked number seven on Forbes’ billionaires tracker after a $22.6bn hit to his fortune in Friday’s trade.

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Adani Enterprises, the group’s flagship company, plunged nearly 20 percent over the day’s trading in Mumbai, briefly triggering an automatic trading halt, before recovering slightly to close 18.52 percent lower.

Five other group companies hit their own stock exchange circuit breakers, with shares in Adani Total Gas, Adani Green Energy and Adani Transmission falling 20 percent apiece.

“Obviously, this is panic-selling,” JM Financials equity research chief Ashish Chaturmohta told AFP, adding that traders were creating new short-sell positions to protect earlier bullish bets on Adani stocks.

Hindenburg Research said in its report that Adani Group had used undisclosed related-party transactions and earnings manipulation to “maintain the appearance of financial health and solvency” of its listed business units.

Adani Group dismissed the report as baseless and that it was the victim of a “maliciously mischievous” reputational attack by Hindenburg.

Legal chief Jatin Jalundhwala said Adani was exploring considering taking legal action against the New York-based research advisory in US and Indian courts.

Hindenburg responded that Adani had ducked the issues its research had raised and instead resorted to “bluster and threats”.

“If Adani is serious, it should also file suit in the US,” the firm said in a statement. “We have a long list of documents we would demand in a legal discovery process.”

Adani, with a net worth of $96.6bn, is considered a close supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India’s main opposition Congress party has often accused Adani, and other billionaires, of getting favourable policy treatment from Modi’s administration, allegations the billionaire has denied.

The Adani Group was established in 1988, beginning with commodities trading. The conglomerate’s business interests now extend from ports and airports to mining and renewable power.

The report said a pattern of “government leniency towards the group” stretching back decades had left investors, journalists, citizens and politicians unwilling to challenge the group’s conduct “for fear of reprisal”.

“The signal is that because the Adanis are very close to the powers that be today, therefore nobody would challenge them,” economist Arun Kumar told AFP.

“Those who earlier criticised Adani, those who tried to do some investigation, Adani’s launched big [legal] cases against them, so they have scared off a lot of people,” he added.

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Rapidly cooling housing market helps to quell Canadian inflation

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Housing costs, and Canada’s unique way of capturing them in inflation, suggest that consumer price gains may slow rapidly in coming months.

As the largest expense for most households, shelter makes up 30 per cent of Canada’s consumer price index — a similar proportion to the U.S. But unlike its southern neighbor, Canada’s inflation metrics capture these costs in a way that’s more sensitive to changes in interest rates and home prices.

That means Canadian inflation measures are influenced by both the rise in mortgage costs as the Bank of Canada aggressively raises rates and by the resulting slowdown in the housing market.

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While inflation was still 6.3 per cent in December, price pressures in Canada are expected to lose momentum thanks to base effects and continued cooling in the Canadian real estate market, which features shorter-duration mortgages than the U.S. and a higher share of variable-rate home loans.

Those differences are one reason economists say the Bank of Canada — which said this week it intends to pause its tightening campaign — won’t have to raise borrowing costs as high as the Federal Reserve.

“One way Canada actually stands out from a lot of other countries is that when the Bank of Canada raises interest rates, there’s a temporary boost to inflation because of this mortgage interest rate effect,” Stephen Brown, an economist at Capital Economics, said by phone.

CROSS-BORDER DIFFERENCES

The U.S. calculates housing inflation using owners’ equivalent rent, or the price a property owner would have to pay to rent to live there. Canada calculates it through a formula that includes mortgage interest, replacement cost, property taxes and maintenance.

Shelter has been a major driver of Canadian inflation in recent months, and was up 7 per cent in December. The mortgage interest and rent sub-indexes saw year-over-year jumps of 18 per cent and 5.8 per cent, respectively.

But with rates now on hold, Brown expects mortgage interest costs to peak before dropping sharply in the second half of this year. Other inflation inputs, such as commissions on home sales, are already easing.

His forecast is for increases in the shelter component of CPI to fall to 3.5 per cent by June and to 1.5 per cent by December. With energy, food and goods prices also expected to fall sharply, Brown said the Bank of Canada may be “underestimating how quickly overall inflation will decline.”

Macklem’s rapid interest-rate hikes, to 4.5 per cent from an emergency pandemic low of 0.25 per cent in March, have dramatically cooled the real estate market. Prices have fallen more than 13 per cent since their peak last year. Higher mortgage costs are also squeezing some of the world’s most indebted households, forcing them to tighten their purse strings.

“The bank might be feeling like they’ve done enough on housing, and that the effect is going to unravel over the coming months,” said Rishi Mishra, an analyst at Futures First Canada Inc. “They don’t want to press down too hard, just because how large the exposure is to housing market in Canada.”

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Stock market news live updates: Stocks rally, Intel craters, as inflation data cools

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U.S. stocks rallied on Friday, after slipping earlier at the open, as investors weigh in on fresh economic data including consumer spending data, a closely watched measure by the Federal Reserve.

The S&P 500 (^GSPC) added 0.2%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) ticked up 0.08%. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) was up roughly 1%, closing out its best week since November.

The biggest mover on Friday were shares of Intel (INTC), which fell as much as 10% on Friday after the company’s bleak outlook disappointed.

Intel reported a quarterly earnings miss after the close Thursday, adjusted earnings per share coming in at $0.10 against the $0.19 expected by the Street. Revenue totaled $14.04 billion, below estimates for $14.5 billion.

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In the first quarter, Intel expects revenues to come in between $10.5-$11.5 billion, with losses totaling $0.80 per share. In delivering these results, CEO Pat Gelsinger cited “economic and market headwinds,” adding the company, “will continue to navigate the short-term challenges while striving to meet our long-term commitments.”

Elsewhere in markets, Tesla (TSLA) stock has become hot. The shares rose above 10% in Friday trading, eyeing its best week since May 10, 2013. The company’s latest earnings has prompted a boost for the shares. Separately, CEO Elon Musk is being investigated by US regulators in his role shaping the carmaker’s self-driving car claims, Bloomberg reported.

Lucid (LCID) stock surged Friday on reports that a Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund could be planning a takeover and buying shares the EV maker doesn’t already own.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note ticked up to 3.52% from 3.497% on Thursday. The dollar index was little changed. WTI crude oil sank 2% to trade at $79.41 a barrel.

U.S. core personal-consumption expenditures price index (PCE), excluding energy and food, rose 0.3% month-over-month, while the annual rate fell to a one-year low of 4.4% in December from 4.7% the prior month, in line with consensus forecasts.

Pending home sales increased 2.5% in December, ending a sixth month slide, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Meanwhile, consumers remain optimistic. The consumer sentiment index rose to 64.9, a slight increase from 64.6 reading two weeks ago, according to preliminary results from the University of Michigan’s consumer survey. Economists surveyed were expecting a reading of 64.6.

Stocks rallied on Thursday as investors digested other data that showed the U.S. economy ended the year on a solid foot despite higher interest rates and recessionary fears looming.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — the sum of all goods and services – expanded at a 2.9% annual pace in the final quarter of 2022. For the full year, GDP grew 2.1%.

Durable-goods orders in December increased by 5.6% topping expectations for 2.4%, the sharpest gain since July 2020. Meanwhile, the resilience of the U.S. job market has been a major surprise. Initial jobless claims fell again to 187,000, the lowest level since April 2022.

“Markets deciphered a lot of mixed clues [on Thursday] and, after some cause for concerns, decided that it was easier to shrug it all off and drive equities to fresh 2023 highs,” Jim Reid and colleagues at Deutsche Bank wrote in an early morning note Friday morning. “Earnings also helped the mood, to be fair.”

Visa (V) shares were higher Friday after the company reported results late Thursday. Revenue increased to $7.94 billion compared to expectations of $7.69 billion. And adjusted earnings per share came in at $2.18 versus estimates of $2.00. The company announced that Ryan McInerney will be stepping in as chief executive officer starting February 1st.

Hasbro (HAS) also joined the wave of company layoffs announcing it will cut its workforce by 15 percent, or 1,000 employees, effective in the coming weeks. The move comes as the toymaker seeks to save around $250 million and $300 million annually by the end of 2025.

Also in stock moves, Chevron (CVX) shares were down after reporting fourth quarter profit of $6.4 billion, down from the $11.2 billion in the third quarter. Ahead of Friday’s report Chevron, announced it was hiking its dividend by 6% along with massive $75 billion share repurchase plan.

Shares of American Express (AXP) rose after the credit card company reported fourth quarter net income of $1.57 billion. On a per-share basis, it had a profit of $2.07. American Express expects full-year earnings to be $11 to $11.40 per share.

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