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Shopify announces post-office model, most staff to permanently work from home – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Ian Bickis, The Canadian Press


Published Thursday, May 21, 2020 1:29PM EDT


Last Updated Thursday, May 21, 2020 5:05PM EDT

The head of Shopify Inc. has declared that “office centricity is over” as the company moves to a permanent remote-work model for most employees, with no intention of reopening offices this year.

“As of today, Shopify is a digital by default company,” said Tobi Lutke, chief executive of the Ottawa-based e-commerce giant Thursday on Twitter.

Shopify offices will remain closed until 2021, and then reopen with a significant shift in purpose as the company looks to make the remote work as normal as working in the reimagined office space.

“COVID is challenging us all to work together in new ways. We choose to jump in the driver’s seat, instead of being passengers to the changes ahead. We cannot go back to the way things were. This isn’t a choice; this is the future,” said Lutke.

In a sign of growing momentum of the trend, Facebook also announced plans for a more remote-based workforce Thursday, following on previous announcements by Twitter, Open Text and others to shift more work out of the office.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a video presentation Thursday that the company could have half of its workforce working remotely within five or 10 years.

“This is fundamentally about changing our culture, and the way that we all are going to work long-term.”

Both Facebook and Shopify cited the potential to widen their recruitment outside of the urban hubs that tech companies have gravitated towards as a key benefit of the shift.

“We now have the opportunity to be joined by a whole lot of incredible individuals from around the world,” said Lutke.

But while the potential for remote work opens new possibilities for tech companies, many employees still want to work at the office.

Zuckerberg said that results from an internal survey showed that more than half of workers were eager to get back to the office, while about 20 per cent were somewhat interested in remote work and another 20 per cent were very interested.

An online survey covering a range of industries by architecture and design firm Gensler found that only about 12 per cent of the 2,300 workers surveyed would want to work from home full-time, while 44 per cent said they’d like the flexibility to do both and a similar number said they’d like to get back to the office or don’t know. According to the polling industry’s generally accepted standards, online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

Many workers say the office is important for the community and collaborative aspects, said Annie Bergeron, a design director at Gensler.

“The reasons why people love coming into the office, and the reasons why they’re telling us they really want to come back to work, is for the socialization and the connecting, which is really about company culture,” she said.

“They want that impromptu face-to-face, that immediacy of communication, instead of having to rely on booking everything via Zoom or whatever.”

With office redevelopment plans still in the early days, analysts say it’s not clear what kind of impact the shift will have on office demand, which the tech sector has been a big driver of in recent years.

CBRE Canada vice-chairman Paul Morassutti said in a recent presentation that the need for increased distancing may balance out the increased demand for remote work.

“I would suspect that once we are on the other side of a recovery and in the fullness of time, the overall impact might be neutral. But again, it is just too early to make a definitive call.”

Shopify had been especially busy with office expansion before the pandemic hit, including opening a new office in Toronto at the King and Portland Centre, steps away from the company’s first office in Canada’s largest city.

It also had announced that it would lease about 23,597 square metres (253,995 square feet) of space at The Well complex in Toronto to be built at Front Street and Spadina Avenue, and in January, the company said it would open its first permanent office in downtown Vancouver at the Four Bentall Centre by late 2020.

The company, with more than 5,000 employees, said that while it had much still to figure out, it was committed to keeping its recruitment hubs open in Toronto, Ottawa, Waterloo, Montreal and its soon-to-open Vancouver office as well as other global locations, but it didn’t say how the move would affect the footprint of those offices.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2020.

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BRP's CEO hopes 'staycations' will boost sales of Sea-Doos and off-road vehicles – Yahoo Canada Finance

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BRP's CEO hopes 'staycations' will boost sales of Sea-Doos and off-road vehicles

Sea-Doo maker BRP Inc. is facing a rough ride after the COVID-19 pandemic sank profits last quarter, with the company scrambling to cut costs while ramping up production following factory shutdowns.

First-quarter sales fell in all regions except the United States as the virus prompted staggered closures at dealerships and plants between January and May.

Despite year-over-year retail sales growth of about 35 per cent in May, the Valcourt, Que.-based company expects a 40 per cent revenue decline in the second quarter, propped up only by sustained demand among Americans.

“We’re not seeing the pickup (in Europe or Asia) that we’re seeing in the U.S.,” chief financial officer Sebastien Martel said on a conference call with analysts Thursday.

Chief executive Jose Boisjoli said “staycations and social distancing” will work to the advantage of the power sports vehicle producer. But he acknowledged that the fallout of an ongoing recession could weigh more heavily on sales, with revenue expected to drop between 10 and 20 per cent in the second half of its financial year.

“The unemployment rate is going up, consumer confidence is low and housing starts have reduced. All of this at one point will catch up,” he said.

The softer prospects prompted the company to shore up liquidity with a US$600-million loan, which matures in 2027.

BRP manufacturing operations will have resumed by next week in all six countries where it has plants following shutdowns that began between January and March, Boisjoli said.

Production will not be hampered despite physical distancing measures, but shipping will likely remain less efficient until the company builds up its inventory to ship in greater bulk, he added.

The comments came a day after BRP said it would cut 650 jobs or about five per cent of its global workforce as it stopped producing outboard motors — where sales were lagging before the global health crisis — part of up to $450 million in cost reduction measures slated for this year.

“For us, it’s a bit sad that we discontinued the production of the Evinrude — the outboard engine,” Boisjoli said. “The impact of COVID-19 has left us no choice.”

Three-wheeled motorcycles, whose sales surged in 2019, saw revenue fall by more than 40 per cent year over year in the first quarter as driver licensing offices shut down in many regions.

“The on-road industry suffered the most from containment measures due to the closure of riding schools and licence issuers and the cancellation of demo tours,” Boisjoli said.

In December 2018, he told The Canadian Press he hoped to triple global sales of three-wheelers by 2023 to more than $1 billion.

Sales of luxury items such as sporty roadsters and new Ski-Doos often wither in a recession, aggravated by an unemployment rate hovering at around 13 per cent in Canada and 15 per cent in the U.S.

“We do not believe the recent retail strength is sustainable and expect weaker economic conditions later in the year,” National Bank analyst Cameron Doerksen said in a research note.

BRP reported a loss of $2.58 per diluted share for the quarter ended April 30 as it took a $171.4-million impairment charge related to its marine business compared with a profit of $23.8 million or 25 cents per diluted share a year ago.

Revenue in the quarter fell eight per cent to $1.23 billion compared with $1.33 billion during the same period in 2019.

Excluding the impairment charge and other items, BRP said its normalized earnings for the quarter amounted to a profit of $22.7 million or 26 cents per diluted share compared with a normalized profit of $52.7 million or 54 cents per diluted share a year ago.

Analysts had expected normalized earnings at 23 cents per diluted share, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2020.

Companies in this story: (TSX:DOO)

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

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U.S. coronavirus deaths hit grim record as cases rise rapidly in India, Russia – Globalnews.ca

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The coronavirus crisis threw at least 2.1 million Americans out of work last week despite the gradual reopening of businesses around the country, stoking fears Thursday that the scourge is doing deep and potentially long-lasting damage to the U.S. economy.

Amid a few glimmers of hope, most of the latest economic news from around the globe was likewise grim, as some of the world’s most populous countries continued to report rising infections and deaths.


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The confirmed U.S. death toll topped 100,000, the highest in the world, on Wednesday.

The latest job-loss figures from the U.S. Labor Department bring to 41 million the running total of Americans who have filed for unemployment benefits since the coronavirus shutdowns took hold in mid-March.

There were some encouraging signs: The overall number of Americans currently drawing jobless benefits dropped for the first time since the crisis began, from 25 million to 21 million. And first-time applications for unemployment have fallen for eight straight weeks, as states gradually let stores, restaurants and other businesses reopen and the auto industry starts up factories again.

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But the number of U.S. workers filing for unemployment is still extraordinarily high by historical standards, and that suggests businesses are failing or permanently downsizing, not just laying off people until the crisis can pass, economists warn.

“That is the kind of economic destruction you cannot quickly put back in the bottle,” said Adam Ozimek, chief economist at Upwork.


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The U.S. unemployment rate was 14.7 per cent in April, a level not seen since the Depression, and many economists expect it will be near 20 per cent in May.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

The figures come amid an intensifying debate in Congress over whether to extend $600 in extra weekly federal unemployment benefits, provided under rescue legislation passed in March but set to expire July 31.

Democrats have proposed extending the payments, while Republicans have argued that the extra money could discourage laid-off workers from returning to jobs that pay less than they are getting on unemployment.






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Kelly Kelso, a 30-year-old roadie from Nashville for the rock group Foreigner, got her first unemployment check last week after more than eight weeks of waiting. She said she is still receiving far less in benefits than the $1,250 per week or more that she made on tour.

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Though she is reluctant to leave the music industry, she said, “I have a cosmetology license. If all else fails, I could go back to doing hair.”

Another looming storm cloud: Economists say the sharp loss of tax revenue for state and local governments is likely to compound the damage from the shutdowns by forcing additional public-sector layoffs in the coming weeks.

Those layoffs have just recently started showing up in the weekly jobless claims report. Washington state, for example, reported layoffs of government employees.


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Job cuts are also appearing far beyond the initially hit industries such as restaurants and stores, a sign that the damage is spreading even as businesses reopen. Washington state said it saw layoffs in insurance, and New York state reported job cuts by information technology companies.

Economists say many of the jobs lost are never coming back, and double-digit unemployment could persist through 2021.

And as discouraging as the numbers are, the real picture may be worse. The government counts people as unemployed only if they’re actually looking for a job, and many Americans probably see no point in trying when so many businesses are shut down.

Airlines and aircraft manufacturers are struggling after air travel plummeted early in the outbreak. Boeing is cutting more than 12,000 U.S. jobs through layoffs and buyouts, many expected to be in the Seattle area. European budget airline Easyjet said it will cut up to a third of its 15,000 employees. American Airlines plans to eliminate about 5,100 jobs.

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Amtrak likewise announced it will lay off about 20 per cent of its 18,000 workers amid a collapse in train ridership.

A number of European countries have strong safety-net programs that are underwriting the wages of millions of workers and keeping them on the payroll instead of adding them to the ranks of the unemployed. But the economic damage is mounting there, too.

Nissan is rolling back production in Spain in a move the government said could lead to 3,000 direct job cuts and thousands more losses at the automaker’s suppliers. And French unemployment claims jumped 22 per cent in April, with 843,000 more people seeking work.

READ MORE: Quebec courthouses to reopen next week as province eases coronavirus measures

Elsewhere around the world, India saw another record daily jump in coronavirus cases. Russia reported a steady increase in its caseload, even as the city of Moscow and provinces across the vast country moved to ease restrictions in sync with the Kremlin’s political agenda.

And South Korea reported its biggest jump in infections in more than 50 days, a setback that could erase some of the hard-won gains that have made it a model for the rest of the world.

Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 5.7 million people and killed over 355,000, with the U.S. having the most confirmed cases and deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Europe has recorded about 170,000 deaths.

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The true dimensions of the disaster are widely believed to be significantly greater, with experts saying many victims died without ever being tested.

Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed to this report.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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Irving Oil's Come By Chance refinery purchase a 'building block' to get Western Canadian oil east – Financial Post

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CALGARY – One of Canada’s richest families is buying Newfoundland and Labrador’s only oil refinery, which will be a “building block” in a larger strategy to process more Canadian oil.

Saint John, N.B.-based Irving Oil announced Thursday plans to buy North Atlantic Refining Corp. and its Come By Chance, Nfld. refinery from New York-based investment firm Silverpeak for an undisclosed sum, which marks the seventh time the refinery has changed hands in its storied history.

The deal is subject to conditions, including a Competition Bureau review, but it would make family-controlled Irving Oil the only refinery operator in Atlantic Canada. The deal comes weeks after Irving Oil secured permission to bring Western Canadian to the East Coast and forms part of a larger strategy to strengthen its business, according to a company spokesperson.

Last month, Irving Oil obtained Transport Canada’s approvals to source Western Canadian oil from the West Coast, through the Panama Canal to its refinery in New Brunswick.

“Our recently announced plans to source Canadian crude oil and today’s announcement in Newfoundland are two building blocks that fit together with our company’s existing strengths,” Irving spokesperson Candice MacLean said in an email. “All of these elements contribute to our long-time objective of helping Canada be even more competitive in the international landscape.”

MacLean also said Irving, which owns a 320,000-bpd refinery in Saint John and a 71,000-bpd refinery near Cork, Ireland, has been investing for years “in the broader Atlantic Basin and have continued to pursue opportunities for growth in these regions, including Atlantic Canada.”

Analysts believe the Come By Chance refinery and associated retail fuel station network in Newfoundland and Labrador are a strategic fit for Irving, which operates filling stations across Atlantic Canada and the U.S. Northeast.

The sale marks the seventh time the refinery has changed hands

Irving operates a distribution network in Newfoundland, including its flagship Big Stop trucking stations in multiple locations across the province.

“It makes sense that they would see a benefit to acquiring the Come By Chance distribution and retail assets,” IHS Markit oil markets, midstream and downstream analyst Susan Bell said in an email.

She said the Come By Chance refinery has been challenged historically because it has been prohibited from selling fuels into the broader Canadian market beyond Newfoundland.

Built with federal and provincial money between 1970 and 1973, the refinery operated for just a few years before going bankrupt in 1976. Petro Canada bought the refinery, then dubbed the “biggest lemon in the world” according to Memorial University archives, for $10 million in 1980. The Crown corporation couldn’t turn a profit on the facility either and sold it for $1 to Newfoundland Energy Ltd. in 1986.

The refinery would change hands again and again. Swiss commodities trader Vitol SA sold the facility to Calgary-based Harvest Energy Trust for $1.6 billion in 2006. Harvest, in turn, sold itself to Korea National Oil Corp. for $4.1 billion in 2009.

The refinery changed hands again in 2014 when Silverpeak, then called SilverRange Financial Partners, bought the facility and invested in expansions. The refinery was initially built to process 100,000 barrels of oil per day but now, according to Irving’s release, it is a 135,000-bpd refinery. In 2019, the previous owner of the refinery had applied to further expand the facility to process 165,000 bpd.

A spokesperson for Silverpeak declined to comment while the sale is still pending. North Atlantic Refining was the firm’s main energy holding, though it also owns a joint venture in Peru.

The facility now processes 135,000 barrels per day, up from its original 100,000

Historically, the top five foreign sources of oil to that refinery in Newfoundland were the United States, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Nigeria and Norway, said Dinara Millington, Canadian Energy Research Institute vice-president of research.

In 2018, the majority of the refinery’s throughput was sourced from the U.S., and data from the Canada Energy Regulator show imports to Newfoundland from the U.S. averaged 88,100 bpd, or about 68 per cent of the refinery’s capacity.

Millington said the refinery is calibrated to refine light crude oil but noted that a proposed expansion project to add a coker could enable the new owners at Irving Oil to run a heavier slate in the future.

The most recent offshore oil discovery in Newfoundland is also a large heavy oil deposit, so the refinery could — at least theoretically — be recalibrated to accept heavy oil produced locally.

That heavy oil from Newfoundland “will need a home,” Millington said, though she noted a likely outcome would be to send the heavy crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast, where refineries are already designed to process heavy grades.

• Email: gmorgan@nationalpost.com | Twitter:

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