Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, February 11, 2020 8:05AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 11, 2020 8:10AM EST
Sales and franchisee profits at Tim Hortons fell in its most recent quarter, prompting parent company Restaurant Brands International Inc. to launch a back-to-basics approach to regain momentum.
“There is clearly a sizable gap between what this brand is capable of and the performance we’ve delivered,” said CEO Jose Cil during a conference call with analysts Monday after the company released its fourth-quarter and full-year financial results.
Comparable sales, a key retail metric, at Tim Hortons fell 4.3 per cent for the quarter ended Dec. 31, including by 4.6 per cent in Canada.
Investment in the company’s rewards program geared at attracting members dragged down comparable sales by three per cent in Canada, the company said, while softness in lunch food added another one per cent of negative performance.
System-wide sales for the quarter fell 2.9 per cent at Tim Hortons, whose parent company keeps its books in U.S. dollars, at US$1.679 billion.
Franchisee profitability also fell compared to last year, said Cil, though the company did not provide a figure. He attributed the drop to lower sales, as well as pressure from labour costs in parts of Canada.
RBI plans to fix the coffee-and-doughnut chain’s performance by elevating the quality of its core categories through innovation and investments in modernizing the brand.
It plans to accelerate a roll out of fresh coffee brewers for better-tasting and more consistent coffee quality, said Cil.
The chain also plans to start offering more than one type of milk for customers, including skim milk and a dairy alternative, almond, starting this spring.
“These adjustments may seem basic, but that’s the point: being the absolute best at the basics that we’re already famous for,” said Cil.
On the breakfast front, Tim Hortons is working to improve the quality of bacon in its sandwiches.
The company will transform nearly all its drive-through boards to digital from paper, he said, which will allow it to tailor offerings based on location, time, weather and other factors.
Tim Hortons is also shaking up its loyalty program, which it says has more than 7.5 million active members but only about a quarter who shared contact information. The new program will be based on points rather than visits and make most of the menu items available for redemption.
When the company starts the Roll-up-the-rim contest in the coming weeks, it will have been updated to tie into its digital focus, and will help drive digital adoption and loyalty registration.
The rewards program is expected to continue to drag down sales for several quarters.
The company did not say whether Tim Hortons, which has about 30 stores in China mostly in the Shanghai region, has seen any impact from the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak.
RBI’s principal focus is on the health and safety of its employees in the country, said Cil in an interview following the conference call, and RBI is working closely with its master franchisee partner and the local authorities to take any measures necessary.
“Several of the restaurants have been temporarily closed,” he said.
“We don’t typically share an outlook,” Cil said, but the company doesn’t believe the outbreak has changed any of its long-term objectives or goals in China. RBI announced in 2018 that it plans to open more than 1,500 Tim Hortons locations in the country over a decade.
On the call, Cil noted the impact of coronavirus when speaking about Burger King’s performance. Burger King China accounts for about two per cent of the chain’s consolidated system-wide sales, he said.
“While it’s too early to say how long the impact on our business there will last, we’re monitoring the situation very closely.”
The poor Tim Hortons performance came as RBI sales grew, boosted by its new chicken sandwich at Popeyes, and the company raised its dividend.
The parent company of Tim Hortons, Burger King and Popeyes will pay a quarterly dividend of 52 cents per share, up from an earlier payment of 50 cents.
RBI reported net income of US$257 million or 54 cents per diluted share for the quarter, down from US$301 million or 64 cents per diluted share in the last three months of 2018.
On an adjusted basis, Restaurant Brands earned US$351 million or 75 cents per share for the quarter, up from an adjusted profit of US$318 million or 68 cents per share in the same quarter a year earlier.
Revenue totalled nearly US$1.48 billion, up from nearly US$1.39 billion. Burger King comparable sales grew 2.8 per cent and Popeyes rose 34.4 per cent, fuelled by the chicken sandwich.
The company was expected to post 73 cents per share in adjusted profits on US$1.46 billion in revenues, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.
For the full year, net earnings were US$1.11 billion on US$5.6 billion of revenues, compared with US$1.2 billion on $5.59 billion of revenues in 2018. Adjusted profits equalled $2.72 per share, one cent better than estimates.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 10, 2020.
Is global inflation nearing a peak? – Al Jazeera English
Calling the top of the current wave of inflation has been a painful exercise for economists and central bankers, who have been proven wrong time and again during the past year.
But data on Wednesday, which showed that some measures of inflation had cooled in the world’s two largest economies, was likely to rekindle a debate about whether the worst might be over after a year of torrid price growth.
United States consumer prices did not rise in July compared with June due to a sharp drop in the cost of petrol, delivering much-needed relief to American consumers on edge after steady prices climbs during the past two years.
And China’s factory-gate inflation slowed to a 17-month low on an annual basis while consumer prices rose less than expected.
After wrongly predicting last year that high inflation would be transitory, most central bankers, including the US Federal Reserve, have stopped trying to put an exact date on when they expect current price growth to peak.
US central bank officials see inflation decelerating through the second half of the year, the European Central Bank puts the peak in the third quarter and the Bank of England sees it in October.
Here are some of the key data shaping the inflation debate:
Raw materials are getting cheaper…
The main culprit for the surge in consumer prices last winter – energy and other raw materials – may be the harbinger of lower inflation this time around.
Prices of critical commodities such as oil, wheat and copper have fallen in recent months after spiking earlier this year. Oil and food items soared after Russia invaded Ukraine.
The fall in prices came amid weaker global demand and economic slowdowns in China, the US and Europe, where consumers are dealing with high prices.
Some indices of inflation are already being affected: fewer firms are reporting increased input costs, and wholesale price rise is decreasing in many parts of the world
…But European energy bills won’t
With winter approaching on the continent, European households are unlikely to see their energy bills come down anytime soon. Recently, there have been talks of rationing in eurozone countries, including in Germany.
This is because gas prices in Europe – which, for years, has relied on Russia for a large portion of its imports – are still four times higher now than a year ago and close to record highs. There has been much uncertainty surrounding gas flow via the Nord Stream pipeline.
Even in the United Kingdom, which has its own gas but very little storage capacity, consumers are set to see their power bills jump in October when the current price cap expires.
There is bad news for German drivers, too, who will see a subsidy at the petrol pump expire at the end of August.
Expectations are (mostly) under control
Some central bankers can take comfort in the fact that investors have not lost faith in them.
Market-based measures of inflation expectations in the US and the eurozone are only just above the central banks’ 2 percent target, while they remain uncomfortably high in the UK.
After the Federal Reserve’s meeting last month, the central bank’s Chair Jerome Powell stressed that the Fed is ready to use all of its tools “to bring demand into better balance with supply in order to bring inflation back down to our 2 percent goal”.
Consumers in the US, eurozone and UK, expect to see inflation stay above the 2 percent target for years to come.
According to a survey conducted by the Reuters news agency, a vast majority of the economists polled said that inflation would stay elevated for at least another year before receding significantly. About 39 percent of economists asked said that they expect inflation to stay high past 2023.
Core prices may be trending down…
Core inflation, the number that measures inflation while excluding the price of volatile components like food and fuel, has started to cool in the US and UK. Some economists predict Japan and the eurozone will follow suit.
Nevertheless, core inflation remains higher than most central banks’ comfort zone both in developed and developing economies. That means that central banks will continue to increase borrowing costs. The US Federal Reserve last month raised rates by 75 basis points for the second consecutive time. The bank meets again in September to consider further tightening.
And an artificial intelligence model used by Oxford Economics suggests core inflation will also peak in Japan and the eurozone in the second half of the year.
The Long Short-Term Memory network, originally developed to help machines learn human languages, parses detailed inflation data to spot patterns that helps it predict the Consumer Price Index in the future.
…But wages are pointing up
Workers’ wages have increased in the last year due to a tight labour market but not as fast as inflation.
The US Employment Cost Index also recently revealed that higher wages also resulted in a significant increase in US labour expenses in the second quarter of 2022.
According to figures released earlier this week, the cost of labour per unit of production increased by about 10 percent for non-farm firms in the US in the second quarter of this year.
One of the main factors influencing pricing over the long term is wages, and if they climb too quickly, a spiral of price rises may start.
“If that happens, we end up with an almost self-fulfilling type prophecy, where firms will start to push price increases onto their customers,” Brent Meyer, policy adviser and economist at Atlanta’s Federal Reserve, recently told Al Jazeera.
Outside of the US, the economic recovery has been more muted, and the impending recession may make it harder for labour to negotiate lower wages.
Steep price drops will bring ‘sanity’ back to housing market in 2023: Desjardins – Global News
Desjardins is forecasting the average home price in Canada will decline by nearly 25 per cent by the end of 2023 from the peak reached in February of this year.
In its latest residential real estate outlook published on Thursday, Desjardins says it’s expecting a sharp correction in the housing market, adjusting its previous forecast that predicted a 15-per-cent drop in the average home price over that same period.
Desjardins says the worsened outlook stems from both weaker housing data and more aggressive monetary policy than previously anticipated.
The Bank of Canada raised its key interest rate by a full percentage point in July, pushing up the borrowing rates linked to mortgages, and further increases are expected this year.
The report also notes housing prices have dropped by more than four per cent in each of the three months that followed February, when the national average home price hit a record $816,720.
Despite the adjustment in the forecast, prices are still expected to be above the pre-pandemic level at the end of 2023.
Regionally, the report says the largest price corrections are most likely to occur in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, where prices skyrocketed during the pandemic.
“While we don’t want to diminish the difficulties some Canadians are facing, this adjustment is helping to bring some sanity back to Canadian real estate,” the report said.
The authors also note that the upcoming economic slowdown will ease inflationary pressures enough for the Bank of Canada to begin reversing interest rate hikes. Desjardins expects the Canadian housing market to stabilize late next year.
Bidding wars a thing of the past in Calgary’s once hot housing market
© 2022 The Canadian Press
Canada Pension Plan reports $23-billion loss in June quarter as markets churn – The Globe and Mail
The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board said it lost 4.2 per cent in its most recent quarter, subtracting $23-billion from the fund’s assets.
It could have been worse: The three months ended June 30 were awful for most investors. According to Royal Bank of Canada’s RBC I&TS All Plan Universe, defined benefit pension plan assets decreased by 8.6 per cent, tied with the third quarter of 2008 for the biggest decline in the 28 years RBC has been began tracking Canadian plan performance.
The S&P Global LargeMidCap Index, a measure of stocks CPPIB uses as 85 per cent of its benchmark reference portfolio, fell nearly 13.5 per cent in the quarter. The FTSE Canada Universe All Government Bond Index, the remaining 15 per cent of the benchmark, fell nearly 6 per cent. Blended, that means CPPIB beat a benchmark of negative 12.4 per cent by more than eight percentage points.
CPPIB closed the quarter with assets of $523-billion, compared to $539-billion at the end of the previous quarter. The investment losses were offset by $7-billion in contributions from the Canada pension Plan.
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when global markets tumbled, the CPPIB asset mix blunted the pain, and the pension fund manager lost much less money than an ordinary investor in the stock market. However, CPPIB often trails when public stock markets rise rapidly, as they did in several recent quarters when investors shook off their pandemic fears.
Now, we have returned to falling markets, and CPPIB is outperforming them.
“Financial markets experienced the most challenging first six months of the year in the last half century, and the fund’s first fiscal quarter was not immune to such widespread decline,” John Graham, CPPIB chief executive officer, said in a statement accompanying the returns. “The uncertain business and investment conditions we noted in the previous quarter continue, and we expect to see this turbulence persist throughout the fiscal year.”
CPPIB said its loss was driven by declines in public stock markets, but investments in private equity, credit and real estate also contributed “modestly.” CPPIB also lost money in fixed income investments, such as bonds, due to higher interest rates imposed by central banks to fight inflation.
Gains by external portfolio managers, quantitative trading strategies and investments in energy and infrastructure contributed positively. CPPIB also recorded foreign exchange gains of $3.1-billion as the Canadian dollar weakened against the U.S. dollar. (Most of CPPIB’s investments are held outside Canada, but it reports results in Loonies.)
The Canada Pension Plan, founded in 1966, is the primary national retirement program for working Canadians. The government created CPPIB in 1999 to professionally manage the plan’s money. Over time, CPPIB has embraced active management and its blend of stocks, bonds, real estate, infrastructure, private equity and other specialized investments has outperformed public markets and its reference portfolio.
While CPPIB reports quarterly, it points to its multigenerational mandate and likes to emphasize its long-term returns. The plan’s five-year net return, net of investment costs, was 8.7 per cent through June 30; the 10-year net return was 10.3 per cent.
CPPIB’s annualized return for the 10 years ended last Sept. 30 was, at 11.6 per cent, the highest 10-year performance figure in its history.
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