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Shopify rolls out new tools for online selling during COVID-19

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Entrepreneurs who are struggling to keep their businesses alive amid the demands of COVID-19 or feel underserved by the country’s financial institutions are about to get a helping hand from Shopify Inc.

To help entrepreneurs “futureproof” their companies, the Ottawa-based e-commerce giant said Wednesday that it is launching a handful of business management and sales tools, including giving its merchants the ability to let customers “buy now, pay later” and tip.

Craig Miller, Shopify’s chief product officer, said some of the new features and products were in the works long before the pandemic, but others were dreamed up or accelerated as entrepreneurs scrambled to pivot their businesses to online models while experiencing lost income, furloughs and layoffs.

“It almost became 2030 overnight,” he told The Canadian Press. “Some of the things we were anticipating as being important over the next coming years became super important basically overnight, so we’ve been trying to equip our merchants as much as possible to deal with this kind of situation.”

Shopify’s launches were shared at Reunite, a virtual event the company put on in lieu of its annual Unite conference, where the company’s top executives usually unveil major product announcements. Unite, which was due to be held in Toronto in May, was cancelled in March because of COVID-19.

The pandemic has proved to be a boon for Shopify, which passed Royal Bank of Canada to become the most valuable, publicly-traded company in Canada in May.

Its stock now regularly reaches more than $1,000 in trading and the company boasts that more than one million businesses — Shopify calls them merchants — now use its offerings.

“It sounds a little weird at first glance, but we’re seeing some grocery stores and restaurants use Shopify,” said Miller.

He’s also noticed the number of local orders Shopify merchants received each day on average spiked by 176 per in the six weeks leading up to April 24, just as physical distancing and work-from-home orders were put in place in several countries.

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Shopify believes companies may see an additional boost from its Wednesday announcements, revealing merchants will be able to collect tips and set fees, minimum order prices and distance radiuses for deliveries.

The company began allowing merchants to sell gift cards in recent weeks and teamed up with Facebook Inc. on Tuesday to unveil a new and free tool helping companies create a customized online storefront for Facebook and Instagram.

Later in the year, those in the U.S. will be able to offer a “buy now, pay later” and get access to Shopify Balance, a business account that promises a clear view of cash flow and an ability to pay bills and track expenses. It will come with a “balance card” with cashback, discounts on shipping and marketing and no monthly fees or minimum balances. Merchants can use it to make purchases or withdraw from ATMs.

Shopify did not say when the service will be available to Canadian merchants.

Balance is targeted at the two in five merchants that Shopify has discovered are using their personal bank accounts and cards for business and others who find banking products aren’t designed to meet the needs of or flexibility required by entrepreneurs.

“It becomes very tricky for them to separate their business from their own personal bank accounts and that causes all sorts of problems, for example, when they need to get financing… and in some cases, it affects their credit score,” said Miller.

Despite Shopify partnering with Facebook, it’s still positioning itself to take on other tech giants, including Amazon.com Inc.

Shopify’s network of fulfilment centres, which launched last year to help U.S. merchants lower shipping costs and ensure timely deliveries, has been going head-to-head with the Seattle-based behemoth.

Shopify’s network has just begun accepting merchant applications after completing an early access stage.

“The response was almost bigger than anticipated,” Miller said. “We’ve just gotten bombarded with merchants that want to use it.”

Source    – CBC.ca

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Edited By Harry Miller

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Colonial Pipeline hackers stole data on Thursday

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The hackers who caused Colonial Pipeline to shut down on Friday began their cyberattack against the top U.S. fuel pipeline operator a day earlier and stole a large amount of data, Bloomberg News reported citing people familiar with the matter.

The attackers are part of a cybercrime group called DarkSide and took nearly 100 gigabytes of data out of Colonial’s network in just two hours on Thursday, Bloomberg reported late Saturday, citing two people involved in the company’s investigation.

Colonial did not immediately reply to an email from Reuters seeking comment outside usual U.S. business hours.

Colonial Pipeline shut its entire network, the source of nearly half of the U.S. East Coast’s fuel supply, after a cyber attack that involved ransomware.

 

(Reporting by Aakriti Bhalla in Bengaluru; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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TC Energy posts C$1 billion quarterly loss on Keystone XL suspension

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By Nia Williams and Shariq Khan

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) -TC Energy Corp swung to a loss in the first quarter, hit by C$2.2 billion ($1.81 billion) impairment charges related to the suspension of its Keystone XL project, the Canadian pipeline operator said on Friday.

The KXL pipeline was planned to carry 830,000 barrels per day of heavy crude across the border from Alberta to Nebraska, but U.S. President Joe Biden revoked a key permit for the project on his first day in office.

TC Energy said the impairment charge was related to halting work on KXL and a reassessment of related projects like the Heartland Pipeline.

“We were very disappointed with the decision in January to revoke the presidential permit,” Chief Executive Francois Poirier said on an earnings call, adding the company was “opportunity-rich” in other parts of its business.

Calgary-based TC Energy owns the largest network of natural gas pipelines in North America as well as the existing Keystone oil pipeline and power and storage assets.

The company posted a C$2.51 billion loss from its oil pipelines, of which Keystone is the biggest contributor, compared with a C$411 million profit in the same period last year.

It reported net loss attributable to shareholders of C$1.1 billion, or C$1.11 per share, in the three months ended March 31 compared with a profit of C$1.1 billion a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned C$1.16 per share, slightly better than analysts’ average estimate of C$1.10, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

TC Energy shares closed up 0.2% on the Toronto Stock Exchange at C$61.94.

($1 = 1.2176 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Shariq Khan in Bengaluru and Nia Williams in Calgary; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Marguerita Choy)

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Lion Electric says it will build new plant in Illinois, create 750 jobs

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By Tina Bellon

(Reuters) – Canadian electric vehicle company Lion Electric on Friday said it had selected Illinois as the location for its new U.S. manufacturing plant, promising to invest at least $70 million and create about 750 jobs over the next three years.

Lion, known for its electric yellow school buses, said it will build the 900,000 square foot facility in Joliet near Chicago to produce 20,000 electric buses and medium and heavy-duty trucks per year.

The company said it expected the facility to come online in the second half of 2022. Lion Chief Executive Marc Bedard said in an interview that while the Illinois factory would focus on vehicle manufacturing initially, the company might later add battery production. Lion is building a battery production facility in Canada.

Bedard said Lion is expanding in the United States when there is growing demand among school districts and companies to switch to electric transportation. Nearly 400 of the company’s electric school buses are on the road and Amazon.com Inc has said it will buy up to 2,500 trucks from Lion by 2025.

Lion’s expansion also coincides with a favorable regulatory environment under U.S. President Joe Biden, who has pushed for providing generous subsidies to the EV industry.

“We’re looking for regulatory tailwinds that will be favorable to electric,” Bedard said of his decision to build the factory in Illinois. State-funded tax credits for the plant were being negotiated, Lion said.

Lion on Friday also is expected to start trading publicly on the New York and Toronto stock exchanges following a merger with special purpose acquisition company Northern Genesis Acquisition Corp in November.

The deal was valued at $1.9 billion and Lion received nearly $500 million in net cash proceeds, the majority of which it said it plans to invest in battery technology and the new U.S. plant.

 

(This story corrects to show that investment and job creation is over a three year, not two year period in first paragraph)

 

(Reporting by Tina Bellon in Austin, Texas; editing by Grant McCool)

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