Starting July 1, British Columbians could be paying more for goods they buy through online marketplaces such as Facebook and Amazon.
A collective of Twitter shareholders are banding together to try and keep the world’s richest man from weaseling his way out of buying Twitter.
In a proposed class-action lawsuit filed earlier this week, Twitter shareholders accused Musk of engaging in market manipulation during his acquisition bid, alleging he violated California’s corporate laws along the way. Twitter itself was also named as a defendant.
The complaint, filed in a San Francisco federal district court, accuses Musk of intentionally lowering Twitter’s stock value. The suit alleges Musk did this because the $12.5 billion he pledged as collateral for the acquisition was secured using his Tesla stock which has since declined by 37%. That decline, the suit alleges, put Musk in the uncomfortable position of potentially having to fork over more of his own money to make up the difference. Purposely lowering Twitter’s value, in this scenario, could theoretically serve as a corporate get out of jail free card.
The suit claims Musk “proceeded to make statements, send tweets, and engage in conduct designed to create doubt about the deal and drive Twitter’s stock down substantially in order to create leverage.” That leverage could potentially allow Musk to back out of the deal entirely or renegotiate for a substantially lower price. The shareholders also call bullshit on Musk’s supposed concern with bots on the platform and claim he “knew all about the fake accounts.”
“Musk’s conduct was, and continues to be illegal, in violation of the California Corporation’s Code, and contrary to the contractual terms he agreed to in the deal,” the lawsuit reads.
At least the first half of that alleged plan—intentional or not—seems to have worked. According to the suit, Twitter has lost $8 billion in valuation since the buyout was first announced. It’s worth noting though that Twitter’s far from the only tech stock to see a dip in recent weeks.
The shareholders’ beef with Musk predates the acquisition. Specifically, the suit takes issue with Musk’s April disclosure that he had acquired a 9% stake in the company. The suit alleges Musk didn’t disclose that in time with the Securities and Exchange Commission, an omission that benefits Musk by more than $156 million.
Musk’s actions, the suit claims, harmed both Twitter shareholders and Twitter employees. The suit seeks damage for all Twitter shareholders and calls for injunctive relief from the court, which if granted could potentially force Musk to follow through with the acquisition at the original price.
Twitter declined to comment.
You read the full lawsuit below.
Inside the Market’s roundup of some of today’s key analyst actions
Citing its exposure to European gas prices and improving relative valuation, Scotia Capital analyst Jason Bouvier raised his recommendation for Vermilion Energy Inc. (VET-T) on Monday.
Also expecting “a nice uplift in cash flow profile going into 2023 as acquisitions are completed and hedges roll over,” he moved the Calgary-based company to “sector outperform” from “sector perform” in a research note.
“WTI prices have fallen about $14 per barrel off their recent high. During this same time frame, European gas prices have risen by 50 per cent,” he said. “VET derives about 40-45 per cent of its cash flow from European gas prices. Given VET’s share price has fallen roughly in line with its peer group over the past couple of weeks the relative valuation of VET has improved materially.”
“In 2022, we estimate VET’s hedging losses at $616-million. Currently, the company has about 40 per cent of its production hedged in 2022. This falls to 10 per cent in 2023. No oil is hedged for 2023 and North American gas is hedged at higher prices than in 2022. As a result, even though we have major commodities falling from 2022 to 2023 (strip), VET’s cash flow actually increases from $2.2-billion in 2022 to $2.4-billion in 2023 (up 10 per cent).”
Mr. Bouvier is forecasting Vermilion to reach its net debt target of $1.2-billion in the third quarter this year and sees the potential to be debt free by the end of the 2023 fiscal year.
“After hitting their debt target, the company will be in a good position to increase shareholder returns. We expect both increased dividends and SBB over the next 1-2 years,” he said.
He maintained a $36 target for the company’s shares. The current average target on the Street is $36.46, according to Refinitiv data.
With trade indicators looking “shaky,” CIBC World Markets analyst Stephanie Price downgraded Descartes Systems Group Inc. (DSGX-Q, DSG-T) to “neutral” from “outperformer,” seeing better relative return in other names elsewhere.
“We see risks to organic growth from slowing transportation volumes given that approximately 40 per cent of Descartes’ revenue is derived from transactional revenue,” said Ms. Price. “We expect that Descartes will look to offset slower organic growth with M&A (more than $200-million in net cash) and see limited risk in management’s 10-15-per-cent EBITDA growth target.
“However, Descartes’ premium to the S&P Software Index has typically narrowed during economic downturns, with the stock trading at a valuation below the S&P Software Index during the Great Financial Crisis, versus a seven-turn premium to the Index today.”
Her target for Descartes shares slid to US$71 from US$89 previously. The average on the Street is US$75.80.
Believing its business model can “outperform its basic chemical peers through a recession,” Scotia Capital analyst Ben Isaacson upgraded Chemtrade Logistics Income Fund (CHE.UN-T) to “sector outperform” from “sector perform.”
In justifying his change, he pointed to several factors, including the expectation that demand for regen acid services should increase over the coming quarters; ultrapure sulphuric acid demand is “set to soar” in North America over the mid-term; a “relatively tight” outlook on caustic soda and “fairly stable margin variability” for its water chemical business.
“Chemtrade has proactively cleaned-up both its portfolio and balance sheet, which we think could result in slight multiple expansion over time,” said Mr. Isaacson. “Initiatives include the sale of its non-core specialty chemical business, the $10-million sale of an idled facility in Augusta, Georgia, as well as the closure of a chlorate plant in Quebec, due to slower post-COVID demand growth.”
He said Chemtrade’s 7.8-per-cent distribution yield has “strong support” and sees a “decent” valuation discount.
“When compared to all equities in the S&P TSX Materials with a market cap greater than $1-billion, CHE offers the second highest yield (its market cap is slightly less than $1-billion),” he said. “As of Q1/22, the rolling four-quarter distribution payout ratio is 48 per cent. Through the end of ‘23, we do not see the rolling four-quarter distribution payout ratio exceeding 60 per cent, providing strong support for a distribution of $0.15/unit per quarter.”
“CHE is trading at 6.1 times and 6.5x ‘22 and ‘23 EBITDA of $325-million and $305-million, respectively. This compares to five- and ten-year EV/NTM EBITDA multiples of 7.2 times and 7.4 times, respectively. The lower five-year multiple is due to the acquisition of Canexus, which brought more basic chemical volatility to the portfolio. However, if we look at the first full year of CHE post Canexus, through to the end of ‘23 (using Street estimates), the average EBITDA is $300-million, with very little variability. Accordingly, we see no reason why CHE’s forward multiple shouldn’t begin to return to 7.2 times over the next year. In fact, one could argue for a premium multiple over this amount, given that leverage has improved materially.”
Mr. Isaacson raised his target to $10.25 from $9.50. The average on the Street is $10.
“While waiting for (relative) outperformance, investors can enjoy a nearly-8-per-cent yield, well-supported by a rolling four-quarter payout ratio that shouldn’t exceed 60 per cent through ‘23,” he said.
National Bank Financial analyst Vishal Shreedhar expects to see improving results from MTY Food Group Inc. (MTY-T) when it reports its second-quarter results in early July as casual dining trends rebound with an easing of pandemic-related restrictions.
However, he did warn a “solid” recovery in Canada could be partially offset by “tapering performance” from its Papa Murphy’s pizza chain.
“Investors will focus on evolving consumer behaviour as economies continue to reopen (year-over-year), particularly amid pervasive inflation, supply chain challenges, constrained labour conditions and concerns regarding slowing consumer spending,” said Mr. Shreedhar.
He’s forecasting adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for the quarter of $46.6-million, above the consensus estimate of $45-million and up 7.2 per cent year-over-year from $43.5-million. Revenue is expected to grow to $154-million from $136-million, also topping the Street ($136-million).
“During the quarter, OpenTable data suggests a sharp recovery in seated diners in Canada as restrictions were gradually lifted. Solid recovery in Canada is anticipated to be partially offset by tapering demand at Papa Murphy’s (pent-up demand for dining out),” said Mr. Shreedhar.
Citing its “attractive valuation, operational progress and supportive capital allocation outcomes,” he said he remains “constructive” on MTY, though he did acknowledge “heightened risk related to inflation, supply chain, labour and macroeconomic conditions.”
Maintaining an “outperform” rating for its shares, Mr. Shreedhar cut his target to $63 from $70 in order to reflect a decrease in his valuation multiple “due to heightened uncertainty with the macroeconomic backdrop.” The average on the Street is $68.14.
When Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. (ATD-T) reports its fourth-quarter financial results after the bell on Tuesday, Desjardins Securities analyst Chris Li expects to see “strong fuel margins and solid merchandise sales and margin, offset by elevated opex, sluggish fuel volume and higher volatility in Europe.”
However, he expects investor attention to centre on the outlook and trends in the current first quarter given the spike in gas prices.
“While industry fuel margins have moderated from mid- to high US30cpg (January–April) to an average of US28–29cpg in May and June, we believe our low-US30cpg forecast is achievable in 1Q and FY23, supported by company-specific initiatives (fuel rebranding to Circle K, enhanced procurement through partnership with Musket, pricing optimization, and other sourcing and logistics capabilities). All else equal, a one-cent change in U.S. fuel margin impacts our FY23 EPS by US$0.08 (3 per cent). Fuel volume will be weighed down by high prices. While SG&A expenses will remain elevated in the near term due to higher labour costs and credit card fees, the pressures should start to ease in 2Q. We expect c-store sales and margins to remain solid, supported by cost pass-through and positive mix shift (single serve, private label, etc), partly offset by higher commodity costs (foodservice) and reduction in discretionary (ie carwash).”
With that change to his fuel margin estimate, Mr. Li raised his full-year earnings per share forecast for 2022 to $2.57 from $2.41 and 2023 to $2.56 from $2.51.
He maintained a “buy” rating and $60 target for Couche-Tard shares. The average on the Street is $62.72.
“While we expect earnings to remain volatile near-term due to macro uncertainties, we remain positive on ATD’s longer-term growth potential, supported by a strong pipeline of growth initiatives. Its strong balance sheet is valuable, especially in the current market, supporting capital return,” he said.
CIBC World Markets analyst Scott Fromson, Sumayya Syed, Dean Wilkinson reduced their target prices for real estate equities on Monday.
Their changes included:
Citing “permitting uncertainty” at its Fenix Gold Project after the Chilean Environmental Assessment Service recommended a rejection of its Environmental Impact Assessment report, Raymond James analyst Craig Stanley downgraded Rio2 Ltd. (RIO-X) by two levels to “market perform” from “strong buy.”
“The Consolidated Evaluation Report notes that Fenix ‘fulfills all the applicable environmental regulations and meets the environmental requirements for the granting of applicable sectorial environmental permits’ however, the company ‘has not provided enough information during the evaluation process to eliminate adverse impacts over the chinchilla, guanaco, and vicuña,’” he said.
“We note Gold Fields Salares Norte Gold Project was permitted but subsequently sanctioned over a botched relocation of 20 chinchillas.”
Mr. Stanley cut his target to 40 cents from $1.50. The average on the Street is $1.64.
While he thinks Fission Uranium Corp. (FCU-T) is “likely to continue to do well on a backdrop of improving sentiment in the uranium space,” BMO Nesbitt Burns analyst Alexander Pearce downgraded its stock to “market perform” from “outperform,” seeing “better value elsewhere.”
“We believe near-term upside in uranium can be better gained through exposure to the producers and more advanced developers,” he said.
Mr. Pearce continues to see its Patterson Lake South uranium project as “attractive” with the “potential for a low-cost and large-scale uranium-producing asset.” However, he thinks its development timeframe and capex “do count against it slightly.”
“Amongst other key development projects in the Athabasca Basin, PLS is slightly behind our preferred project list due to its current development stage (FS ongoing),” he said. “Therefore, we have downgraded Fission.”
He maintained a 70-cent target for its shares. The average is $1.31.
“We would look to review this rating on any pullback in share price, given the positive outlook we have on the commodity price,” said Mr. Pearce.
In other analyst actions:
* While he sees it “on track for another strong quarter” and sees “significant upside from current levels,” BMO Nesbitt Burns analyst Fadi Chamoun reduced his Bombardier Inc. (BBD.B-T) target to $63 from $71.25 with an “outperform” rating to “reflect overall lower market multiples.” The average is $53.97.
“Bombardier in-service fleet of aircraft saw significant increases in flight activities in Q2/22,” he said. “Deliveries of mid/large cabin aircraft increased in Q2/22 and are expected to accelerate in H2/22 and 2023 supported by a strong backlog, which we believe has expanded further in Q2/22. The strength in orders has also afforded BBD the ability to retire more debt and strengthen its financial position. While macro uncertainty continues to weigh on valuation in the immediate-term, BBD is executing well against its self-help opportunities and the company is on more solid footing.”
* CIBC’s Anita Soni reduced Equinox Gold Corp. (EQX-T) to “underperformer” from “neutral” with a $5.75 target, down from $9.25 and below the $12.31 average.
“Despite the fairly low trading P/NAV multiple, which reflects some risk at the Greenstone project, we believe that the company’s higher capex weighting implies risk and we do not see how it will trade in line with peers during a build-out,” said Ms. Soni.
* In response to its decision to halt additional construction activities at its Premier Gold project in the Golden Triangle of B.C., CIBC’s Allison Carson cut Ascot Resources Ltd. (AOT-T) to “neutral” from “outperformer” with an 80-cent target, down from $1.30. The average is $1.19.
“Although we remain confident on the technical and operational aspects of this project, due to the uncertainty around the financing and development we have lowered our rating,” she said.
* Touting it as a “good pass-through of oil prices to investors,” CIBC’s Christopher Thompson initiated coverage of Cardinal Energy Ltd. (CJ-T) with a “neutral” rating and $10 target, exceeding the average on the Street by 17 cents.
“Cardinal Energy’s low-decline-rate operating model generates impressive free cash flow and a leading dividend yield in the current commodity price environment,” he said. “That being said, when stress tested at lower commodity prices, we see relatively higher risk in the model because of the company’s higher relative cash costs. While we believe a valuation premium relative to peers is warranted given Cardinal’s leading capital intensity ratio, with the stock trading at 3.5 times 2023E EV/DACF on our price deck versus a peer average of 2.7 times, we would wait for a smaller gap.”
* After meetings with its management, BMO’s Devin Dodge cut his target for Finning International Inc. (FTT-T) to $32 from $38 with a “market perform” rating. The average is $44.67.
“We came away from the meetings incrementally more positive and believe FTT is poised to deliver improved and more sustainable earnings over the cycle. However, we believe escalating concerns for a recession and moderating commodity prices (though admittedly still at elevated levels) provide a challenging backdrop for the stock. We would consider a more constructive rating on improved visibility into economic conditions and/or mining sector investment in Chile, all else equal.
Employers in Canada were actively seeking to fill about one million vacant positions at the beginning of April, up 44.4 per cent from the same period of the previous year, Statistics Canada said on Friday.
There was an average of 1.1 unemployed people for each job vacancy in April, down from 1.2 in March, and down from 2.4 one year earlier, the national statistical office said, adding that labor shortage trends continue in Canada with record-high job vacancies in many sectors.
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The number of job vacancies in the construction sector reached a new high of 89,900 in April, up 15.4 percent from March and up 43.3 percent from April 2021.
Job vacancies also increased to a record high in April in professional, scientific and technical services; transportation and warehousing; finance and insurance; arts, entertainment and recreation; and real estate and rental and leasing, the agency said.
In manufacturing, there were 90,400 vacant positions in April, up 7.3 percent from March and up 30.7 percent from April 2021. In accommodation and food services, employers were actively seeking to fill 153,000 vacant positions in April, little changed from the previous month.
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Meanwhile, in the health care and social assistance sector, the number of job vacancies decreased 15.1 percent to 125,200 in April from its peak of 147,500 reached in March 2022, but was 21.3 percent higher than in April 2021. There were 97,800 job vacancies in retail trade in April, down 7.1 percent from March, but 27.9 percent higher than in April 2021, Statistics Canada said.
Starting July 1, British Columbians could be paying more for goods they buy through online marketplaces such as Facebook and Amazon.
That’s because the B.C. government has made changes that require these online marketplaces that have annual gross revenues of more than $10,000 to collect the provincial sales tax on goods and services sold on their sites.
It shifts the responsibility to companies like eBay and Amazon to collect the PST, rather than the small businesses that may use a marketplace facilitator site to sell their products, according to the B.C. finance ministry.
In addition, these marketplaces are also being required by the province to charge PST to individual sellers for use of their services, such as help with listing the sales of goods, advertising, warehousing and payment collection.
It’s the latest move by the province to create a more even playing field for online operations that continue to increase their share of the economy.
The B.C. government expects the PST rule changes will generate an additional $100 million in revenues this fiscal year and $120 million the following year.
The Retail Council of Canada, which has offices in B.C., says the move to treat online marketplaces the same as brick-and-mortar stores makes sense because it puts businesses on an equal footing.
But the addition of the PST for services purchased by sellers in B.C., often small businesses, will simply add costs for consumers here and make local sellers uncompetitive as other jurisdictions in Canada have not introduced a similar measure, said Karl Littler, senior vice-president of public affairs for the Retail Council of Canada.
“It doesn’t exist anywhere else. It’s a new tax between a marketplace facilitator, like an Amazon or like a Best Buy or like a Facebook, and somebody who’s selling goods,” said Littler.
The council is concerned that small B.C. merchants will be paying seven per cent on these online marketplace services, irrespective of whether the end-customer is in B.C. or elsewhere. This will make them less competitive versus other businesses operating in other North American jurisdictions.
In B.C., people who buy goods and services through online marketplaces will be charged the PST on top of the now higher-priced goods themselves, a sort form of double taxation, argued the retail council.
As well, the changes serve as a disincentive to marketplace services to locate facilities, and thus jobs, in B.C., says the retail council.
In a written response, finance ministry officials said the application of the PST to marketplace services attempts to keep pace with the changing digital economy.
There is no explicit breakout for the tax on services from online marketplace facilitators, but in an email the ministry said it expects it to account for less than 10 per cent of the estimated additional $100 million in tax revenue that will be collected.
Werner Antweiler, a professor in the Sauder School of Business at the University of B.C., said having online marketplaces collect the PST on goods and services closes a loophole in taxation and helps collect tax from sellers abroad.
What’s different about B.C.’s approach is the inclusion of the PST on online marketplaces services provided to online marketplace sellers, said Antweiler.
It may be that other provinces or the federal government will follow suit, but this new rule may disadvantage online facilitators setting up in B.C., as B.C. would be hard pressed to enforce tax collection outside its own jurisdiction, even in another province.
“There is a trade-off. While the economic rationale to tax all services, including online marketplace services provided to sellers, is sound, B.C. going this alone puts B.C. at a disadvantage,” said Antweiler.
In 2020, the B.C. government introduced new rules that required sellers of software and telecommunications services, such as Netflix, had to collect the PST.
That measure was expected to generate $11 million in new tax revenues in 2020-21 and $16 million in 2021-2022.
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